Summer Accessibility Challenge Faculty Experience
In August 2021, the Center for Academic Innovation hosted a two week Summer Accessibility Challenge. Participants were able to choose from a variety of different accessibility activities. Those that completed the challenge received a stipend and an Accessibility Challenge Badge.
We are pleased to announce that we had 20 participants complete the challenge.
At the end of the challenge, faculty were asked to provide a short statement about their experience. Here is what they had to say:
I now understand why it’s important to be aware of how accessibility issues challenge students with disabilities, but I also now see why improvements can be helpful for all students. I love the advice to start small and make those improvements a little at a time. However, as I improved one document I found myself wanting all of my documents revised (so it’s contagious, but in a good way).
It will be great going forward to be able to set up courses in Canvas with accessible features from the start. Similarly, I will create new Powerpoint presentations and assignment documents with accessibility in mind.
Overall, just a great experience. Thank you.
I have been working on improving accessibility in my courses gradually over the last two years, and really appreciated the direct guidance on elements that warrant special focus. The individual steps were relatively easy, and I can already see the improvements to my course.
I think this course was excellent and so very glad I signed up. I want my classes to be accessible to students with challenges and able to read my documents in all formats. I didn’t really find anything that “easy” but many things more challenging than others, e.g. making tables that I use in my Syllabus. I have several pictures that needed alt text and have fixed other papers and Syllabi so that they comply with accessibility. Also, I fixed several Word Templates I made for students to use for their homework in class to conform to the new Word documents that include the Check Accessibility tool. Since I have been online teaching for many years some of my Word documents were from older editions of Word for Mac that did not have the Check Accessibility feature. I have now updated all my assignment Templates to include the Check Accessibility Tool available in the latest editions of Word for Mac and look forward to the accessibility checker stating that “everything has been run and all issues, errors, and warnings have been addressed.”
My advice would be for all instructors to take this challenge and get familiar with the accessibility checklist you provided for class. I have it by my computer to use for reference.
Thanks again for this class.
I learned the ways in which I was hurting accessibility with my student examples–they were riddled with images that had no descriptions and text that was made to look like headings but weren’t. I felt like I was being careful with my own Canvas materials, but all of my students look at those anonymous examples from their historic peers. I also learned that my tables weren’t up to the task since I hadn’t defined headers in them.
Fixing images and headings is very easy; just play some tunes and plow through them (it’s nice to have relatively thoughtless work that’s actually accomplishing something).
I found it challenging to see for myself where my short-comings were.
I would encourage others to take the challenge because it’s broken down in a way that’s not intimidating at all. Heather was super-responsive and helpful too! If you need guidance, she’ll be there for you.
I learned how easy it is to use the accessibility report in Canvas. I always thought this would be an overwhelming task so it has taken the back burner. It turns out that it is very user friendly and straightforward. It shows you everything that needs to be fixed and walks you through the process of fixing each piece.
I felt that this accessibility challenge was a productive use of my time. This is an area that I have wanted to improve in my classes, but I hadn’t made time to do so before. I found that there are tools available to help make this accessibility work easier for me to handle. This challenge took me about 6 hours, but that could well be that I am not as technologically advanced as others :).
Through this Accessibility Challenge I learned to use the Accessibility Report that is available through the settings/navigation bar in each course you create. It was easy to import a course that I taught last quarter into a blank design shell and review my report to make corrections for the future. The report explained what to do and made the updates immediately. That was satisfying. Some of my materials were pdfs that I could not change, but now that I know these principles I will be more aware as I design future courses. It’s a really important exercise to go through and will help you to improve your courses and make them more accessible to all your students.
During this accessibility challenge, I learned to do several things to make my course documents and materials more accessible to all learners. Specifically, I learned to add text to images, arrange PowerPoints so that readers can read them in the correct order and to add hyperlink text to documents. I was thrilled at how well organized the resources and instructions were in this course/challenge, and with how EASY it was to learn, practice and incorporate changes into my existing course documents and materials. Not only did I learn how to do these important things, but I was able to make changes right away to my existing documents/materials. Further, I learned that there are more well-organized, easy to access and understand resources available to us at Chemeketa, and am excited to continue to learn how to and do more things (all the things I can) to make all course documents/materials accessible to all students.
Thank you for making this resource available to us so that we can better support all learners!
As a participant in this year’s accessibility challenge, I was able to familiarize myself with the many tools and resources available in canvas and elsewhere to make my classes and materials accessible to students. I am glad I took the time to learn about and implement some of these resources, and I look forward to learning more!
Completing this workshop reminded me that I can design a course that I enjoy and that looks and works “great,” but if it doesn’t work for my students — my users — then the work is not complete. If students can’t find or can’t understand instructions, or if they can’t access a document because it’s not formatted with their needs in mind, or if they have some other issue, they will not be able to complete learning activities. Moreover, they may feel that any “fault” is theirs and not in the design of the course. That’s not what I want, and that’s why this challenge served as a good reminder.
I had successes and challenges. I have pretty good proficiency with Word, so redesigning documents or pages is always pretty easy from the technical end. Less “easy” is how a student might navigate a document or a page, especially if they have a visual or hearing disability or a learning disability. I attended a workshop once in which a blind person used a screen reader on my LMS pages. That was an eye-opener! For example, I often use abbreviations, like “WR121” in my documents and pages. I now spell them out because a screen reader would say “W-R-1-2-1.” While a student would probably understand, it’s better to write “Writing 121.” That’s just one example of many. So having someone else look over my work and giving me advice on how to do it differently was very helpful.
I recommend that all faculty and staff complete a workshop such as this one. Accessibility trainings can show you the basics, but you really need to take the basics and the tools to your own documents. Nothing will change your own habits more than this hands-on approach, especially if you have a guide on the side with you. You’ll look at your own documents and materials through new eyes, and you’ll do better with design in the future so that your users will do better. And that’s the real aim.
I learned how to make Canvas quizzes more accessible, how to format a table for accessibility in word, and that you can lose your headings when you download a Google Doc into word. My biggest challenge was just not knowing how to do what I wanted to do – make Canvas quizzes and my syllabus more accessible. So, I met with Heather, and she gave me a lot of information and advice. After that, it was relatively easy to make the changes to my materials once I knew how to do it. In terms of advice to others, I would say take the opportunity to learn. You can learn a lot from the resources made available to you and the feedback you are given on your work.
I learned about the reading order in PowerPoints.
I realized that I had not been diligent about creating proper headings in my documents and especially in my Canvas content.
It was pretty easy for me to make changes. I like that Ally gives good feedback on what needs to be corrected and how to make changes.
As always, the big challenge is finding the time to make changes in old content and taking the time to make content accessible upon creation.
My advice to others is to stay diligent but realize that this is an ongoing process. Also, always ask for help especially from Heather.
OK – there is some pressure now to have some wise words!
I did question if I should sign up for the challenge since I have attended the UDL classes. Yet, this past year has been busy with learning Canvas, improving my connection with students via Zoom and just praying the Internet will do well!
Taking this challenge has actually been wonderful for my mental attitude about UDL – putting what was suggested we do in class to actually doing the changes. I learned that pdf files are not as useful as to what my past knowledge thought. So I was able to easily clean up homework files and focus on improving my work documents. Therefore, cleaning out my FILES within Canvas was quite easy!
What I found challenging was writing a description for an image. I don’t totally understand the different tech students can use to help them with accessing the work – so I am not sure how descriptive I need to be. Some of the images are used in quizzes, assignments as well as informational.
I would encourage all instructors to take the challenge – hands on helps a person get started. The staff has been wonderful in answering questions quickly as well as providing FANTASTIC answers with the use of visuals! Thank you Heather!
What did you learn?
Adding Alt Text to Images, Convert Hyperlinks to Descriptive Language and how to Add Proper Headings to Canvas Pages and much more.
What did you find easy?
Adding Proper Headings in my class was already close to being correct.
What did you find challenging?
Realizing how many areas of accessibility need improvement within my supporting documents.
What advice would you want to share with others?
Take the challenge–your students and teaching portfolio will both benefit.
The accessibility challenge allowed me to better understand the key concepts that help students with access to our documents and coursework. Getting a handle on that, and some of the simple items, like adding descriptions to images or running the Accessibility Report (my course was initially at 77%, and I learned a lot from reviewing it) was straightforward. Moving between document types and trying to document the work I had done was challenging and frustrating. I would recommend trying the challenge, and possibly attending a remote or in-person component as well, if, like me, a participant is not super tech-savvy.
I learned a lot about automatic accessibility-checking tools. I found adding descriptive text to hyperlinks easy, if tedious. My greatest challenge was adapting the color-vision problems in the code.org assignment I have my students do, because the activity itself is beyond my control. In the end, I added a note to help students adapt the assignment, but long term I would like to replace that curriculum with something I can fix myself. I would advise others to read the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines itself, because it’s a really interesting read and not as scary as it seems. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I often look things up in it or skim it, and find it enlightening.
I learned about the importance of headings (Heading 1, 2, and 3) in documents and how they function. I learned about using effective colors to reach a wider audience. I learned how to list things in Canvas in a more effective manner. I was not aware of the little person icon that was/is available to run a check (not knowing was challenging) but once I learned where to find it and how to use it, I found it incredibly helpful and useful! Big Win! Thank you!
Advice to share with others, would be to spend the time going through Canvas, all documents, and visuals to improve the accessibility! Prior to this I did not know HOW to make this possible, and now I know how and I am thrilled to be providing these features for my students! This is a Significant Accomplishment!
This was a valuable course as I learned about the Ally Accessibility Report function in Canvas and how to use it to correct issues. The only challenge was discovering that I had old files in the course that I no longer use but they were included in the Accessibility Report. I have now cleaned up my Canvas Files area and deleted old files. This is one of the issues with copying courses from term to term; sometimes old files just hang around.
I would recommend faculty utilize the Accessibility Report function in Canvas. Maybe the global settings could be adjusted so that the Accessibility Report defaults to the active navigational items.