Striving for Accessible Courses

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch, pillows on either side for support, as I held my baby brother. I can remember putting my lips to his little head, and soaking in the baby smell of his downy head as if it were yesterday. Soon after, we would learn that my brother suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth, leaving lasting cognitive and physical echoes. And so my personal journey with disability awareness began. 

In college, I had the honor of working as an embedded writing tutor with a cohort of deaf students, and later, I worked with two students who experienced short-term memory loss due to car accidents. By the time I started teaching online, I had a lifetime of experiences working with people who have differing cognitive and physical differences, so embracing making my online course accessible should have been easy–a piece of cake. 

Accessibility Is a Team Effort

Instead, what I found was that training and tutorials on digital accessibility were convoluted, complex, and often confusing. I rarely knew if I had achieved the level of accessibility I was hoping for, so (like many online instructors) I often simply ignored broad components of accessibility. 

During my work with @ONE and the CVC-OEI, however, I decided to tackle accessibility, and what I discovered is that some parts of accessibility are more difficult, and require collaboration with our campus IT and disability resources–like testing software integrations with Canvas to ensure they meet standards–but other things are simple, and when practiced become muscle memory. Since that time, it’s been my goal to share what I have learned about accessibility within Canvas to as many faculty as possible–to straighten out, simplify, and clarify how to make our content in Canvas accessible. 

Take the 10-Day Accessibility Challenge

So, as Disability awareness month comes to a close, and we begin prepping for Fall courses in the era of COVID-19, where all of our students have been forced online, I’m happy to introduce a new series–the 10-Day Accessibility Challenge–focused on making your Canvas course accessible. The challenge is comprised of ten brief videos ranging from 2 to 4 minutes each that cover the six most prominent accessibility strategies for online courses:

  • Headings
  • Lists
  • Links
  • Images
  • Color Contrast
  • Closed-captions

The video playlist is shared with a Creative Commons license on YouTube, so feel free to share, embed, and encourage others to join in, too! 

Accessibility does not have to be shrouded in mystery and should be part of our daily routine. As a matter of fact, I’m positive you’re up to the challenge!

Posted in accessibility, Uncategorized.

Lené Whitley-Putz is the Dean of Online Learning at Foothill College. She has taught online writing, communication, and professional development. She serves on the California Community College’s Accessibility Standards Working Group, and loves working with animation.

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