Q&A: The University of Arizona’s Proactive Approach to Online Accessibility
In 2015, the University of Arizona (UA) realized they needed to change their online course experience to be more inclusive.
“As our leaders looked around at the landscape, they wanted a process in place to ensure quality and move towards being more proactive around accessibility,” said Janet Smith, Quality Assurance Coordinator, from UA.
UA online, the campus’s online learning portal, is rapidly growing every year. As part of their proactive measures toward greater accessibility, the university implemented a team that creates accessible online courses for faculty.
In the webinar, The Key Partnerships for Designing Accessible Online Classes, Janet and Dawn Hunziker, IT Accessibility Consultant at UA, shared how they are collaborating with faculty and IT to design accessible online courses. Below is a snippet from the Q&A covering how they got faculty buy-in, how they handle captioning, and how they select accessible vendors.
How do you work with faculty that is too busy to make their content accessible?
How does that work in terms of instructors who are too busy to find an accessible PDF, for example? That’s really where the Disability Resource Center steps in and serves as an accommodation piece for the student. And then at the end of the semester, we do reach out to that instructor and say, hey, we either found accessible PDFs for your course, or we have created accessible versions of your PDFs, and provide those documents to the instructor as an option to add into their course.
And then the other piece of that is the training. The instructional designers make sure that the instructors are aware of the fact that an accessible PDF isn’t just for someone who has a disability and using assistive technology. It also increases access for individuals using mobile devices, laptop, desktop, maybe individuals who are in rural areas where the network isn’t as fast.
So it’s definitely a work in progress. I can’t say that we are perfect in that. But we are definitely continuing to go through that process.
How do you handle automatic captions that aren’t correct, like on Panopto?
How do you choose accessible vendors?
There’s always the areas of the piece of technology that aren’t accessible, so looking at that technology and saying, “OK, if we have a student with a disability in this course, and the instructor is using XYZ piece of that technology, what are we going to do to address that? How is that going to work?”
We’re always piloting new technologies. I think one of the key things in making sure that we’re aware of what’s coming down the road in terms of those innovative technologies. We’re watching those pilot classes to see what are the interactions, what’s going on, how is this technology being used. If you have 30 faculties, and they’re all using it the same way, then the chances are that when we incorporate the other 500 faculties on campus, they’re probably going to use it in that same way as well. [For example,] D2L has a lot of components. And there are five areas that are predominantly used by all faculty. So addressing those first and making sure that those pieces are accessible in that part of the role on campus.
On VoiceThread, do you include student responses in the captioning as well?
How do you handle synchronous meetings?
If the synchronous meeting is optional, then one of the things that we do is we talk to the student. And we say, “Are you planning on attending?” If so, great, we’ll have someone there that’s captioning the meeting as it happens. If not, then we’re going to caption it after the fact and talk to the student about that and see what their preference is.
Do you hire student workers to help make content accessible?
Then they are also assisting in our testing accommodations process, checking students in and out, delivering exams, copying exams, all that kind of office work.
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