Since 2005, the External Programs and Learning Technologies (EPLT) unit within the Faculty of Education had been devoted to producing accessible online course materials, improving web content and providing transcripts and captions for rich media. With the assistance of the Equity Enhancement Fund, our office offered a series of web accessibility workshops in March 2008 and created and distributed a brochure on accessibility.
Because an issue like accessibility could not be limited to a small section of campus, it was important to share our experiences and knowledge with other UBC departments and units. Designers, developers and administrators were often aware of the term “accessibility”, but not specifically what it entailed. Many people knew that alternative text must be provided for images, but were not sure of what steps to take beyond that. They might have been confusing accessibility with usability—a reasonable mistake, since they are related and overlapping ideas. Some campus groups were already well informed on the principles of accessibility, but sought further dialogue and advice. There was general agreement that accessibility should be a priority, and people were willing and able to learn more about it, but they needed to be given direction.
- The workshops were intended to raise awareness of the need to make campus websites fully accessible to students with disabilities, and to provide faculty and staff with the tools and knowledge they needed to ensure their webpages met accessibility guidelines.
- Accessibility brochure (1000 copies)
Participants learned about the basic principles of web accessibility, who benefited from it and how, and easy changes they could make to improve accessibility and usability for everyone.
We extended invitations across campus for large and small groups. Attendees were offered the choice of an introductory or advanced workshop, and a one-hour or three-hour presentation. Depending on their level of experience and their preferences, the workshops covered a selection of the following topics:
- What is accessibility? Who needs it, and who benefits?
- Disabilities and the web: potential issues and adaptive technologies
- Adapting your website: images, fonts, links, structure & content
- Accessibility validators (do’s and don’t’s)
- Overview of HTML and CSS
- Forms, tables and frames
- Audio/video transcribing & captioning
- Introduction to the upcoming WCAG 2.0
Groups ranged in experience from staff who did not know HTML and had only used Dreamweaver or Sitepoint to maintain their sites, to a team of advanced programmers who had already read extensively on accessibility and wanted to hone their skills.
Kirsten Starcher, Research Assistant, presented to Public Affairs, Communications, Medicine, Land & Food Systems, Library, Office of Learning Technology (now Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology), Education, and conducted a general workshop open to anyone on campus.
1000 copies of a tri-fold colour brochure were designed and printed. These included a brief introduction to the concepts of accessibility and learning styles, some examples of simple site changes, and places to find more information. Copies of the brochure were distributed across campus at all workshops, and also given to the Equity Office and Access & Diversity for distribution. The Office of Learning Technology presented a session on web accessibility at the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) conference in Banff in April 2008, and brought a number of the brochures to distribute. Paul Stacey, BCcampus Director of Development, and Sandy Hirtz from the same organization, attended the Fifth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning in July 2008 in London. They present on their collaborative book project, Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines, and Effective Practices from Around the Globe, in which Natasha Boskic, and Kirsten Starcher (former Bole) were co-authors of a chapter on accessibility. The copies of the brochure were distributed at the event.
Natasha Boskic, Educational Technology Manager, EPLT
Kirsten Bole (now Starcher)