Posts Tagged ‘accessibility’

Accessibility and Innovation

In accessibility, innovation in teaching, universal design for learning on December 13, 2010 at 8:41 am

In the article Colleges Lock Out Blind Students Online, Marc Parry describes the one-man odyssey of Darrell Shandrow, a self-described blind journalism student who has embarked on a campaign to demand that universities across the United States incorporate acccessibility into their design of websites, textbooks and all other college experiences. Mr. Shandrow joined the lawsuit filed by the National Federal for the Blind against Arizona State University for its use of Kindle eReaders for etextbooks. According to Parry, Kindle eReaders’ menus are not accessible, although the Kindle does include text to speech software.

In a previous post, I talked about Universal Design for Learning and some of the legal requirements for accessibility. As I noted in that post, one of the key tenants of UDL is that instructional materials should incorporate as many approaches as possible so that many different learners can understand the material. That approach makes sense from a philosophical point of view. However, practically speaking, it is difficult to develop a non time-intensive way for faculty to implement it. I am part of a Faculty Learning Community Teachers in different posesat Fresno State that is working on helping faculty implement those principles in teaching. We are a group of approximately 20 faculty who are using the book Universal Design in Higher Education by Burgstahler and Cory to prepare instruction and/or materials that incorporate UDL principles. I have learned a great deal from that experience and look forward to the opportunity to incorporate UDL into my courses.

Parry’s article highlights a tension that exists between accessibility and innovation. Creating Magnetmaterials and delivering instruction using UDL principles automatically results in increasing the amount of content that is accessible on many dimensions.  However, it takes time and it can sometimes stifle innovation when that approach is adopted for all new things. I wholeheartedly agree with UDL and accessibility principles, yet as someone who likes to push the envelope, I sometimes find that that approach creates barriers to immediately trying a new approach. Conducting pilots help to provide balance but that can create obstacles to more comprehensive implementation.

Sometimes, I just want to dive in when I find something new. That new thing could be a new technology, a new teaching approach, implementation of information from an article about a new theory with which I was not familiar or just something different. I dive in and sometimes I learn what others already knew, but which, for some reason, I needed to learn for myself. I dive in and sometimes IDiving in a no diving area learn something new that I can use and that others also find useful. When I incorporate UDL and accessibility as a habit of mind, though, I must exercise more caution and that can sometimes stifle creativity. So, although I strongly support UDL principles and support implementation of them in my classes, I realize that I must also more carefully consider the options before jumping in. Thus the implementation of UDL has a cost of reducing innovation. Maybe that’s a cost that’s an acceptable one in light of the benefits of UDL.  That’s something to consider.

Making Videos Accessible

In accessibility, universal design for learning, using videos in teaching on December 9, 2010 at 7:34 am

Collaboration can be used in multiple ways to help increase accessibility of educational resources. This fits with concepts of Universal Design for Learning that make educational information as accessible as possible for others.

In the article Making Videos Accessible with Universal Subtitles, George Williams explains how the website Universal Subtitles is encouraging people to collaborate to write subtitles through posting and editing transcripts of posted videos. You can upload a video to ask for subtitling and you can volunteer to subtitle.

I’m going to try something similar in my classes (although students will not be volunteers, but will probably get some sort of credit for it). I’m going to ask students to develop transcripts of narrated PowerPoints and videos that I develop or use for the class. I’ll let you know in a future post how (or whether) that works when I implement it in the Spring 2011 semester.

Accessibility and the Law

In accessibility, innovation in teaching, universal design for learning on November 16, 2010 at 7:12 am

One challenge in creating online programs is making certain that the courses are accessible. According to the Chronicle article ADA Compliance is a “Major Vulnerability” for Online Programs, many institutions have not established institution-wide policies for ensuring that online courses are accessible.

A corollary challenge is in the use of innovative technologies in the classrooms. As noted in the above-mentioned article, Arizona State was successfully challenged for using Kindles because they are not accessible to the visually impaired.

Universal Design for Learning principles can be used to address some (but not all) of those issues. Just as creating lab partnerships among students can help address some accessibility issues, creating study partnerships can help to make learning more accessible. This is because partners can divide work based on their abilities and no one has to be singled out.

In the lab partnership, the two students can decide between themselves who will conduct the experiment (and that might include opening caps, pouring, reporting visual results) and who will report the results of the experiment. If both students conduct the experiment together, both can benefit.

In the study partnership, if Kindles are to be used, it’s possible that the Kindles and laptops could be employed in the classroom, and students could choose which one they wanted to use.  Then the decision could be based on personal preference, as long as the material was identical.

With other innovations, universal design adaptations may be more difficult. I piloted the use of Second Life, a 3D virtual world, in several classes a couple of years ago. All work had to be done in groups of 2 or 3, so students could choose who would actually go onto Second Life and who would write the reports on the legal issues. Although that was not a “perfect” solution, it worked during the pilot.

As much as possible, though, deliberate, institution-wide strategies that employ Universal Design for Learning Principles can help aid making all courses (online and face to face) accessible.

Syllabus Redesign Conference-Day 2

In accessibility, universal design for learning on August 13, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Great attendance at the Syllabus Redesign Conference at Fresno State for Day 2.

Explaining student expectations and information literacy information went well.

Explaining issues of accessibility and making a syllabus accessible was more problematic. The video didn’t work until late and there were a number of questions/debates about the meaning of accessibility. We’re definitely going to have to do a better job informing faculty about the tools of accessibility this year. The low-key approach has resulted in a vocal group of faculty who’ve been mostly unaware of what’s being going on behind the scenes for the last 3-4 years (or more) on accessibility.

We have much more to do to provide more information to more faculty so they’re not so afraid of the idea of providing information in as many formats as possible without overwhelmingly increasing their workloads.