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5 Strategies For Accessible Education For All

5 Strategies For Accessible Education For All

For quite some time now, a significant digital transformation in education has been underway. However, in 2020, the transition was greatly disrupted due to the necessity of remote teaching, a consequence of the global pandemic we experienced.

As online education continues to expand in our institutions, ensuring the application of digital accessibility standards for all is crucial.

Several colleges, CEGEPs and universities have hastily developed extensive online courses in the context of a pandemic. Several elements must be considered to make the online learning environment accessible to all students. This includes those who are deaf, visually impaired, non-native speakers, or have learning disabilities

The trend is towards the digitalization of teaching, whether courses are offered in-person or virtually, ensuring accessibility is crucial to enhance the learning experience for all students.

How to increase accessibility to education?

Are you a teacher and want to transform your classroom to make it more accessible to the wide variety of students who attend it?

Absolutely! When creating educational materials, it’s essential to consider their accessibility for all students from the outset. Making your teaching accessible from the beginning is far simpler than having to revise and adapt materials later on.

For your courses to be a success, you need to ask yourself a simple question : can all students read the course material?

Here are five actions you can take to make education more accessible.

1. Stay up to date on accessibility.

As a teacher, you are not alone in the great quest for accessible education! Technology companies develop new tools promoting accessibility every year.

Indeed, many digital platforms we use daily already include options for improved accessibility. For instance, Google Docs facilitates document review using built-in screen readers and a magnifier.

When updating your practices, don’t hesitate to consult your team. It is the responsibility of every institution to ensure ongoing updates to their accessibility policies, as available tools and best practices continually evolve.

2. Respond to different learning modes.

Often, when we think of students who require accessibility measures, it is students with hearing and visual impairments who first come to mind. But what about students who simply have a different learning style than the masses?

Not all students learn the same way through the same communication channels. To facilitate learning for all, consider presenting content in different formats. Don’t hesitate to vary your teaching materials, including texts, audio recordings, videos, graphics, practical exercises, and discussions, and so on.

Not only do these diverse approaches enhance learning for all students, but they also invigorate the classroom experience for teachers.

3. Transcribe and subtitle your lessons.

Whether classes are online or in-person, students with hearing loss benefit greatly from having your lessons transcribed.

When online courses are pre-recorded, you can offer the subtitles in addition to the transcript to your students by using our services at ClosedCaptioner.com

4. Make it easy to access documents.

In most courses, several documents are shared with students to support their learning and facilitate their notetaking. Here are some elements to enhance the accessibility of your course materials :
  • Abolish PDFs. It is possible to bring PDF files up to accessibility standards, but this process is more difficult and can cause problems.
  • Format the titles and subtitles of your documents so that they are easy to find your way around visually, but also so that text readers can identify them.
  • Use colors that are highly contrasting. You can find tools online to validate the readability of your documents for people who have vision problems.

5. Translate images into text format.

Providing alternative text to describe the images used will allow students to fully understand what is being presented.

When images are embedded on a website, it is indeed possible to encode alt text for those images in HTML format. This allows accessibility technologies to describe the images for people with visual impairments.

By adding a few extra lines of descriptive text, we significantly enhance the accessibility of shared content.

Hybrid Classrooms : A Success for All?

Even more so after the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid or fully virtual classes are increasingly prevalent in our post-secondary institutions. Is a mix of virtual and face-to-face teaching beneficial to student learning?

Students are well versed in digital technologies of online classrooms and teachers have also had to become familiar with them during the pandemic. Organizing online courses saves time for everyone by avoiding travel. Face-to-face classes can now be booked for hands-on workshops that cannot be completed online.

Indeed, when opting for hybrid or 100% virtual teaching, it’s essential to consider that some students may face motivational challenges, experience social isolation, or require additional accessibility measures. As educators, we must raise awareness among students about the potential issues associated with online formats and provide appropriate resources to ensure an optimal learning experience for all, even remotely.