Access/ibility: Access and Usability for Digital Publishing
Guidelines for Teaching Access/ibility
The intent of this document is to focus on teaching students to help develop an awareness and understanding of accessibility concerns. This stems out of the discussion of the "Statement for Local Institutions" where teaching best practices to students and colleagues became a concern, as our students are, or will be, publishing in digital forums, and it should be our responsibility to prepare them to compose accessible texts.
As creators of content, students need to be aware of access/ibility concerns. With this knowledge, students can make better rhetorical decisions and create texts that increase the potential for all readers to make meaning from those texts. More importantly, students can recognize the repercussions of developing texts that are inaccessible, both in terms of availability and accessibility.
- Ethical and Legal Issues of Access/ibility: The opposite of access is exclusion, and luckily there are laws and standards designed to ensure that people with disabilities do not face barriers to access online (see "The Case for Accessibility").
- Benefits of Accessible Design: Developing accessible texts have wide-ranging benefits to all. Not only are texts themselves more readily available, but the methods readers may have for making meaning can be enhanced as well.
- "Incorporating accessibility from the start of a project increases the positive impact of designing for a broad constituency while decreasing development costs associated with accessibility when it is addressed much later." See http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/wiki/Start_with_Accessibility
- Availability/Findability : Students should be aware of the availability and findability of their work, making it a resource for others. This also pertains to students' research, as well, making them aware of what open access means and why some sources of information cost money while others are free and widely available.
There are hundreds of resources that discuss how to ensure that a classroom and teaching materials are accessible. Given legal requirements to serve the needs of all students, every college and university will have guidelines and on-campus resources on accessibility. Following these guidelines are important for ensuring that all students have the support that they need to thrive in the classroom.
Writing instruction should be universally inclusive and accessible in the ways that these campus resources explain, but it should also include instruction on how student can make the texts they compose universally inclusive and accessible:
- Accessibility strategies should be integrated into the course's on-going discussion of writing. Accessibility is not a drop-in technique that is done once and checked off. It should be considered in context throughout a course. In particular, these on-going conversations should help students learn the ways that audience and purpose influence accessibility requirements and how to choose the most rhetorically effective strategies among a range of options.
- Avoid strategies that shame or downplay the issues related to access.
- Choose texts that model accessibility by ensuring that textbooks, videos, audio recordings, and other materials used in the course are inclusive and accessible.
- Course activities should include composition that relies on a variety of modes of expression, and ask students to think about how accessibility issues apply to those varied modes.
- Analyze documents to identify language that is used to communicate accessibility and use these and other analyses of accessibility to support effective rhetorical choices when composing one's own texts.
- Demonstrate and use tools that help students evaluate the accessibility of the texts that they write.
- Explain the value of user testing and peer review for the full range of barriers to access, from unclear language or organization to the challenges posed by citing work held in proprietary databases or composing texts in proprietary file formats.