The changes to websites are heavily needed to ensure they are accessible to accommodate all types of learning needs.
Dr. Csilla Stewart, senior instructional designer with ISU’s Extended Learning College, gave a presentation over the importance of making course sites accessible to all students with the help of Practical Pedagogy.
“The way I think about accessibility is that it’s a beast, it’s a monster. One step at a time, you can make a huge difference on multiple types of students in their courses as well as yourself,” said Stewart.
ISU hosts thousands of unique students and faculty who may be in need of different learning and even daily accommodations.
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, 30% of working professionals have a disability, 40 million people have a disability in the United States and 7.3 million people are blind or have severe visual impairment that leads to the need for external aid besides glasses.
It’s important that students and faculty with certain disabilities are able to obtain documents that have digital accessibility. Digital accessibility means that documents, websites and apps are accessible to all users including those with disabilities.
There are four different categories of disability types.
The first category is cognitive, which includes attention deficit disorder, brain injury, dyslexia, language, memory and reading disabilities.
The second category is hearing which includes deafness, hard of hearing and deaf-blind persons.
The third category is motor, which includes arthritis, cerebral palsy, loss of limb, muscular dystrophy and tremors.
The final category is visual, which includes blindness, colorblindness and low vision persons.
There are students and faculty on our campus who fall into one or more of these categories and it’s necessary that we make their online experience digitally accessible.
Not only is it important to meet the needs of those with these disabilities, it is also the law. The Rehabilitation Act, Section 504, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and its 2008 amendments states that one will: “establish a firm legal basis for the requirement that information technologies procured, developed, and used by postsecondary institutions be accessible to individuals with disabilities.”
Some accommodations that should be made in order to reach digital accessibility include videos that are captioned and provide a transcript.
Images, graphs and other visual elements should include text equivalents, and label headers and rows should be included within tables as well as captions for the tables.
“Sufficient color contrast, that is very important. Don’t use too dark of colors and there are multiple color contrast checkers online to help with web design and course design online. Be sure to create bulleted lists or numbered lists versus using an asterisks or a minus sign, that’s really not an accessible format,” said Stewart.
There are several accommodations that can be made to make documents, websites and apps digitally accessible. More information on digital accessibilities can be found on softchalkcloud.com provided by Indiana State Online.