Breaking down the barriers: A practical and interactive approach to accessible course design

Pre-Conference Workshop Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Want a fun, interactive way to learn to meet accessibility standards?  Meeting technical requirements to proactively address the varied needs of disabled students can be overwhelming and challenging.  Our workshop will break down barriers to give you a deeper understanding of disabilities and practical accessibility process individualized for your institution.

There is a fee for this Pre-Conference Workshop: $195 Early Bird / $225 Full Price

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Extended Abstract

Integrating accessibility standards into online courses can be a long, tricky, and daunting task.  But it doesn’t have to be!  With a little bit of training and some clear documentation and tools, participants can design and retrofit their courses with the inclusion of accessibility standards. As recipients of OLC’s Effective Practice Award for the project “Retrofitting and Proactivity for Accessibility in Online Courses,” we will share our expert tips and tricks to implementing accessibility standards using our processes and tangible takeaways.  We have many interactive activities planned to take participants through exercises we completed while creating and individualizing our process to fit our institution so that they can go back to theirs with the start of a plan.

By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Analyze their current course development process for opportunities to incorporate an accessibility compliance plan.

  • Sketch a training plan for accessibility standards and process.

  • Assess situational factors at their institution that will inform a customized set of accessibility standards.

  • Identify technical coding and details needed for compliance with Section 508.

  • Demonstrate an awareness of accessibility standards by holistically evaluating learning materials using empathy and technical knowledge.

This workshop will take time to define accessibility and the standards and guidelines out there, giving participants the foundation to not only understand accessibility, but to explain it to others at their institution.  This workshop will be beneficial to those with very little to those with advanced experience in accessibility.  We will look deeper into “invisible disabilities” to help give perspective and empathy when developing courses.  As a group activity, we will review course pages to determine possible barriers from the perspective of individuals with visible and invisible disabilities, to strengthen skills on identifying areas in need of accessibility outfitting. We will also take a close look at some of the more common invisible disabilities that can be difficult to understand by completing an activity to prepare participants to be forward-thinking and predictive.

We will study the technical side of implementing accessibility standards into courses within the context of the Quality Matters Rubric, which provides a practical way of grouping the standards.  No prior experience with Quality Matters is required.  We have a technical standards manual that we will be distributing and discussing that participants can take back to their institution and modify to fit their processes and courses.  We will together practice some of the technical standards to help develop a comfort level with working with the standards.

Four years ago, we began a project to retrofit our entire course library and implement accessibility standards into our new course development process.  This project has been very successful and we are happy to get to share our scalable process.  This process can be used on a single course, a group of courses, or an entire institution as we have done. We will take participants step by step through the process we have developed for retrofitting and being proactive with accessibility in online courses.   We will discuss our decision-making process and complete brainstorm activities in which participants will outline details about their institution that will help them make decisions on an appropriate process.  

We feel that one our greatest reasons for success in our own project has been to really individualize the standards and processes to our institution, which we will be helping participants start themselves.  We will review detailed data which supports the success of our process.  We will share examples of the job aids that we use at our institution, such as a division of responsibilities list, information specifically written for faculty, a training plan, a resources list, and checklists for developing and reviewing courses.

This workshop will be very hands-on, as we have five activities planned for participants to complete individually and within the group.  The activities are practical and should fuel some great discussion amongst the larger group.  We have presented on this topic at multiple conferences and it has always been a very popular session.  At every venue we have presented, we have a great deal of inquiries and requests for additional information, so we are very excited about the prospect at being able to have 3 hours to cover such an important topic.  We are extremely passionate about our work in accessibility and approach it with confidence, a positive attitude, and encouragement for others.  We want to help others realize that this is a very practical and easily scalable and executable process, and empower them to start a project like this at their own institution.