Springing Forward to Accessibility

Punxsutawney Phil predicted that there would be six more weeks of winter. Legend has it that if it’s cloudy when the ground hog comes out, he will leave his burrow and that winter will end soon. If it’s a sunny day, he will see his shadow and frightened, retreat back home into the burrow, and then winter is still six more weeks away.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was some easy way to predict how long it takes to make changes in a climate? Any kind of climate? Let’s take changing the way we create instructional materials for an example.

I’ve written before on the difficulty that change brings to all of us. How it takes 30 days to make a habit. Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s really true. Some embrace change, and dive in looking for new solutions or taking advantage of new learning opportunities. Others choose to see it as too much, too difficult. I totally understand. I’m no different than any one. I can dig my heels in as well as anyone.

But at some point, I’ve had to dive in and learn new skills. Change my view of the climate at hand. Find new ways to look at the assistive technology tools available and how to use them to create instructional materials that are accessible to all students.

But the best tools out there are only as helpful as they can be if we are willing to work through them and learn how to use them. It takes time and patience. Time is a precious commodity to all of us. We need to learn to be good planners and use our time wisely.

During the recent Accessibility Summit organized by Dr. Tristan Denley, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, a number of issues were addressed. The transcripts from the sessions are on the Disability Services Web site at the following link:

https://www.tbr.edu/academics/accessible-instructional-materials-technology-summit

Many issues were addressed at the Summit. Eve Hill, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Department of Justice stated that our job as content creators is to be innovators. In order to be innovative, we have to see accessibility as innovation, not a barrier to innovation. Accessibility helps get your lessons across to more people who learn differently.

The climate towards accessibility is in need of a “tectonic” shift.

Here are some tips that I hope will guide you in becoming innovators and use the tools available at Pellissippi.

- Every company has a technical support number.

If you find yourself trying to do something, and there is no one around to help you, try calling the company’s Tech Support. Most of the time, you will find someone on the other end of the phone that can walk you through how to do what you are trying to do. And often times they can remote in to look at what you have on your screen, check for updates, and help you get to the next step.

- Frequently asked questions on the vendor website may also lead you to answers to the problem at hand.

You may not find the exact answer to what you’ve encountered, but the answers may give you things to try until you reach the person on the phone.

One of the main points that Eve Hill stressed related to the cost of accommodations. She clearly said that the cost of making the technology accessible is not the obligation of the disability student services office. It is the obligation of the school, the governing board of the institution and ultimately, in a public institution, the state.

In order to cause a climate change, we must all work together.

If I had a wish of what is to come, I would wish that each of us look at accessibility in a new light. Because it is a good thing. For all of us.

 

Untangling the Web: More Tools for the Toolbox

In an article from theguardian, Gus Alexiou makes a clear case for digital accessibility, citing a new book by Professor Jonathan Hassell, former head of accessibility and useability at the BBC from 2008 to 2011.  He now runs his own consulting business, Hassell Inclusion.  Hassell writes that “accessibility has always been synonymous with blind people […]

If it’s Digital, is it Accessible? Part 2: Word Documents with Text and Graphics

No one is type-setting any longer, in this digital age of desktop publishing.   Things like a novel, or a literature book, or any type of written work that doesn’t need to be described using figures or illustrations, graphs or diagrams, or symbols are relatively easy to convert.   If you cannot find a book in electronic […]