Q. How do I ensure my teaching is accessible to all students?
Accessibility is a complex concern when you are teaching in online or remote environments. There are many resources to help you make your materials, courses, instruction, and activities as accessible as possible. Here are some of their recommendations, followed by links to more in-depth resources:
- Ask your students if they have any technological or other accessibility issues: do they have slow internet and might have trouble with large videoconferences? Are they sharing a computer or a workspace with other people and might need an asynchronous approach? Does anyone have trouble seeing the writing on slides on a smaller screen or hearing recordings made on a laptop mic?
- Address specific concerns brought up, but also generally make your teaching as accessible as you can, because not all students will be comfortable disclosing accessibility issues
- When you are choosing texts, videos, simulations etc. for students to learn from, include accessibility among your criteria: Does it require a lot of bandwidth? Are there closed captions or transcripts? Is there software that needs to be downloaded and does it work on any operating system? Are there simple ways to access the content if there is a technical problem? Is the audio volume or the size of text adjustable?
- Avoid jargon and provide the full words for acronyms
When you are making videos, audio-recordings or using videoconferencing:
- Provide captions and/or transcripts for videos, screencasts, podcasts or other content with audio.
- Consider describing any complex visual content out loud in videos and screencasts
- Make audio-recordings as high quality as possible, speaking clearly without background noise
- Consider making materials like slides available ahead of any live meetings/classes
- Lectures are best provided as pre-recorded videos, rather than live events
- Leverage the features of the platforms you are using, and other software, to do things like automatically generate closed captions, capture chat interactions for students to review later, record live events or create transcripts of videoconferences.
Course Materials / Written Materials
- Aim to provide materials in formats that are readable to accessibility software: Word documents and PowerPoints that use the built-in style formats/headings/designs, HTML format articles etc. If you are providing pdfs, include them as secondary to more accessible formats.
- Keep fonts large, pages uncluttered and backgrounds plain, and make the colours high contrast and distinct to anyone with colour blindness
- When you are adding a link to text, add it to words that describe where the link will take you – for instance use: “find more at the Teaching and Learning in the Time of COVID-19 portal” instead of: “click here to find more on the Teaching and Learning in the Time of COVID-19 portal”
Making Your Online Course Content Accessible
Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, University of Toronto
Best Practices: Online Pedagogy – Teach Remotely – Harvard University
Accessibility in E-Learning
Accessible Campus, Council of Ontario Universities
Accessibility in e-Learning: What You Need to Know
Prepared on behalf of the Council of Ontario Universities by Greg Gay, Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University, Toronto, ON
Resources for educators on accessible teaching and learning
Accessibility Information Toolkit for Libraries, Ontario Council of University Libraries
Real Connections: Making Distance Learning Accessible to Everyone
DO-IT, University of Washington
20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course
DO-IT, University of Washington
Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Class
Student Wellness & Accessibility Centre, Humber College
UHN and Michener team members: Please submit your questions on the challenges you face transitioning to virtual forms of teaching and learning across UHN (e.g., curriculum delivery, student support, virtual care, clinical precepting/supervising/instructing, etc.).
We encourage questions of a general nature that focus on issues that are relevant to our broader academic and clinical healthcare teaching community.