Accessible Course Materials
Ensuring that all students have equal access to electronic and information technology teaching methods and resources is the responsibility of all UWF administrators, faculty and staff. Included in the definition of electronic and information technology is all electronic instructional materials (syllabi, textbooks, presentations, handouts, etc.), including videos, whether delivered within the University's learning management system, in face-to-face classes, or in an alternate fashion (email, course websites, blogs, etc.). Also included are electronic instructional activities (online collaborative writing, web conferencing, etc.).
To ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, are able to access content in a timely way along with other students, it is vital that faculty attend to technology accessibility issues before the resources are required by the students. Proactive measures ensure that all instructional materials are accessible from inception, which minimize the need for “special” accommodations and retrofitted changes to the learning environment.
Universal Design for Learning
The creation of accessible course content begins with universal design. The goal of universal design is to minimize barriers and maximize learning. Universal design addresses the "what", "how", and "why" of learning and gives all individuals equal opportunity to learn. Universal Design of Instruction (UDI) is an approach to teaching that consists of the proactive design and use of inclusive instructional strategies that benefit a broad range of learners including students with disabilities in both face to face and online learning environments.
- Equitable Use:The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. For example, a website that is designed so that it is accessible to everyone, including students who are blind and using text-to-speech software, employs this principle.
- Flexibility in Use:The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. An example is a museum that allows a visitor to choose to read or listen to the description of the contents of a display case.
- Simple and Intuitive:Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Science lab equipment with control buttons that are clear and intuitive is a good example of an application of this principle.
- Perceptible Information:The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities. An example of this principle being employed is when multimedia projected in a noisy academic conference exhibit includes captioning.
- Tolerance for Error:The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. An example of a product applying this principle is educational software that provides guidance when the student makes an inappropriate selection.
- Low Physical Effort:The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue. Doors that are easy to open by people with a wide variety of physical characteristics demonstrate the application of this principle.
- Size and Space for Approach and Use:Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility. A science lab work area designed for use by students with a wide variety of physical characteristics and abilities is an example of employing this principle.
- Class Climate:Adopt practices that reflect high values with respect to both diversity and inclusiveness. Example: Put a statement on your syllabus inviting students to meet with you to discuss disability-related accommodations and other special learning needs.
- Physical Access, Usability, and Safety:Assure that activities, materials, and equipment are physically accessible to and usable by all students and that all potential student characteristics are addressed in safety considerations. Examples: Develop safety procedures for all students, including those who are blind, deaf, or wheelchair users; label safety equipment simply, in large print, and in a location viewable from a variety of angles; repeat printed directions orally.
- Delivery Methods:Use multiple accessible instructional methods. Example: Use multiple modes to deliver content and motivate and engage students-consider lectures, collaborative learning options, hands-on activities, Internet-based communications, educational software, fieldwork, etc.
- Information Resources and Technology:Ensure that course materials, notes, and other information resources are flexible and accessible to all students. Example: Choose printed materials and prepare a syllabus early to allow students the option of beginning to read materials and work on assignments before the class begins and to allow adequate time to arrange for alternate formats, such as books on tape.
- Interaction:Encourage effective interactions between students and between students and the instructor and assure that communication methods are accessible to all participants. Example: Assign group work for which learners must support each other and that places a high value on different skills and roles.
- Feedback:Provide specific feedback on a regular basis. Example: Allow students to turn in parts of large projects for feedback before the final project is due.
- Regularly assess student progress using multiple, accessible methods and tools and adjust instruction accordingly. Example: Assess group/cooperative performance as well as individual achievement.
- Accommodation: Plan for accommodations for students for whom the instructional design does not meet their needs. Example: Know how to get materials in alternate formats, reschedule classroom locations, and arrange for other accommodations for students with disabilities.
Developing Accessible Digital Materials
Instructions on how to create accessible materials such as documents, PDFs, presentations, software and websites, spreadsheets and other media can be found on Global Online Learning and Development’s Accessibility Assistance Page
Developing Accessible Online Courses
The information provided here is to help course developers and instructors identify common accessibility problems with their course materials and provide techniques that will make the content more accessible for all learners. UWF uses Canvas as our Learning Management System (LMS) for the university. Canvas was chosen in part because of its superior accessibility features. For more information visit the Canvas Accessibility document.
UWF offers many resources to support course developers with creating accessible online courses. The Center for Global Online Learning and Development (formerly the Academic Technology Center) provides:
- Instructional Designers that can assist faculty in identifying and updating course content that is not accessible. To request a Global Online Consultation, faculty can Submit a GOLD Help Support Ticket, Email Global Online, or Contact an Instructional Designer.
- A Canvas shell, Ensuring Accessible Course Materials, which contains four modules on how to create accessible MSWord documents, PDFs, caption videos, and create accessible HTML webpages. These training opportunities identify the most common accessibility problems along with the methods to ensure accessible content. Registration is open and ongoing.
- A variety of online and face-to-face faculty professional development opportunities to meet needs at every level. Professional Development.
Although the University strives to create a universally designed environment, we understand that students may have individualized needs that may require specific accommodations. Students have a responsibility to self-identify as having a disability with the University if they have any barriers to the academic environment. Students will need to register with Student Accessibility Resources at www.uwf.edu/sar.
- Closed Captioning provides students with text versions of audio content that is synchronized with the video. Videos that are added to your course should include captioning, preferably with an interactive transcript in an accessible media player. By doing so, the videos are accessible to students who are deaf or hard of hearing, non-native English speakers, as well as any student who wants to search the content of the video or learn the spelling of technical terminology.
- Adding Captions to videos in Canvas: Follow the step by step process provided by Canvas on how to caption videos.
- Adding captions to YouTube videos: YouTube is one of the most commonly used video content systems. However, many videos do not have captions or transcripts. While YouTube offers the ability to caption videos as a part of their service, the captioning is often inaccurate and unreliable. Therefore, prior to uploading YouTube videos to your Canvas page, make sure the captions are accurate. In addition, the university cannot caption content that they do not own the rights to, such as YouTube or textbook supported videos that are not owned by you or the university.