With the fall semester quickly approaching, I want to remind my professor friends about the importance of 508 compliance and Universal Design. It’s vitally important that we design our courses to meet the needs of all students rather than creating what we think is a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum. This means assuring our methods, materials, and assessments are accessible to all our students. Consider the following:
Are you using PDFs created by scanning books? If so, are you aware those files may not be readable by assistive technology like JAWS?
Will you only be assessing student learning by high-stakes exams? Or, have you differentiated your assessments?
Are you flipping your class and asking students to watch video lectures? If so, have you closed captioned them?
In my work as an instructional technologist, I frequently hear professors say “I don’t have time to make all these adjustments. I’ll just cross that bridge when I have to.” The problem with this thinking is manifold, but two big issues are (1) not all students have a visible disability and (2) you’ll be more efficient if you plan ahead. Have you considered that a student may be, for example, dyslexic and could benefit from multi-modal instruction? Have you also considered that you may not know a student will need an accommodation until a couple weeks before classes begin?
I, myself, discovered I would be teaching a blind student a mere two weeks before the start of the semester. Because I had put off the work of implementing Universal Design principles, I had to scramble to make my lectures, slide decks, readings, and assignments accessible to her. I do not recommend this slipshod approach.
So I strongly suggest you think about your course design, how you deliver content, and how you assess student learning. Are these methods and practices accessible to all students?
A tool that will make one aspect of this process easier is Youtube’s transcribe feature. It’s a game-changer. Gone are the days of time-consuming stopping and starting. This feature offers automatic pausing, continuous typing, and automatic time codes!
In a previous post, I shared new accessibility features in Voicethread. With Youtube’s transcribe tool, you can now easily add closed captions to your Voicethreads by downloading the .SRT file from Youtube then uploading it to Voicethread.
My colleague, Mendi Benigni (@benignim), created these tutorials for using Youtube’s transcribe tool.
Text-based tutorial: https://goo.gl/XaUZRb