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It’s been a while since I have posted anything on the blog and to be honest, this was a post I’d planned to write a while ago on tips for accessible teaching content, way before we were all thrown into delivering remotely. It is based on some notes I’d made after being inspired by the brilliant Hector Minto‘s presentation at the Microsoft FE/HE Bootcamp I attended back in October 2019. Having been distracted from writing this previously, I feel now it’s even more appropriate due to our struggles in adapting to remote delivery.
I appreciate that some of these may seem simple and other more obvious things may appear to be missing from the list, but here are my 10 tips to deliver accessible remote teaching. The usability of these will also depend on the tools for delivery you have at your institution, of course.
We’re all suddenly delivering a lot of content via Teams, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate or whatever other tool your institution has provided you with. Giving the option for learners to recap, make notes or just watch at their own pace is standard good practice. We’re using Teams and recordings are held in Stream, which are automatically transcribed and searchable.
Whilst we’re on the subject of Zoom/Teams delivery, one handy little accessibility shortcut for Windows users to have up your sleeve is the Magnify Tool shortcut. Windows and + to turn on, then Windows and + or – to zoom in or out. It’s perfect for live or recorded screen sharing to highlight buttons or toolbars etc in browsers and software. Here’s a full list of Windows Accessibility keyboard shortcuts.
Seems like an obvious one to anyone that knows or has read anything on the subject of accessibility, but it’s so often missed. We’re all guilty of having to do things in a hurry, especially in the current situation. The key takeaway about ALT text, in my opinion, is that it should describe the image, not just state what it is.
Which describes the image best? (Clue is in the ALT Text of the image. )
A: Cup of Coffee.
B: A small paper, takeaway cup of coffee from Crosby Coffee on a desk.
Immersive reader is a free Microsoft tool to help improve reading and comprehension and is something well worth flagging to students, especially if you’re O365 users. It lets users change font size, spacing, background colour, split words into syllables, amongst other features including reading text aloud and changing the reading speed. Try it here, it works with Edge, OneNote, Teams, Word, Outlook and luckily for us at Uni. of Liverpool, Canvas LMS users.
BIG NEWS! Immersive Reader comes to Canvas 🎉 We’re partnering with @CanvasLMS to make learning more accessible to all 💯 #edtech #MIEExpert #accessibility #MicrosoftEDU— Mike Tholfsen (@mtholfsen) October 14, 2019
Details 👉 https://t.co/IwgKz0bzsM pic.twitter.com/u14wS9CgjD
Check all of your learning content quickly and easily before saving and publishing using the built in accessibility checker to your Office products. Find the accessibility checker by clicking the Review ribbon then ‘check accessibility’. If it’s not there and you’re using an older version of Office, click file, ‘check for issues’ to find the link. This handy sidebar checks as you work!
Providing students with a PDF is a bit of a contentious one, but for me PDF’s are great for already accessible documents. PDF’s are great because most mobile devices and browsers will allow students to view them without downloading or requiring additional software or apps on their mobile devices. There’s a big however coming though…
However, the document already needs to be accessible and structured correctly (for example, using the above tip in MS Word). Not everything as a PDF makes it accessible – quite the opposite. If you have a PDF which is essentially a scanned document, you have an image of text within the PDF, which is 100% unreadable to any screen reader.
Whilst we’re on the subject of Office products. If you or colleagues are struggling to get started with accessible documents, get them to search for the term ‘accessibility’ in the Office templates when creating a new document.
These templates act as both a guide and an already optimised accessible template.
Another great tool to highlight to students who are (like me) colourblind. Windows 10 users can use the shortcut Ctrl + Window + C to toggle on/off colour filters. This setting and the filters can be set by typing ‘colour filter settings’ in the windows search bar. Not much of a game-changer if you’re not colourblind, but if you have students who are and don’t know it’s there, it can make a big difference.
The uses for dictate are far too long to list in this post, but here’s one use for providing additional accessible content. Rather than recording a voice over PowerPoint and worrying about providing a transcript as a alternative format later, why not start dictate in the notes section of your slides, present or rehearse them to yourself. You’ve then not only got notes for each of your slides, but also a ready made transcript to upload alongside your video content.
Yes, another Microsoft product, sorry!.. (Or maybe they’re just doing something right?). Translate, built into PowerPoint online is great for providing live captions as you present or record your presentation. You can also change the spoken and captioned language to provide alternative language captions as you present.
Above is an example of speaking English, translated in Spanish, live. Use Google translate to see what was spoken in English, unless you’re fluent! This was a tip picked up at the Microsoft Bootcamp from Hector Minto’s presentation. He also left me reflecting on a quote in response to all of the negative accuracy comments tools like this receive: “People who don’t need this tool are very critical of the accuracy, people who are not critical, appreciate it.”
Those were my picks of tools, tricks and tips to assist the delivery of accessible remote teaching. What have I missed? What are you currently doing to continue to deliver accessible content remotely to your learners? Share your thoughts in the comments below.