As educators, we should be proud! In a world where people are both so polarized and united, higher education has long been the bellwether for social, political and philosophical change. Over the past few years, we have recognized the importance of diversity and fair representation but it is Community Colleges like Chemeketa that have been leading the charge for inclusion and equity for all students.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the sudden shift to remote teaching has emphasized the critical need to ensure that our materials and websites are accessible and usable for all – including people with disabilities. From essential health and financial services to course materials, if a person cannot access the necessary information, it can endanger their health, their economic welfare and their ability to get the education they need to survive and thrive in today’s society.
Digital accessibility is not a new concept. With over two decades of awareness and advocacy in higher education, it is consistently listed as a key issue in teaching and education; is the focus of multiple institutional and state initiatives; and has seen an explosion in the growth of Interest Groups, Associations and Businesses. Yet, Colleges and Universities still struggle to be accessible!
This is unfortunate because accessible design provides benefits for all students. For example, captioning helps multimodal learners, students in environments where sound is not allowed (or there is too much noise) and ESOL students. In fact, a 2018 study found that over 70% of students without hearing difficulties used captioning at least part of the time when watching course videos. Other benefits include:
- Accessible materials are more compatible with mobile and emerging technologies;
- Accessible documents tend to be more usable – making it easier for all students to focus on learning rather than details such as navigation and hard to read language and text;
- Accessible design is an integral part of best practices in learning and teaching such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Differentiated Instruction, and Active Learning;
- Accessibility can even be used to help support reaffirmation efforts during the accreditation cycle.
So, why is accessibility so important? As a federally funded institution, it is the law – but more importantly, a commitment to equity and inclusion for all is a core principle of Chemeketa Community College. Breaking down the numbers, 61 million Americans have some type of disability – that is 26% of the US population including the 19.4% of post-secondary students that report having a disability. These are our students and our community and we have a responsibility to ensure that we are not leaving them behind.
Thursday, May 21st is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and people all over the world are joining together to promote accessibility and share ideas on how to make the digital world more inclusive. Why not celebrate the day by taking a look at your course materials and trying a few simple fixes that can make your materials more inclusive and usable for all students.
To learn more, visit our Aim for Accessibility Pages or watch a recording and review the resources from our recent Inclusion and Accessibility Webinar. If you have any questions or need assistance with accessibility, contact Heather Mariger at firstname.lastname@example.org.