A Bit of Background
This Thursday, May 19th is the 11th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day which aims to promote "talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion." As part of the Accessible Dartmouth Initiative (ADI), the Accessible Dartmouth Team is offering several sessions to support inclusive, accessible teaching.
Global Accessibility Awareness Day Events
These events take place on Thursday, May 19th. Click the titles to register.
Reaching Everyone: Creating Inclusive Course Materials 10-11am
In this workshop, come learn about principles of usability and accessibility, as they relate to Canvas and your course materials. We'll talk through the guiding principles as you create materials and design your Canvas site to ensure accessibility from the start. Feel free to bring example materials, course sites, or syllabi to work with during the workshop.
One Small Change: Addressing Pinch Points in Your Courses 12:15-12:45pm
In this session, members of the Accessible Dartmouth Initiative team will share their best tips and tricks for making one small change in your course design to reduce pinch points for both you and your students and create a more equitable learning environment. This short session will also introduce the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and describe the Accessible Dartmouth course redesign grant, a current funding opportunity for integrating UDL into your course.
Reaching Everyone With Universal Design for Learning 2:30-3:30pm
In this session, participants will dig into Universal Design for Learning (UDL): what it is, why it matters, and how it manifests in the Dartmouth classroom. Through hands-on exploration and practical application of UDL's three guidelines–providing students multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression–participants will gain insight into how these principles can help instructors reach and teach all students effectively.
ADI Beyond Global Accessibility Awareness Day
ADI is a 3-year donor-funded project with the goal of increasing the accessibility of Dartmouth courses to better meet the needs of all students, including neurodiverse students – those who learn differently due to conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia – as well as first-generation college students, international students, English language learners, and students of other marginalized identities. The Accessible Dartmouth Team includes partners from DCAL, Learning Design & Innovation (LDI), and Student Accessibility Services (SAS). The initiative provides grants to faculty to redesign elements of their courses to incorporate Universal Design for Learning, a set of principles with access as their main goal.
Upcoming ADI Programming
The inaugural ADI Universal Design for Learning Institute will be held at Dartmouth (and online) this June 20-22. Current Dartmouth faculty will have the opportunity to learn from UDL experts and each other in this applied 3-day institute. Participants will have the opportunity to work independently, in groups, and one-on-one with DCAL and LDI staff to design two or more interventions they can implement in their course. Visit the UDL Institute to learn more and apply. Applicaitons are due by June 15, 2022 at 11:59pm.
The next deadline for ADI grant proposals is Monday, July 25th. The Accessible Dartmouth Initiative website provides further information and instructions for applying. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Partnering for Student Access
In her position with Student Accessibility Services (SAS), Alison May '97, Assistant Dean & Senior Director, has led several projects to improve to the way that accommodations are approached at Dartmouth. According to May, the most important piece so far has been the launch of the A11y Database in Summer 2020. In the past, accommodations required students to hand-deliver paper forms to faculty, and faculty to coordinate students' schedules and complete multiple forms to use SAS's Testing Center. The A11y Database now provides a central hub for supporting students and faculty throughout the process, and has allowed the Testing Center to be made available to all Arts & Sciences faculty.
May emphasized that the goal of this system change was not to automate a very human-centric process, but rather to better utilize the time students, staff, and faculty spend considering and implementing accommodations. This system streamlines the process, allowing for SAS staff to play a more active, consultative role. "We're really here for faculty just as much as their students… We require [faculty] input and expertise… to determine reasonable accommodations and support faculty with accommodation implementation."
Access for Staff, Faculty, and Guests
In an effort to create a cohesive plan for accessibility across Dartmouth, Linda Sullivan was named the first institutional ADA/504 Coordinator in 2021. In 2022, Associate Director for ADA/504 Compliance, Paul Harwell was hired. In their roles, Linda and Paul have institutional responsibility to ensure access and compliance with the various accessibility laws. Additionally, Linda and Paul work with other accessibility offices and programs across Dartmouth to create a cohesive accessibility plan for Dartmouth.
Designing for Access
The Dartmouth community has been working to build a culture of accessibility, as evidenced by partnerships and initiatives across campus. It can be challenging to figure out where to start with accessibility though. Luckily, Courtney Floyd, Learning Designer in LDI and ADI Team member, shared a few quick tips for getting started with accessibility in the classroom.
Tip 1: Find Support in the Dartmouth Community
Just as Alison May emphasized above, you're not alone in this work at Dartmouth.
Tip 2: Create Accessible Documents
Make sure your materials (readings, videos, images, etc.) are screen-reader accessible and either captioned or edited to include Alt-Text. That sounds tricky, but we have tools to help. Take a look at this resource on Creating Accessible Digital Materials. Student Accessibility Services is also available to help you think about creating accessible documents, including PDFs.
Tip 3: Offer Students Options
Courtney shared that a practice she has admired in faculty's work to date has been offering students options for participation. Using tools like Hypothesis or VoiceThread can give students agency in their group work and assignments, while also building their engagement with the material. Instructors might also consider offering office hours or workshops via Zoom to allow for more flexibility in engagement when questions arise.
There are certainly many other ways to dive into this work, but these are great places to start your journey!
Thank you for your interest in Global Accessibility Awareness Day and the Accessible Dartmouth Initiative. We look forward to partnering with you and to building upon the culture of access and inclusion at Dartmouth.
The Accessible Dartmouth Team