Doubling down on accessibility: Microsoft’s next steps to expand accessibility in technology, the workforce and workplace — from Brad Smith, President of Microsoft

Excerpt:

Accessibility by design
Today, we are announcing a variety of new “accessible by design” features and advances in Microsoft 365, enabling more than 200 million people to build, edit and share documents. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies, we aim to make more content accessible and as simple and automatic as spell check is today. For example:

  • A new background accessibility checker will provide a prompt to fix accessibility issues in content across the core Office apps and Outlook will nudge users to correct accessibility issues.
  • AI in Microsoft Word will detect and convert to heading styles crucial for blind and low-vision readers.
  • A new Excel navigation pane designed for screen readers will help people easily discover and navigate objects in a spreadsheet.
  • We’re expanding Immersive Reader, used by 35 million people every month, to help with the comprehension of PowerPoint slides and notes.
  • In Teams, high-contrast mode can be used to access shared content using PowerPoint Live  which will reduce eye strain and accommodate light sensitivity with Dark Mode in Word.
  • New LinkedIn features that include auto-captioning for LinkedIn Live broadcasts, captions for enterprise content and dark mode later this year.

More than 1 billion people around the world live with a disability, and at some point, most of us likely will face some type of temporary, situational or permanent disability. The practical impacts are huge. 

Addendum on 5/6/21:

 

 

Virtual IEPs should stay — from crpe.org by Katy Bateman and Lanya McKittrick

Excerpt:

When the pandemic hit last spring, schools across the country shifted out of sheer necessity to virtual meetings to discuss students’ Individual Education Plans (IEP). But the move has had some unanticipated benefits, with some educators and parents praising them for their convenience and for empowering family members to be more active participants in discussing their educational needs.

The virtual IEP meetings should stay—at least as an option—even after the pandemic abates.

Virtual IEP meetings can make scheduling and attendance easier for parents and teachers alike. One parent noted the benefits to her as a busy working mom:

“I think one thing [my family] is seeing is there’s a lot of things we could just do that didn’t require us to have to go in [the school building]. . . . I don’t mind coming in, but [virtual is] easier.”

 

 7 Things You Didn’t Know PowerPoint Could Do That Will Make Your Next Presentation POP! — from Dr. Echo Rivera; posted 4/20/21

Excerpt:

I’m going to show you more than 7 Powerpoint features, but I’ve broken them down into 7 categories.

Here are those seven categories:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Photo Editing
  3. Interactivity
  4. Animations
  5. Custom Visuals
  6. Data Visualization
  7. Saving Time
 

Improving Digital Inclusion & Accessibility for Those With Learning Disabilities — from inclusionhub.com by Meredith Kreisa
Learning disabilities must be taken into account during the digital design process to ensure digital inclusion and accessibility for the community. This comprehensive guide outlines common learning disabilities, associated difficulties, accessibility barriers and best practices, and more.

“Learning shouldn’t be something only those without disabilities get to do,” explains Seren Davies, a full stack software engineer and accessibility advocate who is dyslexic. “It should be for everyone. By thinking about digital accessibility, we are making sure that everyone who wants to learn can.”

“Learning disability” is a broad term used to describe several specific diagnoses. Dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, nonverbal learning disorder, and oral/written language disorder and specific reading comprehension deficit are among the most prevalent.

An image of a barrier being torn down -- revealing a human mind behind it. This signifies the need to tear down any existing barriers that might hinder someone's learning experience.

 

DC: Yet another reason for Universal Design for Learning’s multiple means of presentation/media:

Encourage faculty to presume students are under-connected. Asynchronous, low-bandwidth approaches help give students more flexibility in accessing course content in the face of connectivity challenges.

— as excerpted from campustechnology.com’s article entitled, “4 Ways Institutions Can Meet Students’ Connectivity and Technology Needs

 

 

How to Mitigate Accessibility & Digital Inclusion Obstacles for the d/Deaf Community — from inclusionhub.com by Christina Claus
To mitigate accessibility and digital inclusion obstacles for the d/Deaf and hard of hearing, developers must conduct critical research to understand these ongoing hurdles. This guide outlines the many challenges facing this community, shares useful insights, and provides meaningful inclusion solutions.

Excerpt:

Several commonly accepted characterizations include:

  • Deaf: When using the capital D, the individual conveys they communicate with sign language and have either been deaf since birth or shortly after.
  • deaf: The lowercase d is often utilized by those who do not identify as part of Deaf culture and typically become deaf later in life.
  • Hard of Hearing (HoH): Individuals who don’t experience total hearing loss or deafness often identify as hard of hearing.
  • Late-Deafened: This indicates the individual became deaf later in life.
  • Deaf-Blind: In addition to being deaf or hard of hearing, this individual also has a degree of vision loss.

These diversities can impact the individual’s ability to experience digital and online services. To create an inclusive experience for the entire community, developers must understand the obstacles each faces.

 

What is it like to use a screen reader? — from knowbility.org by Anthony Vasquez

Excerpt:

In January, I, along with Texas State University computer science student Su Park, demonstrated screen reader interactions as part of Knowbility’s Screen Readers in the Wild webinar. Both Su and I are blind and have used screen readers since childhood. We weren’t able to answer all attendee questions during the webinar, so I’m continuing the discussion here. I hope that after reading this, you’ll better understand the roles that screen readers and accessible content play in the lives of blind people, and learn of a few easy ways you can improve the user experience. So, let’s jump right in!

If you missed Screen Readers in the Wild, you can still watch the demos!

 

If equity is a priority, UDL is a must — from cultofpedagogy.com by Katie Novak

Once you identify the firm goal, ask yourself, “Based on the variability in my class, what barriers may prevent learners from working toward that goal and how can I eliminate those barriers through design?”

Excerpt:

When we design the same learning pathways for all learners, we might tell ourselves we are being fair, but in fact, single pathways are exclusionary.  Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of the critically acclaimed book, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, challenges us to focus on impact over intentions. It may not be our intent to exclude our learners, but the reality is that many students do not have opportunities to learn at high levels or to access curriculum and instruction that is accessible, engaging, culturally sustaining, and linguistically appropriate.

Luckily, there is a framework that rejects these one-size-fits-all solutions and empowers educators to proactively design learning experiences so all students can increase their brainpower and accelerate and own their learning. The framework is Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

UDL is a framework for designing learning experiences so students have options for how they learn, what materials they use, and how they demonstrate their learning. 

From DSC:
I put together this graphic as I’m working on a Module (for Canvas) to address the topic of accessibility:

An image of a barrier being torn down -- revealing a human mind behind it. This signifies the need to tear down any existing barriers that might hinder someone's learning experience.
By Daniel Christian March 2021
 

Two items from faculty focus.com by Jenae Cohn, PhD, and Courtney Plotts, PhD:

  1. How to Structure Your Online Class for Inclusion, Part 1 
  2. How to Structure Your Online Class for Inclusion: Two Principles for Fostering Engagement, Part 2 

Excerpt:

A strong sense of community begins with faculty designing and planning for the sense of community in the course. In order to build a strong sense of community within an online course, instructors should start by identifying the type of community they want to create. In other words, what is the common thread that runs through an online course: Inquiry, information giving, information gathering, and/or active listening?

Although not intuitive to all instructors, this question surrounding the idea of a sense of community is imperative for creating cohesion and a sense of belonging to a learning environment. Here are some ways that instructors might start to think about what community might mean for their class context:

 

Chrome now instantly captions audio and video on the web — from theverge.com by Ian Carlos Campbell
The accessibility feature was previously exclusive to some Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones

Excerpt:

Google is expanding its real-time caption feature, Live Captions, from Pixel phones to anyone using a Chrome browser, as first spotted by XDA Developers. Live Captions uses machine learning to spontaneously create captions for videos or audio where none existed before, and making the web that much more accessible for anyone who’s deaf or hard of hearing.

Chrome’s Live Captions worked on YouTube videos, Twitch streams, podcast players, and even music streaming services like SoundCloud in early tests run by a few of us here at The Verge. Google also says Live Captions will work with audio and video files stored on your hard drive if they’re opened in Chrome. However, Live Captions in Chrome only work in English, which is also the case on mobile.

 

Chrome now instantly captions audio and video on the web -- this is a screen capture showing the words being said in a digital audio-based file

 

45 Hand-picked Disability Scholarships for 2021 — from hyetis.com by Hicham Benali
Regularly updated (listed by deadline) disability scholarships that you can apply for, to reduce your fees.

 

 

Video Captions Benefit Everyone — from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov by Morton Ann Gernsbacher

Excerpts:

Video captions, also known as same-language subtitles, benefit everyone who watches videos (children, adolescents, college students, and adults). More than 100 empirical studies document that captioning a video improves comprehension of, attention to, and memory for the video. Captions are particularly beneficial for persons watching videos in their non-native language, for children and adults learning to read, and for persons who are D/deaf or hard of hearing. However, despite U.S. laws, which require captioning in most workplace and educational contexts, many video audiences and video creators are naïve about the legal mandate to caption, much less the empirical benefit of captions.

More than 100 empirical studies, listed in the appendix, document the benefits of captions.

With so many studies documenting the benefits of captions, why does everyone not always turn on the captions every time they watch a video? Regrettably, the benefits of captions are not widely known. Some researchers are unaware of the wide-ranging benefits of captions because the empirical evidence is published across separate literatures (deaf education, second-language learning, adult literacy, and reading acquisition). Bringing together these separate literatures is the primary purpose of this article.

 

Navigating website ADA compliance: ‘If you have videos that are not captioned, you’re a sitting duck’ — from abajournal.com by Matt Reynolds

Excerpts:

“If you have videos that are not captioned, you’re a sitting duck,” Goren said. “If you’re not encoding your pictures so that the blind person using a screen reader can understand what the picture is describing, that is a problem.”

Drop-down boxes on websites are “horrible for accessibility,” the attorney added, and it can be difficult for people with disabilities to navigate CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test) technology to verify they are human.

“Trying to get people with voice dictation or even screen readers to figure out how to certify that they’re not a robot can be very complicated,” Goren said.

Also see:

Relevant Laws

Information re: Lawsuits

 

Improving Accessibility for Students and Faculty with Disabilities — from edtechmagazine.com by Alexander Huls
Here’s a look at different approaches higher ed IT teams can take to improve accessibility.

Excerpt:

While it may not always be possible to achieve 100 percent accessibility, here are some approaches higher education IT teams can take — even with limited resources — to improve learning experiences for students with disabilities.

 

Effective and Accessible Alternatives to Website Carousels — from boia.org on February 11, 2021

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Real estate on a web page is precious. Every web designer or marketer at some point has felt that there simply isn’t enough space to show all the content they want to show. The carousel offered an apparent solution to that problem by cramming several content pieces into the same space, rotating to be individually visible either automatically or by the user’s control. The ability to show more content in less space in a way that looked cool made carousels attractive and they can now be seen all over the web. They’d be a great idea if it weren’t for two big problems: they don’t work and they aren’t accessible.

About 1% of people click on carousels.

Carousels are now associated with ads or junk content.

 
© 2021 | Daniel Christian