Digital Text Accessibility Doesn't Have to Be Complicated

Three people helping each other understand what is on a laptop screen thanks to digital text accessibility
In today’s multimedia digital communication landscape, text continues to dominate.* Digital text accessibility doesn’t have to be complicated, and ensuring that your i’s are dotted shouldn’t be a burden. There are a few rules to keep in mind. While focusing on screenreader compatibility is an important aspect of the accessibility effort, the overall benefit to users goes beyond this technology. The basic elements of digital text include font (font face, size, and color), layout and structure (headings and paragraphs), the intention behind the text (emphasis), and then there are links and tables. (Images are often included with text and require descriptive alt text which can now be added in a majority of applications.) Below are some easy accessibility design…

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Articles We've Been Reading - 3/23/18

Resource Articles
Every now and then, we like to draw attention to the links to the articles that we instructional designers have read and found interesting during the previous few weeks. The opinions expressed in these articles don’t always reflect our own. Rather, we share them because we think they compel conversation, which we’re happy to have with our readers in the comments field below. Udacity U-Turns on Money-Back Guarantee – Inside Higher Ed. by Lindsay McKenzie – March 16, 2018 Udacity scales back its pledge to get alumni jobs within six months of graduation or refund 100% of their tuition. What Motivates Good Teaching? – Inside Higher Ed. by Colleen Flaherty – March 22, 2018 New study indicates intrinsic motivators most…

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Accessibility Helps Everyone

UNE Online Graduate Courses available globally
One of the pillars of Universal Design Language, or UDL, is the idea that when you develop your instruction and assessments so they are accessible to a wide audience, including to those with sensory impairments, the results benefit everyone. This dynamic exists across modalities, such that the more we design for students with certain sensory needs, the more we benefit the whole of our student body. Adding images to your course content? Embed a description of the image using the “alt text” field (almost always editable when adding an image using an LMS’s content editor). One of the purposes of this field is to communicate to the visually impaired, through their screen readers, what content is being displayed in that…

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PDF Editing and Accessibility

Acrobat PDF Icon
PDFs (Portable Document Format), with their platform-neutral openability and read-only format, have become one of our most useful tools for saving and sharing documents, and are a common feature in online as well as face-to-face courses (read this article for more on the interesting history of PDFs). However, they can present challenges for some users, especially for those who are sight-impaired or for those wishing to modify files for accessibility purposes. As schools move toward the goal of universal accessibility of the learning environment and educational content, it is important to stay abreast of emerging technologies designed to meet their needs. Recent advances have greatly improved the accessibility and functionality of PDFs, helping them maintain their utility and value for…

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Articles We've Been Reading - 7/20/17

Resource Articles
Every once in awhile we like to curate some of the resources and articles that have interested us these last couple weeks for your reading pleasure. The opinions expressed in these resources don’t always reflect our own. Rather, we share them because we think they compel conversation, which we’re happy to have with our readers in the comments field below.  The History of the Future of Intelligent Machines – HackEducation Ongoing – by Audrey Watters An ongoing curation of articles and news regarding the development of robotics and artificial intelligence, from the perspective of someone who writes about education for a living. Often addresses automation and its potential effect on industry/education. Turning your iPhone’s Camera into an Assistive Device –…

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Speech to Text
One of the great qualities of language is that it allows people to connect across seemingly unbridgeable gaps. Above and beyond the everyday miracle of two distinct persons being able to share their feelings across a cup of coffee, language is flexible enough to be jump multiple mediums, and translate through several languages, without the conveyed content transforming too much. Famously, Helen Keller learned to read and write through the touch of her teacher; Christy Brown composed poetry through the only limb left under his control, the eponymous left foot; and Jean-Dominique Bauby, completely paralyzed except for his left eye following a car accident, wrote his memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking.  Technology has improved…

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Captioning in Youtube

Captioning in YouTube
In the interests of making the online Masters of Social Work program as accessible as possible, we’ve tried to make sure that all the video and audio content provided in the courses has, at the very least, transcripts. Above and beyond accessibility issues such as those involving hearing impaired students, transcripts are useful for students to print and take notes on, or for any students who want to “skim” the text of a presentation as a way of brushing up on it before a big test or paper submission. Video and audio are far more difficult to “skim.” The operative term in AV speak is called “scrubbing,” which anyone who has spent a few minutes hunting through a Youtube video…

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CAST: About Universal Design for Learning

book closeup
CAST: About Universal Design for Learning. We at MSW are very ambitious about making sure that our course design offers learning opportunities to diverse students, not the proverbial “middle”, or only fully-abled English as-a-native-language speaking students. By including additional content formats (transcripts for videos and audio, alternate text for images for example), we open opportunities for students who may either need assistance with the language itself, can’t hear very well or simply don’t have the time to listen to the spoken track and prefer reading a transcript and making notes in the margins, which increases their productivity and adds meaning to their interaction with the material. Any digital text can also be searched quickly for particular terms, which again…

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