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Guidelines for Creating Accessible Course Content

The University of Cincinnati is committed to providing full and equal access to students with disabilities, and in particular, has been focusing efforts around increasing the accessibility of our electronic resources, including course content. As part of that effort, the university invested in Ally, an accessibility tool in Blackboard that provides feedback and instruction on how to make course documents more accessible.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions to assist you in utilizing this important tool.

What is Ally?

Ally is a tool that integrates with Blackboard. Ally has two main functions. First, it provides feedback on the accessibility of your course files and guidance as to how to make them more accessible. In addition, Ally automatically generates alternative formats for all files uploaded to Blackboard. You can find more information about using Ally, including one-page guides and more detailed instructional videos, through the eLearning Ally website.

 

What is expected of faculty members in making course materials accessible?

The easiest time to make a document or content accessible is during its creation, and tools like Ally and the Microsoft accessibility checker, help faculty do this. The expectation of faculty is to learn how to use the features found in common document software, such as the Microsoft office suite, and use those whenever possible to create accessible materials for your course.

 

How should I focus my efforts?

For many faculty, the syllabus is a great place to start. For a student with a disability, having an accessible syllabus allows them to best work with you to ensure that their needs are met throughout the course.

For spring 2019, we recommend working on the accessibility of course materials created in Microsoft Word or Power Point, as well non-complex images that you post directly to Blackboard.

Ally and the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Word provide feedback and guidance on how to improve the accessibility of your materials. If you prefer in-person assistance, the Accessibility Network, in partnership with CET&L, is offering workshops in Microsoft Word Accessibility Basics to assist you in your efforts.

 

What guidance is there or will there be from the university on targets, standards or requirements?

As part of a conciliation agreement with the Office for Civil Rights, the university has committed to creating goals and standards for course content accessibility and developing a timeline for implementing those goals.

In order to do this, each college has selected one or more “accessibility liaisons”.  This designated group will meet over the course of spring semester to develop goals, help create College Accessibility Plans, and provide input for a three-year roadmap tailored to each college.

The goals will address accessibility from an inclusion and holistic perspective, focusing not only on how to increase the accessibility of documents and videos, but also how to provide value-added support. Selecting more accessible textbooks and resources, how to improve communication and support around student accommodations, and how to support efforts that already exist in the colleges around topics like Universal Design for Learning and pedagogy are just some of the topics they’ll tackle.

 

What if I get a request for an accommodation?

These accessiblity guidelines help to ensure that your content is more accessible from the start, however some students still may need additional accomodations based on thier disablity.

If you have a student who has an accommodation request, the office of Accessibility Resources will work with you to develop a plan for remediating content as needed for that student. As a university, we are required to ensure that students with disabilities have full and equal access to course content. Please contact your local office of Accessibility Resources in Clifton, Blue Ash, or Clermont.

 

Will I be able to provide feedback? 

We appreciate your efforts to learn more about digital accessibility and to create more accessible course materials. We look forward to hearing about your experiences using Ally through focus groups and surveys that will be organized later in spring semester. You may also provide feedback or ask questions any time by emailing the Accessibility Network. Your feedback will help inform discussions on ways to continue to support faculty as we work to meet the university’s and individual accessibility goals.