Tuesday Tips (Accessibility)

Introduction

Hi! I’m Liz Prickett, and I’m the Alternative Media Specialist in our team at CAPE. Today, I’d like to introduce myself and provide you with a working definition of “accessibility.”

I’ve worked at a variety of institutions and departments in higher education for the last 16+ years which serves well in this role! I earned a BA in English from Messiah College and a MA in Higher Education from Geneva College. I began in college athletics and outdoor education, and I then moved to working in academic support and disability services. I began to focus on Assistive Technology in 2007 when I joined George Mason University’s Assistive Technology Initiative (ATI). I’ve taught in the classroom for college success courses and outside the classroom in experiential education. I’ve provided one-on-one and small group training to students and faculty and given presentations on accessibility at higher education conferences such as the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (aka CSUN) in California, Accessing Higher Ground (AHG) in Colorado and the Virginia Transition Forum. Locally, I’ve been participating in AccessU in Austin.

I began working at Victoria College in 2013, and in my current role, I create and facilitate numerous workshops for faculty and staff on working with students with disabilities and document, web and multi-media accessibility. My goal for this blog (at least during this semester) is to familiarize you with document accessibility tips for Word 2013. Hopefully, you’ll find that these tips save you time as well!

Accessibility

So, what is “accessibility?” My working definition is:

Providing equally effective and integrated communication, ensuring that everyone can read, navigate, understand and engage with your materials.

Providing equally effective and integrated communication, ensuring that everyone can read, navigate, understand and engage with your materials.Let’s unpack a few of these terms:

  • Equally effective [communication] – Everyone receives the same message in a timely manner.
  • Integrated communication – Whenever possible, everyone receives the same message from the same source. For example, providing a video or document that everyone can access instead of separate videos or documents for students who need captions or enlarged text.
  • Read – Everyone can get to your text. This doesn’t have anything to do with literacy, it has to do with access to the content. Materials should not depend on a single sense. For example, providing an electronic, text-based version (rather than image-based scan) of a paper handout allows more people to interact with the text. They may have software to read it aloud, magnify it, etc.
  • Navigate – Everyone can move around your materials without getting lost. There’s a pattern, an outline or a logical structure to your materials. This becomes more important the longer your materials are. (I’ll be talking about navigation in Word in a few weeks.)
  • Understand – Everyone can comprehend your introduction or directions and your content builds upon itself as you introduce new concepts, terms, etc. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to automatically understand everything in your course or even succeed in your course. This means, for example, that materials such as forms, assignments and exams should have good, clear directions.
  • Engage – Everyone can interact and participate. Everyone is able to complete assignments, submit forms, participate in discussions, etc. without relying on someone else to do it for them.

I encourage you to consider how accessible electronic materials are more usable for everyone. They assist with access across devices, platforms and web browsers, too. Digital formats provide greater ease with mobile devices, searches and navigation, material reproduction, and reading with individual preferences. Stay tuned next week for an introduction to accessible documents.

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