In recent months, I’ve been working with faculty who have been asked to make the resources in their online courses accessible…. make sure alt-tex is available, use colors that exceed 4.5:1 for a color contrast ratio, run accessibility checkers before releasing files, closed caption videos, and provide transcripts. These are all steps they should have taking “forever.”
For whatever reason, these standards were not an expectation, and now faculty are faced with several simultaneous tasks:
- make accessible all of the files you have created over the years;
- adopt new methods to make sure new materials are accessible;
- create a vast new collection of online materials (especially recorded lectures–these particular groups cannot move away from lecture capture as the dominant teaching method)
I understand the time demands of ensuring accessibility. Software companies are helping us by improving the functionality of their accessibility checkers, making it easier to find the tools to make documents accessible, and warning us when we are not using them.
I understand as well that faculty are not experts in document creation and they many find the work of adding those elements to be akin to busy work.
I understand the push back when you are being asked to do something that you have never been asked to do at a time when you teaching work has been upended and when your institution is facing and uncertain future.
Given all of this, I am led to several conclusions about accessibility, teachers, and the culture they claim:
- Leaders must make clear their expectation that everyone will make a good faith effort to make all materials accessible. This can be easily accomplished with checklists.
- Educational technology professionals must recommend, teach, and support certain tools that allow teachers to meet the items in the checklist.
- Teachers must adopt and adapt to those tools.
- Teachers must realize these tools are technologies, so each requires expertise and each has its problems. (It seems some have forgotten that pencils used to break and paper torn, and even with those technologies, we were without the tools we needed at times and the results were rarely instantaneous and perfect.)
If you find yourself in any of these these roles and you are not willing to accept this as a part of your profession, then I believe it is time for you to find a new one… and, expecting accessibility is not a change in work conditions that needs to be negotiated.
Yes, it takes money to get good tools. Leaders must find the money to make this happen. Yes, it takes time and patience to learn to use the tools and to create the materials.
We all hear much today about college that seek to be inclusive. The inescapable conclusion I have drawn is that no college can claim to be an inclusive community and dedicated to equity if they are not taking their responsibility to create accessible materials seriously. Very seriously.