Tackling Today`s Web-based Learning Technologies

Tackling today’s WebBased Learning
Technologies: Issues,
Challenges and Solutions
Kara Zirkle, IT Accessibility Coordinator
Stephanie Robbins, Program Support Specialist
George Mason University – Assistive Technology
Million Dollar Question
How do we balance the need for
accessibility with an institution’s
need to provide innovation
technologies that keep them
competitive with other higher
education institutions?
Where might these Challenges Apply
to You?
Online courses
Use of applications whether on a University level or in the
 For example: Blackboard, Piazza, Banner, etc.
Face-to-Face Courses that use online resources
 For example: McGraw Hill, Pearson, Cengage, Survey
Applications, etc.
 For example: Dreamweaver, CommonSpot, Word Press,
3rd Party Services
Website Content
 For example: Documents, Videos, etc.
Online and Desktop Applications
Library Databases
Statement of the Challenge
Increasing numbers of student’s with disabilities entering
higher education
Greater implementation of online/e-learning technologies
in higher education classrooms
Some of the issues...
Inaccessible e-learning technologies (i.e., LMS, supplemental
materials) implemented in the classroom
Videos not captioned and/or audio-described at beginning of
Inaccessible course textbooks
Challenges continued
Resulted in...
Students dropping courses
Accessing information several weeks after their peers
Faculty members not feeling supported
Student/Faculty frustration
A lot of meetings!!
In this session, we will explore some of the latest e-learning
technologies and the accessibility challenges that they are
presenting for students with disabilities. Additionally, we will
provide an overview of some the strategies and workarounds
that were implemented along with discussing Universal
Design considerations to help build in accessibility.
Accessible E-Learning
“definitions, Laws, and Regulations”
Rehabilitation Act
Applies to
Section 504
Federal, State and Local
government, Educational
agencies, Companies
(Corporate – Private), any
facility receiving Federal
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall,
solely by reason of his/ her disability, be excluded from
the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be
subjected to discrimination under any program or
activity of a public entity.
Section 508
Federal entities and States
that have adopted similar
Requires that any electronic and information technology
(EIT) procured, developed, used or maintained by
Federal agencies must be accessible to employees and
members of the public with disabilities, unless an undue
burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508
was enacted to: 1) eliminate barriers in information
technology, 2) make available new opportunities for
people with disabilities, and 3) encourage development
of technologies that will help achieve these goals.
Applies to
Americans with
Disabilities Act
“There is no doubt that the
Internet sites of state and local
government entities are
covered by Title II of the ADA.
Similarly, there is no doubt that
the websites of recipients of
federal financial assistance are
covered by Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act.” –
Department of Justice
May not refuse to allow a person with a disability to participate
in a service, program, or activity simply because the person has
a disability. Must provide programs and services in an
integrated setting, unless separate or different measures are
necessary to ensure equal opportunity.
Standard (GOV
All Commonwealth of Virginia
Executive Branch agencies and
institutions of higher learning.
Outlines the minimum accessibility requirements for
procurement, development, or maintenance of electronic and
information technology systems. The Standard also requires
that Commonwealth of Virginia (COV) employees with
disabilities and members of the public with disabilities have
access to and use of information and data comparable to the
access and use of Commonwealth employees and the public
who do not have disabilities.
State Listing
Mason Policies
Procurement and/or
Development of Administrative
All procurement and/or development of administrative
systems/applications must be reviewed and approved by the
Architecture Standards Committee (ASC) in advance of
purchase or development.
University Information
Technology Accessibility
Compliance: The procurement, development, and/or
maintenance of information technology and user support
services for persons with disabilities will be aligned with
accessibility standards specified in Section 508 of the
Rehabilitation Act and in "Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines" from the World Wide Web Consortium,
appropriately tailored to the specific circumstances of the
Non-Discrimination and
Reasonable Accommodation on
the Basis of Disability
Provide equal access to employment and educational
opportunities for persons with disabilities. Individuals with
disabilities may need reasonable accommodations to have
equally effective opportunities to participate in or benefit from
university educational programs, services and activities, and to
have equal employment opportunities.
Course Accessibility:
Face-to-Face vs. E-Learning/
Accommodations are given on individual
Courses are using online components fall
under Web Accessibility standards (Distance
Education, hybrid, use of Learning
Management Systems, etc.)
Students must self disclose to receive
academic accommodations in the classroom
Should be accessible out the box and self
disclosure is needed for academic
Physical Classroom accessibility
Application accessibility is a must for class
E-Learning Accessibility Challenges
Faculty not implementing accessibility into their
class until a student with a disability attends.
Online material isn’t accessible
Library Databases
Including accessibility into contracts/RFPs.
Accessibility Outcomes
The good, the bad and the ugly
Learning from mistakes
Been there, done that, found a work around!
Universal Design – it is a one size fits all.
Challenge #1
Faculty not implementing accessibility
into their class until a student with a
disability attends.
Example 1
Student who was blind
took a hybrid research
course. The faculty did
not “require” the use of a
specific citation software
but taught the class using
Example 2
Student who was deaf
was taking an online class
that was offered as 2
sections (f2f and online).
The course recorded the
f2f and posted an
asynchronous version for
online. The online course
was not captioned.
Outcome – Example #1
ATI tested Zotero for accessibility.
Endnote was provided to the student as an
ATI in collaboration with the library trained the
student on how to use Endnote.
The student attended these trainings replacing the
classes where the professor was teaching how to use
Student was offered extra time to complete
assignments due to learning Endnote in addition to
attending classes.
Outcome – Example #2
Student notified professor of needed
Professor contacted ATI a week late to have
course captioned.
Because the online course was a recording
from the face to face, the best option was to
provide CART services for the face to face
course to then upload a transcript with the
Challenge #2
Online material isn’t accessible –
Documents, Applications, Library
Databases, Videos, etc.
Example #1
Example #2
Student who was blind took
a hybrid class that used a
combination of Blackboard,
Camtasia videos,
inaccessible PPTs, lecture
and videos shown in class.
Student who was blind was
taking a f2f accounting
course that the professor
was using Publisher PPT
slides within Mason’s LMS.
Since the PPTs were owned
by a Publisher, changes
could not be made by the
faculty member. These
PPTs slides were heavily
imaged based and were
Outcome Example #1
ODS, ATI, the student and professors met to determine
problems and solutions.
Faculty created Word documents using the PPT outline
and ensure all text was conveyed.
Videos were saved to a CD allowing student to play them
in a more accessible player. Any videos needing audio
description were completed.
Student met with ATI for any additional training on
Faculty ensured additional description was used during
lecture that helped with videos.
Outcome Example #2
ATI contacted the publisher.
ATI had to work with the publisher to
determine an appropriate level of accessibility
of PPT slides.
Publisher provided accessible versions of the
PPTs with alt text.
These accessible PPTs were provided directly
to the student by the faculty member.
Example #3
Two students who were
blind were taking classes
requiring them to access
Library Databases. Both
students experienced
similar problems where PDF
documents were imaged.
Structure of the page was
not user friendly requiring
the students to tab the
entire page to find the
Example #4
A student who was blind
was taking a Statistics
course that had to use SPSS
in lab. The professor didn’t
mention the use of this
application until the week
of lab.
Outcome Example #3
Students contacted ATI in regard to library
database issues.
ATI met with students and trained them on
navigating the databases.
This allowed open communication between ATI
and Library to include accessibility into future
contract purchases.
ATI rescanned the images to provide more
accessible formats and provided them to the
Outcome Example #4
ATI was made aware by the student of the use
of SPSS a week into class.
Troubleshooting found that the lab computers
were running 64 bit and could not be imaged
for 32 bit which was needed for JAWS and
SPSS to work.
ATI provided a laptop with all necessary specs
to be checked out by the student for lab use.
Challenge #3
Including accessibility into
Example #1
Example #2
The University put
together an RFP Review
Committee for a new
email system. ATI was
on that committee for
accessibility. This
allowed accessibility
language to be included
and required in the RFP
ATI was notified that a
student who was blind
needed to use an
Interview Video
Application through the
Student Career Office
for a homework project.
Upon review of the
application ATI found it
to be very inaccessible.
Outcome Example #1
University weighed heavily between the two
competitors Microsoft vs Google.
University buy-in considered Google, whereas
accessibility was better in Microsoft.
Prior to selection made – accessibility results
were sent to Provost, President, Legal and CIO of
IT for approval.
Due to buy-in from top down, a selection was
made for the most accessible solution.
Outcome Example #2
ATI worked with Career Services to determine purchase and
contract language used.
Due to the software already purchased and accessibility language
was not included – Mason and the vendor could not come to a
mutual agreement for inclusion of accessibility within the 1 year
Career Services provided a work around by creating a “mock”
interview that the student could participate in either in person for
via BB Collaborate.
At the 1 year contract renewal Mason will be able to include
accessibility language or decide not to renew the contract.
Common E-Learning
Technology Challenges
Common Question: Which do I
use? Camtasia vs Captivate
Camtasia is cheaper than Captivate.
Faculty state that Camtasia has less of a learning curve.
Captivate is more accessible out of the box (i.e. Using
interactive features such as quizzes, questions, etc.)
Camtasia is inaccessible whereas Captivate is accessible.
In order to use Camtasia, it must be saved to play in an
external player for controls to be accessible.
Regardless of which software is used it is best to provide
other alternatives of the material.
Pearson and McGraw Hill Accessibility
Knowing who to contact is half the battle …… keep these contacts tucked
Elaine Ober
Associate Director, Accessibility & Compliance - Pearson Higher Education
North America
 Phone: 617-848-7204
 Email: [email protected]
Donna M. Dillon
Brand Manager, Accounting – McGraw Hill
 Phone: 212-904-2014
 Email: [email protected]
To embed or not to embed …
If videos are embedded into the LMS it is best to
provide an external link for the student to download
the file or open in an alternative player such as
Captioning videos helps various individuals, not only
those who are deaf. It is helpful to also provide a
transcript in addition to the captioned video.
Vimeo vs YouTube
Vimeo doesn’t allow captions to be uploaded
unless you’re using an overlay that is created
by a 3rd party
YouTube allows for unlimited length of video,
transcripts to be added and can be posted as
private or unlisted to help with copyright
YouTube Captions – What’s Real
and What’s Automatic?
Lessons Learned from our Challenges
Communication and Training with faculty, staff and
students prior to the semester.
Ensure applications used in the classroom are
accessible, i.e. if you are using Blackboard, Canvas or
Piazza LMS’, it is reasonably accessible out of the
box, but it is up to faculty to keep it accessible as
they add more technology and content.
If you are using Blackboard Collaborate, there are
additional accessibility steps that can be taken.
Lessons Learned Continued
Ensure that books selected have accessible formats
available and/or use accessible software interfaces
i.e. Pearson, McGraw Hill, etc.
Ensure that the documents (PPTs, PDF, Word docs,
etc.) that are posted are in an accessible format.
Ensure that the video used whether in class or
online is accessible.
Ensure accessibility contract language is included in
all contracts and addendums.
Universal Design –
Everyone Benefits
Accessible Web design contributes to better design for other users:
Accessibility and Mobile Design guidelines overlap. The more
accessible the material the better chance you have to view it on a
mobile device.
Having multiple ways of showing content helps various learning styles
in the classroom. (i.e. video, powerpoints, transcript, etc.)
Accessible documents help support efficiency by allowing search
capabilities, indexing, etc.
Captioning of audio files supports better machine indexing of content;
faster searching of content.
How we are working to implement UDL?
Early communication with faculty members that will
have a student with a sensory impairment in their
Training with Academic Units/Depts/Instructional
Collaboration with Office of Distance Education
Encouraging Basic Design Considerations (captioning,
accessible document design)
Encourage faculty to use the most accessible
products available and promote built in accessibility.
Baseline Design Considerations for Accessible
Course Materials
Visual Impairments:
 Provide descriptions for all meaningful graphics (images, charts, graphs,
SmartArt, objects)
 Provide descriptions for videos where visual content is important to
understanding subject matter.
 Use simple tables. when possible
 Choose applications that support keyboard navigation and are compatible
with screen readers
Hearing Impairments:
 Provide captions all videos
 Provide transcripts for audio only
Cognitive, Neurological Impairments:
 Use consistent navigation, tab order, appropriate language level
Universal Design Built in features
Mac Operating System
Windows Operating System
Start Panel - Accessories
Microsoft Office 2010
Built-In Accessibility Checker
File Menu, “Check for Issues,” and then “Check
Making Alt Text Readily Available
Using the Quick Access Toolbar (Windows
In the upper-left corner above the
Ribbon, click Customize Quick Access
Toolbar .
Click More Commands, and then under
Choose commands from click Commands
Not in the Ribbon.
Click Alt Text and then click Add.
To use the Alt Text command on the
Quick Access Toolbar, select the shape,
picture, chart, table, SmartArt graphic, or
other object, before you click the toolbar
button, and then add your alternative
Blackboard Collaborate
Documents and other handouts should be provided ahead of
time via Blackboard for students to become familiar with in
case technology at its finest won’t work.
(Student Perspective) “Share” the entire desktop, rather than
individual applications.
Audible notifications are system messages sent by Blackboard
Collaborate Web Conferencing to notify users when certain
important events occur within the session.
Chat Option – Can change font, size, color, etc.
Closed Captioning Window – can be personalized based upon
user preferences, similar to Chat Option.
Using Adobe Reader to Check PDFs for
There are some helpful accessibility features in the free Adobe PDF
reader. For example, any PDF file open in Adobe reader can be read
aloud with the "Read Out Loud" option.
Under the 'View' menu, select 'Read Out Loud', then 'Activate
Read Out loud‘.
The Read Out Loud feature of Adobe Reader can be accessed with
Keyboard Commands:
Activate Read Out Loud: Shift + Ctrl + Y
Read This Page Only: Shift + Ctrl + V
Read To End of Document: Shift + Ctrl + B
Pause/Resume: Shift + Ctrl + C
Stop: Shift + Ctrl + E
Where to find accessibility in
Adobe X
Adobe Professional has an Accessibility Checker built in. In addition to the
Accessibility Checker - Adobe XI has a “Set Alternative Text” that scans the document
to add alt text.
Browser Add-Ons
Read and Write Gold - Google
 FREE Download in Chrome,
Access to text to speech, picture
dictionary, vocabulary tools and
 Works with Google documents,
PDFs, and Kurzweil 3000 files
within Google Drive
 30 Day FREE Trial, After 30 days
text to speech & translator will
remain live.
Theme Font & Size Changer
 Change the font size and font
family of Firefox. Valuable tool
for those with a visual
NCAM – National Center for Accessible Media
Great examples of how to provide alternative text
descriptions for a number of different types of STEM
subject matter (e.g. scatter plots, bar graphs, diagrams,
 NCDAE National Center on Disability and Access to
Education - Cheatsheets
 Sensus Access – free online conversion tool
 Web Accessibility for Online Learning – document
Kara Zirkle, IT Accessibility Coordinator
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 703-993-9815
 Stephanie Robbins, Program Support Specialist
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 703-993-5644
Twitter: @AccessibleMason
 Web: http://ati.gmu.edu
 Web: http://webaccessibility.gmu.edu