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John Scott

Mar 14, 2019

Where the Snow Meets the ScanMan

Week 2: The Northeast Leg

Pearls of Inclusion  

One of the best parts of my job over the past year has been learning from our heroes of IncluCity- Those bold early adopters of Ally who have been leading the inclusive learning mission on their campuses. Whether it’s picking up a simple trick for remediating a document or having a theoretical conversation about how we define Universal Design for Learning and accessibility, we’ve collected a treasure trove of insights and best practices from the Ally Community. The workshop for the Tour is inspired by these many pearls of wisdom, focusing on shifting the language from disability to diversity, and the ways that accessible content and inclusive curricula can have an impact on student success. During the four accessibility challenges of the workshop, participants are invited on an adventure through IncluCity, where they learn tips and tricks for taking on accessibility villains like the ScanMan.


A Focus on Student Success

Following a truly awesome kick-off to the Tour at Atlantic Cape Community College, the first full week on the road included workshops at William Paterson University in New Jersey, the University of Connecticut, and the Lancaster Learn conference in Pennsylvania. William and Paterson and UConn both recently rolled-out Ally to their entire campuses, and, like many others, now face the challenge of motivating and training time-pressed faculty to begin making fixes to their course files. And while compliance and threat of lawsuit may be one way to light a fire under faculty, appealing to their passions as educators for social justice and for student success can also help drive faculty adoption.  

During the workshop, we reference a study of non-disabled users’ engagement with websites that found more accessible websites resulted in higher retention of information and speed of task completion. This finding supports the argument that the usability of content can have a direct effect on student learning. In one of the workshop accessibility challenges, we also compare an MP3 alternative format downloaded from a document missing headings and alternative descriptions with a 100% accessible version of the document. Hearing the structure and image descriptions in the accessible document improves the experience significantly for students listening to the MP3. Both these points can be used to help make the case to faculty that taking the time to make some simple fixes to their content results in more usable content and higher quality alternative formats that can have a big impact on student performance.


Alternative Formats aren’t just for Students

Of course, when we talk about alternative formats, we usually focus on the benefits for students, such as being more responsive to their learning needs and devices as well as providing greater learner autonomy and choice. But as I learned from Jeremy Olguin at Chico State, alternative formats can also help in remediating content. Consider those scanned and untagged PDFs where the instructor doesn’t have access to the original. Sure, you could try to train them up on tagging in Adobe Acrobat, but that’s a time-consuming process with a steep learning curve using an application they may not have. In this video, I’ll demo how you can use the HTML format from a scanned PDF with a 0% score, and in just a few simple steps, get the file to a score of 100%.

On to Massachusetts   

I’ve been joking that my biggest regret so far with the Tour was scheduling the Northeast leg in February. On my drive from UConn, I battled through a pretty fierce snow and ice storm, and the weather didn’t relent when I arrived in Boston the following week. But through rain, sleet, and snow, our journey on the road to IncluCity marches on. For our next installments, we’ll share our day with the team and faculty at Lesley University in Cambridge who are on a serious mission for equity and social justice, as well as our visits with our K12 community who are using Ally for Web Content Manager to improve the accessibility of their community websites.

Have any great accessibility tips and tricks? Share them with us on the Community Site or tweet them to the Tour at #AllyTour2019.



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