Extending the Value of Online Education
Web accessibility is critically important for education. If students with disabilities cannot access course content that is vital to their understanding of the material, it can have a negative effect on their entire academic experience.
Accessibility can be extended beyond users with disabilities; even a student with a slow dial-up connection may experience extreme difficulty in a distance education course if he or she is required to download and watch an unusually long video.
PDCE believes in a proactive approach to accessibility. Rather than simply reacting to problems, we seek to anticipate and remove potential barriers in our courses, and to respond quickly to additional changes that may prove necessary.
As you plan and design your online course, spend some time learning more about web accessibility and how you can create a good online experience. When you build a site with accessibility in mind, you create a more usable and intuitive site for all students, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
A manual, “Accessibility in Online Learning,” is available to you as a PDF file. It will introduce you to the basic principles of web accessibility and explain steps you can take to ensure your course is accessible. The following are examples of the topics it includes:
- How blind students navigate the web
- Writing for students with learning disabilities
- Tips on accessible code, from beginner to advanced
If you anticipate using audio and video in your course, you may also be interested in our second manual, “Accessibility in Online Learning: Audio and Video,” which addresses accessibility requirements for these media. Topics include transcribing, captioning and encoding audio and video. The manual is available as a PDF file.
At UBC, many of the needs of students with disabilities, taking courses on campus, are addressed by Access & Diversity. They provide accommodations and services to help overcome disability-related challenges that could interfere with a student’s academic success.
If you find that some aspect of your PDCE online course is inaccessible to you, or if you would like to suggest an area in which the accessibility could be improved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PDCE encourages you to use the tools available and make your own web browsing experience as comfortable as possible. Most browsers allow you to change the size of text on a page, usually under the “View” menu (visit this site for instructions). Both Windows and Mac OS X give you the power to change accessibility settings such as the sensitivity of mouse movement or the ability to slow the repeat rate of your keyboard. All monitors let you increase or decrease contrast to the level that is most suitable for you. There are many other ways to modify your computing environment, more than we can begin to describe in this brief introduction.
Additionally, there are many forms of assistive technology available to make computing more comfortable. These range from hardware such as trackballs and tablets, through to software for voice recognition or predictive typing. Whether you are managing a learning disability, compensating for low eyesight, or seeking to reduce or avoid a repetitive stress injury, there are options available. You can read the basics about assistive technologies in our “Accessibility in Online Learning” manual or learn more at Wikipedia and read this article to help you determine what solution may be right for you. Some assistive devices, such as trackballs and ergonomic keyboards, can be found at most computer stores; others may need to be obtained through specialized dealers.
Workshops and Presentations
Our presentations on web accessibility include the following:
- CADE 2006, Montreal
- BCED Online 2006, Vancouver
- UBC Learning Conference, Vancouver
- TAG Institute, UBC, Vancouver
In addition, we delivered five online workshops on accessibility in August 2006 which offered an opportunity for interaction and knowledge sharing. We hope that the provided presentations (PowerPoint slides) or archived sessions will be a good starting point for improvement. You may listen to the sessions or download the presentations by selecting the appropriate link below:
- Web Accessibility Basics
- Coding an Accessible Site
- Accessible Multimedia Content
- Creating Usable Content
- Disabilities and Assistive Technology
As part of a project funded by the Equity Enhancement Fund at UBC, we hosted several workshops across campus and created an introductory brochure on accessibility. Download the brochure (PDF).
These projects have been made possible by the BCcampus Online Program Development Fund.
For more information about PDCE’s commitment to web accessibility, please contact Natasha Boskic.