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It’s not uncommon to hear someone talk about why online education should be accessible. In fact I’ve never heard someone argue against the idea of accessibility. Most of us if not all of us agree it’s not only a good thing but the right thing.

Unfortunately talk doesn’t equal action. I feel that a big reason for this is that accessibility for online education is hard. It takes time, effort, and maybe most importantly an understanding of what being accessible even means. The difficulty involved doesn’t change the fact that it is still the right thing to do. Successfully providing accessible online education to students will have to be a collaborative effort between faculty and designers along with the support of the University’s leadership.

We all probably have room to improve when it comes to our efforts with accessible learning (this designer certainly does). To help those of you who might be stuck in a rut or looking for a starting point I’ve put together this short list of action items to help jump start the process.

Get Informed – We don’t know what we don’t know

  • Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites:
     You don’t need to be a web designer to get a lot out of this paper. This article takes a look at web design and its impact on the screen readers used by blind and low vision users. Reading this article provides valuable insight on how lack of accessibility can impact a user’s experience.
  • Universal Design for Learning  Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. Don’t worry about redesigning your entire class all at once. Take a look at the information and resources and look for specific areas of your course that you can improve.

Take Action

  • Low Hanging Fruit There are a simple steps you can take to increase accessibility, e.g. using high contrast content, creating scripts when recording videos to use as transcripts, and using accessible WordPress themes. Here is the template I use for video scripts script_template.
  • Visit the CII Here are a few things we can help with:
  1. Demonstrating best practices with the different learning tools and platforms used at GSU
  2. Providing guidance and input on the design of your content
  3. Review design of your course

Online education won’t be made accessible overnight but the sooner we take the first steps and start turning thoughts into actions the sooner we’ll have a university that provides equal opportunity for all of its students.