What with the new accessibility legislation coming into place, I am gathering together a list of things/projects/initiatives and services we offer in Learning Teaching and Web Services to support accessibility online. I have to say, I do think a working knowledge of accessibility is a key knowledge set for learning technologists and web developers. I am often surprised when people think it is something you only pay attention to when legislation changes.
University of Edinburgh has a huge corporate web estate so we are taking what we believe to be the most pragmatic and effective way forward toward improving accessibility, and thus reducing overall risk. We will proceed with our ‘Future Web Services’ project, in conjunction with a migration to Drupal 8. We will take a stringent approach to accessibility throughout design, development and testing, considering both the end users’ experience and accessibility needs. We will proceed with a content audit with a view to decommissioning and archiving portions of the estate as appropriate and rationalising the remainder, redeveloping content as needed and with accessibility in mind. We will target agree key user journeys giving us a prioritised backlog for more in-depth accessibility assessment. We will develop, adopt and communicate policy, standards and guidelines around accessibility as part of our continuing development of our digital governance.
Accessible design of our VLE
We are currently working with six Schools and a Deanery to implement a new site structures in Learn. The new site structure is being rolled out to Schools with the support of a team of student interns during the summer break to create consistent courses within Learn in preparation for the start of the 19/20 academic year. The aim is to create a new site structure that will provide a consistent student experience by making course specific materials easy to find as well as supporting staff in delivering rich, online courses. It will ensure courses are more accessible and inclusive and the terminology used relating to learning and teaching is more consistent.
The student interns are working over the summer to complete accessibility audits of course areas with a view to reporting back to heads of schools. If you are interested in talking to the project team or looking to find out more information regarding the project contact the Learn Foundations team
Accessible content in the VLE
The University provides a selection of assistive software to staff and students. One such piece of software, and one which we are excited about is called SensusAccess . We believe this is a really useful piece of software for staff and students using the VLE. SensusAccess allows you to convert electronic documents into alternative versions of the document – such as audio, e-book or digital Braille formats. It even tackles less accessible documents such as image-only PDFs and PowerPoint files. It is quick and easy to use, and free to students and staff of the University. You upload the document you wish to be converted to another format to the software and it is then emailed to you once the conversion is complete. You can then upload this version of the document to the VLE. Students can also use it themselves to create a version of the document which suits them best.
Library Website Improvements -A workstream in our Digital Library Programme is looking at making improvements in particular to Collections, but also, some changes to DiscoverEd, with the focus being on improving search for collections.ed but also accessibility and usability where possible.
Promoting universal design
We have specialists in our LTW teams who promote and train in universal design, whether that is design of digital materials, web sites, communications or AV kit.
The Subtitling for Media Pilot was established to investigate the feasibility, viability and cost of a student-led transcription service, alongside improving the digital skills of staff and promoting a culture change in our approach to delivering accessible content. The team subtitled public-facing audio and video content within Media Hopper Create, with a focus on content that was embedded in the main University website. Automated subtitling services are notoriously inaccurate and require checking before publication. In the pilot, subtitles were automatically generated and the student team acted as human mediators, checking and correcting the subtitles and drawing on their own knowledge and expertise of Edinburgh and University life. As a result of the pilot more media content is open and accessible to all users and new training courses are available for staff and students on DIY subtitling, aiming to move to a position where subtitling of media is standard practice at the point of creation as far as possible.
Accessible work experience
In designing our projects we were interested in whether digital work was the kind of work that might be attractive to students, specifically those who need some flexibility in hours and location of work. We were aware that this kind of work might offer opportunity for employment for students with caring responsibilities, who have disabilities, or who prefer solo working.
Professional Development for colleagues
Our University of Edinburgh PgCap Learning and Teaching includes a session on “Building accessibility & inclusion into your teaching & learning with technology”. We are going to develop this into a stand-alone session, and we’ve talked about developing a baseline e-accessibility resource (either on the open website or as a self-enrol course in Learn).
Our course on Effective Digital Content (Writing for the Web) is mandatory if you need access to edit EdWeb. It is open to all staff and students and available online or in person. This editorial training course covers good practice in writing and structuring information for the web. It also includes guidance on data protection, freedom of information issues and improving performance in search engine results.
Things 5&6 in our ’23 Things’ course are diversity and accessibility https://www.23things.ed.ac.uk/week-3/
The University of Edinburgh University Accessible and Inclusive Learning Policy is due for a review, not least to reflect the technology environment on campus which has changed significantly in the past 6 years and to include the fact that we have online courses and students to whom the policy would also apply.
We’ve fitted some rooms with lecture recording facilities ( I may have mentioned this before). We hope that lecture recordings can support a wide range of accessibility and inclusivity needs including those:
- who are visually impaired
- who work with a scribe to create text notes from lectures
- who have dyslexia or other learning needs
- who have autism spectrum disorders
- who may find physical attendance overwhelming
- for whom English is not their first language
- who are learning complex technical terms or in translation
- who experience debilitating anxiety as a result of missing classes.
We are well aware that in some of our largest lecture theatres the distance from the front to the back of the room is significant. The chalkboard recording facility with Replay allows “zooming in” when playing back, and offers an improved experience for students who might have been at the back of the lecture theatre.
For many students the most useful thing colleagues can do to make the content of their lectures accessible is to use the microphone. The microphone in the room is linked to the induction loop which is essential for students with hearing loss and is the best way to capture high quality audio as you talk. We provide advice on how to wear a microphone and pack with a dress and on a lanyard. We’ve learned from our rollout of lecture recording that the best quality and most accessible recordings are produced when the most suitable microphones are used.Whether you have a loud voice or small group, all microphones will pick up only the closest speaker. Lapel mics work best for presenters, handheld mics and Catchboxes work best for audience interaction. In the largest teaching spaces, there will be a throwable microphone called a Catchbox. In rooms without Catchbox or a handheld microphone, you should repeat questions to ensure they are picked up on the recording. Find out more about how lecture recording can support accessible and inclusive learning.
Accessible online courses
Our distance learning and MOOC platforms have very clear and rigorous rules about the ways in which content is presented. We work with FutureLearn, Edx and Coursera to make sure our content is accessible as it can be for our learners.
We provide advice to staff making elearning materials on licensing which makes making alternative versions permissable. http://open.ed.ac.uk/how-to-guides/things-to-consider-when-creating-an-oer/
Social media advice
Our social media training includes advice on making accessible gifs for twitter use.