How to make Stream accessible to all learners

An accessible environment is one where the lecturer considers the needs of students managing disabilities and is flexible in accommodating students. There is a range of things that can be done, some quite simple that will allow more people to access the course.

A significant percentage of Massey’s student population manage disability issues that can impact on their study. This includes the ability to access and participate in the Stream environment. Students managing disabilities are a diverse group and include those managing physical disabilities, students who are blind, Deaf students, students managing hearing and vision impairments and students with specific learning disabilities like dyslexia.

We want to work towards making Stream an inclusive learning environment where accessibility issues are minimised for students with disabilities. The purpose of these guidelines is not to provide some overly technical manual that will only make sense to a computer programmer but rather to offer a practical guide to those managing and teaching using Stream on how to ensure that the accessibility gains achieved through the use of the Stream platform are supported by staff who deliver their material.

Academic and general staff have an important part to play in helping to make Stream accessible. To achieve accessibility gains requires a concerted approach involving educational aspects that are under the control of the teacher and technical aspects that are the responsibility of support staff. Support staff can ensure the technology follows technical guidelines for accessibility. It should also be noted that students themselves can make adjustments to maximise their access to Stream from the use of assistive hardware and software to adapting their computer set up to meet their needs.

A practical approach for staff who want to avoid potential accessibility issues with their Stream environments is to focus on whether a Blind student (using screen reading software) or a Deaf student will be able to access the information being delivered in the Stream environment. If you can focus on the issues that Blind students and Deaf students will encounter then it is likely you will also improve accessibility for students with vision and hearing impairments and students with dyslexia. While there are undoubtedly technical elements to this consideration (i.e. how screen reading software works and what it can read) there is also strong element of common sense (i.e. a podcast that is not accompanied by a transcript will not be accessible to a Deaf student).A simple why of determining whether a document you have uploaded into Stream is accessible to Blind students is to see if you can highlight the text in your document. If you can highlight the text then it is likely that it can be read by a screen reader.

Accessibility for students can be improved by staff asking themselves some key questions when they are making design and delivery choices. It is worth noting that by doing so staff will generally improve the experience of the course for all of their students, not just those with a disability.

The following section provides some guiding questions to help staff consider accessibility and some tips for providing content in Stream with links to further information. In Pirates of the Caribbean it was said that “the pirate code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules”. The same goes with accessibility. Do what you can, do not feel that you have to do it all.  For instructions on how to make PDFs, Word, PowerPoints and HTML documents accessible see the accessibility guidelines section.

What to consider when planning a COURSE.

Consider how people with disabilities will use Stream for the tasks students have to do eg assessment. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would a disabled student be able to do the activity that you require?
  • How might a disabled student be enabled to do this course?
  • What are the difficulties disabled students are likely to experience in your Stream course?
  • What adjustments would you make for disabled students?
  • What would be unreasonable for a disabled student to do on the course? Are there alternatives or would they fail the course?
  • How will you build students’ confidence in Stream? Help students to gain confidence by encouraging regular use with clear benefits so they become familiar with its capabilities and confident to experiment.

What to do during your COURSE

Find out about your students. Include a question about any learning challenges they may have in your student profile. During the course ask your students about their experience. Can all students access the material and do the tasks you require? Use this information to refine your course for the next offering.

 

Tips for presenting content in Stream

  1. Keep the text and its presentation simple and clear.
  2. In discussion fora use subject headings that are meaningful and use clear language in the body of the message.
  3. Provide alternative text for images and other visual media.
  4. If you use tables, identify row and column headings.
  5. Use the default colours, or if you want to change the colour check advice at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/eLearning/accessibility/colour-and-contrast/.
  6. Clearly identify the target of each link.
  7. When providing electronic documents such as Word follow the guide on ‘Authoring Accessible Electronic Documents’.
  8. Ensure there are text clues to support online audio presentations.
  9. Try to avoid uploading image only PDF’s documents. If you have placed a Reading into your Stream environment that is a scan of a photocopy then it will not be accessible.

Additional learning resources: Essential versus Desirable

Stream offers teachers numerous opportunities to add a wealth of new electronic materials, on top of their traditional course materials, to support learning outcomes. This is a positive development but it also offers new challenges, particularly to students managing accessibility issues.  

Question: “Is it your expectation that your students follow every link that you’ve created in Stream and read every document you’ve posted?”

If the answer to the above question is ‘No’ then it is worth clearly distinguishing between your ‘core’ materials and the resources you’ve posted to ‘added value’ for those students that have the time to engage with them. This is likely to be appreciated by any student struggling with time however for students managing accessibility issues that already add significant time to study then it could make the difference between success and becoming overwhelmed.

 

Accessibility Guidelines

The following Accessibility Guidelines consist of detailed instructions on how to create material in Stream that is accessible to all students using different authoring tools. They will also enable you to create documents that are well structured and reusable. When you add content to your Stream environment you will perform one or more of the following tasks:

Using the HTML editor in Stream
Linking to Web pages
Uploading files

Using the HTML Editor in Stream

When you add a resource or activity in Stream usually the HTML editor will appear. In most cases all you need to do to make the content accessible is to fill out the fields and make sure the summary or description is meaningful. Sometimes you will use the editor to add images or create documents in your Stream environment. In this case the following link will instruct you how make the content accessible: 

Create an accessible HTML document using the HTML editor in Stream

Linking to Web pages

If you a create a link to a web site and that web site complies with the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 then there shouldn't be any accessibility issues. There are many websites that can check a web page for accessibility one site can be found at the following link: http://wave.webaim.org

Uploading files

Usually a high proportion of material on Stream will be uploaded files. If you are creating or editing these files yourself there are a number of things that you can do to make documents more accessible. A lot of these things are simple to do and have many advantages not only to the disabled but to all students.

Different Authoring Tools

The links below have been ordered in relation to the type of documents you wish to produce and the authoring tool you wish to create them in. 

Word processing formats

Create an accessible word processing document using Microsoft Word 2007

Create an accessible word processing document using Microsoft Word 2000 and 2003

Create an accessible word processing document using Open Office Writer


PowerPoint format

Create an accessible PowerPoint document using Microsoft PowerPoint 2007

Create an accessible PowerPoint document using Microsoft PowerPoint 2003


PDF format

Create an accessible PDF document using Microsoft Word 2007

Create an accessible PDF document using Microsoft Word 2000 and 2003

Create an accessible PDF document using Open Office Writer


HTML Format

Create an accessible HTML document using Microsoft Word 2007

Create an accessible HTML document using Microsoft Word 2000 and 2003

Create an accessible HTML document using Open Office Writer

Create an accessible HTML document using the HTML editor in Stream

 

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