Classroom content and interactions should be able to be experienced by all of your students regardless of physical or learning differences. While technology vendors haven’t always been so mindful of this legal and ethical mandate, more and more tools are being developed to be accessible to students with disabilities by default. In this case, providing an inclusive learning environment is just a matter of paying attention to actions you take within a tool to ensure that you don’t defeat accessibility measures. For instance:
- Blackboard will prompt you to provide alternative text for images you upload. Filling in this field ensures that students in your class who have impaired vision can use screen reading software to read a text description of the image to them.
- Documents that you create in Word and convert to PDF will automatically maintain the data about the words on the page that allow the document to be read aloud by screen reading software commonly used by people with impaired vision. Providing this same document in a printed format may not allow the person to read the document without assistance.
- PowerPoint will choose default colors for text that contrast with the slide background to allow color-blind readers to discriminate between text and background. Changing the text or background color might decrease the contrast.
In some cases, in order to provide multimedia content and technology enriched interactions, you may need to take a few extra steps to ensure that all students are able to access course content and are able to participate in classroom experiences. Students who have documented disabilities should work with the Disability Resource Center to obtain a Professor Notification Letter, which will be sent by the DRC on the student’s behalf. If you have questions about how this letter will impact your course, please contact the DRC, whose specialists are very experienced with working with faculty and students to find accommodations that work for both parties. The DRC has additional tips for creating content in Blackboard accessible to your students.
Some common accessibility support tasks and tools that ATS can help you with are listed below:
- Allowing one student more time on a Blackboard assessment
- Captioning Tegrity lecture captures or other media
- Recording a lecture so a student can review at a later time
- Keeping Blackboard content accessible
- Providing a PDF that uses optical character recognition to allow a screenreader to read a scanned article or image with text. Acrobat Pro is available on Northeastern lab machines and available for local install on Northeastern computers
- Using VoiceThread rather than traditional text-based discussion forums to conduct discussions so that students may engage in discussion without focusing so heavily on reading and writing skills
- View a recorded version of our accessibility workshop, which discusses considerations for creating accessible content for your course (Tegrity recording).
- Creating your own caption file for a video file.
It’s also worth noting that because all students learn differently, some tools and techniques may benefit a wide range of students who aren’t registered with the DRC. For example, using Tegrity to record course lectures frees up students from taking notes and allows them to engage with what’s happening in the classroom. Using VoiceThread for discussions might be an enjoyable medium for all students.
Software Available to Students and Faculty
- Students and faculty might also benefit from Read&Write Gold, a suite of tools that help with reading, study, writing, and research skills. This software is available in software downloads section of the myneu.neu.edu portal.
- Read&Write Gold has a Chrome browser plugin with some of its basic functionality, including voice-to-text.
- ZoomText provides screen magnification for students with limited vision and ZoomText Reader is the recommended screen reader at Northeastern. These are available on lab images.
- VoiceOver is the recommended screen reader for Mac users. It is native to Apple machines running Mac software. This page will help you get acquainted with using VoiceOver on Safari.
Accessibility Features of Common Software
- Intro to Accessibility
- Adobe Acrobat
- Adobe Captivate
- Adobe InDesign
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Reader Assistance Tools
- Articulate Storyline
- Blackboard Collaborate Moderator
- Blackboard Collaborate Participant
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Microsoft Word