My interpretation of accessibility and UDL is a pre-emptive effort to implement accessibility standards in the course at the design level, rather than making changes to it later based on individual student needs. As pointed out in Rose and Gravel, many of these measures designed to increase accessibility, such as providing captions for audio, not only benefit students who require captions, for one reason or another, but might actually increase the comprehension of students without these special needs (Technology and Learning, 4-5).
A few things that I could do to increase the accessibility of my online course:
- In the course of a video lecture, I could be sure to describe any information that appears on a visual aid. This would help students who are visually impaired to receive this information that a sighted student would be able to see easily.
- I could enable OCR on any pdf materials, making them easily read by screen readers.
- I could easily provide closed captioning for these videos as well.
One question that I have about accessibility, that would be university-specific, is how to communicate the measures you have taken to make your course accessible. It would be beneficial if there was a short of shorthand in describing a course that indicated it had been designed with particular needs in mind. This way, if a student had reservations about signing up for a class due to a perceived difficulty, they might be more encouraged to take the class when they see that particular accommodations have already been made.
For me, this course was about familiarization. By being introduced to a wide variety of available technologies and encouraged to employ them to a limited extent, if I was asked to construct an online course or to transform a f2f course into an online one, it would not be an overwhelming project. I know where to begin. I have even thought of some important strategies to implement in the new course. I would feel competent to volunteer to teach an online section of a course in my department and would have a good estimate of the prep time that would entail. It is always that first “jump” into the water that feels the coldest. Once you are immersed in a world, in this case, the world of online teaching, it is no longer as much of a shock!