The “Silent A” in Digital DEI: Accessibility by Design

Streamed Session Equity and Inclusion

Watch This Session

Brief Abstract

At the heart of inclusive design is the idea that people experience learning environments differently. This session introduces an asynchronous faculty learning experience called Accessibility and Inclusive Design which provided guidance that prepared faculty with the foundational skills for developing more accessible content while focusing on inclusive design and pedagogy.


Kristi moved to Ventura County in 2011 to attend CSU Channel Islands; in the Spring of 2012 she began working as the Blended Learning Preparation Program (BLPP) student assistant under the leadership of Jill Leafstedt. She graduated in May 2013 and in September of that year transitioned into a position as the Junior Instructional Designer. In December 2015, she was hired as an Instructional Technologist/FIT Studio as part of the Teaching and Learning Innovations team. As of January 2018, she is the Instructional Technologist- Accessibility Lead and FIT Studio Coordinator for the team. In addition to her campus responsibilities, she finished her M.A. degree in Learning Technologies at Pepperdine University. She is a strong supporter of utilizing technology to meet the needs of a diverse student body and supporting faculty as they explore Teaching and Learning with technology. She is also passionate about #a11y and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Extended Abstract

Topic Overview  

This session will tell the story of an asynchronous faculty learning experience entitled Accessibility and Inclusive Design or A.I.D. 

Context & Purpose

To support faculty capacity to ensure academic continuity in preparation for an unpredictable 2021-2022 academic year, our digital learning unit was granted HEERF funds to compensate faculty who completed an online faculty learning experience called Teaching for Learning Continuity (T.L.C.). 

The core of the programming encouraged faculty to reflect and build on the virtual content and courses developed during the previous year of fully virtual instruction. The premise is that all courses, regardless of modality, have an asynchronous environment that, if well-designed, supports learning continuity that is more inclusive than a course without a digital learning environment we call an Asynchronous Backbone.

A course syllabus, assigned readings and videos, class agendas, assignment directions and explanations, work submission, grading and feedback, announcements, even micro-lectures can be organized and available to students asynchronously in the Learning Management System (or other digital platforms). Therefore, any course, in-person, synchronous, or asynchronous, supports learning continuity when it leverages the flexibility afforded by a well-designed asynchronous backbone. However, for the digital course environment to be truly inclusive it must also be designed for accessibility. 

While we have observed that the shift to fully virtual instruction dramatically increased instructors’ skills and knowledge for creating and disseminating instructional digital content, and are encouraged by the flexibility this affords students, our digital learning unit was concerned that without supporting instructors in developing the knowledge and skills for accessible design, the digital course environment could inadvertently pose barriers to learning.

Union Approval and Faculty Completion

While T.L.C. offered a variety of micro-courses on various topics, when seeking Faculty Union approval of completion requirements, completion of A.I.D. was designated as one of three required elements for participants to be eligible for the completion stipend. As a result 121 faculty successfully completed the course, meaning approximately 24% of all faculty have been prepared in the basics of accessible design.

Our Rationale

Anyone who has developed digital instructional content (e.g. documents, presentation slides, videos, online modules, etc) would agree that creating digital materials is a time-intensive process. Yet, many also recognize the affordances of digital content as a means to support equity, providing flexibility (anytime/anywhere) and inclusive student access to instructional content. At the heart of inclusive design is the idea that people experience learning environments differently.

However, for digital content to be truly inclusive, it must also be accessible, meaning it is formatted correctly so students using assistive technology (i.e. screen readers) and/or students with visual or auditory needs can also access digital content. While designing for accessibility is a legal requirement, we prefer to develop a campus culture in which accessible design is viewed as a means to bolster inclusion and student empowerment. To this end we aim to influence a teaching and learning culture that recognizes how more  accessible design supports not only students with diverse physical needs, but also neurodiversity, and the diverse lifestyle or non-academic demands that can present potential barriers to students’ academic success. For example, recognizing that video captioning not only supports students with an auditory need, but increases access to course content for students who need to read and listen, students for whom English is a second language, or when the surrounding environment is not conducive to listening, such as a student watching a lecture while on public transit. 

Therefore, with input from our Learning Design Team our Accessibility Lead developed A.I.D. This lightly facilitated self-paced online course prepared faculty with the basic knowledge and skills for accessible design by providing the foundational guidance for developing more accessible Canvas-housed content with a focus on inclusive design and pedagogy. 

Through A.I.D. faculty met the following outcomes:

  • Demonstrate accessible text formatting including use of Heading Styles, List Styles, and unique hyperlinks

  • Identify and apply the use of accessibility checkers (i.e., ALLY and Grackle Docs)

  • Explain why captioning and/or transcripts make videos more accessible

  • Demonstrate the ability to create a video with a transcript

  • Differentiate between more accessible and less accessible color contrast examples

  • Describe best practices for adding alternative text to images

  • Discuss strategies for developing alternative assessments that promote student agency

Showing Rather than Telling!

With this discovery session leveraging video and PlayPosit, we are excited to create a presentation through which we can visually guide participants through A.I.D. to not just describe but show the content and activities participants experienced. Additionally, of particular interest to instructional designers and faculty development professionals will be our ability to showcase the course’s organizational structure and workflow that allowed flexible, asynchronous, self-paced participant engagement while also leveraging knowledge checks and assessment activities to ensure the learning outcomes were being met. Additionally, we will explain how the course was facilitated, feedback provided, and discussion forums utilized to not only provide individual support but model the accessible and inclusive practices presented in the course content. With PlayPosit, we look forward to the ability to answer individual questions through the discussion forum and provide additional resources shared in the video using the web embed option. 

Faculty Follow-up & Planning for Future Scholarship

One of the challenges of faculty development is knowing whether or not the learning experience leads to implementation. Often faculty are enthusiastic about new learning but whether or not the learning experience leads to actual implementation often remains unknown. With 121 faculty completing A.I.D. during the Summer of 2021, we have the opportunity to follow-up with completers interested in sharing implementation of the skills 

and knowledge gained through A.I.D. on their actual course development. Whether faculty share positive or negative feedback, their contributions will provide an opportunity for asynchronous discussion. While we are hopeful faculty did implement their learning, what we learn will reveal interesting topics for group discussion and sharing around challenges and successes in inspiring and measuring faculty application of accessible design. 

We hope this conversation will inspire thinking and uncover solutions for building scholarship into faculty development offerings. This is a shortcoming we have recognized in our own design. A great deal of effort goes into the planning, development, launch, and facilitation of faculty learning experiences, but too often, measuring the impact is an afterthought. Through this presentation we would like to draw attention to planning opportunities for scholarship as part of the planning and preparation phase of faculty development. We hope to learn from those doing this type of work as well as encourage those who have not, like us, to consider how to build scholarship into their work. 

Carrying A.I.D. Forward

This Summer 2021 experience is only the beginning of our focus on accessibility and inclusive design. A.I.D. is a thread we are continuing in our offerings for this academic year and beyond. Ensuring learning continuity is critical to student success, and is not limited to moments of unplanned disruption. We want students to have continuous access to learning; and that means creating digital environments where technology multiplies the pathways through which students can interact with course content and demonstrate their knowledge. 

At the end of our presentation, we will use PlayPosit’s web embed to share a Padlet with links to resources (e.g. content shared in Canvas Commons) to share. Participants will be invited to use the Padlet to ask questions, share resources/solutions, and build their professional support network to continue the conversation after the conference has ended.