The importance of accessibility in relation to digital content has long been discussed within the learning technology community (Seale, 2006) and with a wide variety of guidelines (Pun, 2016, University of Derby, 2018) and initiatives (Jisc, 2017) you could be forgiven for thinking students should be experiencing 100% accessibility when accessing digital content in the VLE. Yet, with Universities having to focus on this area again since the changes to the Disabled Student Allowance and with increasing numbers of disabled students accessing higher education, it has become clear that many institutions still have a way to go to achieve this aim (HEFCE, 2017).
This session will provide participants with the opportunity to investigate the potential of the VLE integration Ally which focuses on making digital content accessible, helping to provide alternative formats for students and educating teaching staff on how to improve accessibility. It will provide background information about how the University of Derby (UoD) approached the implementation of Ally, some lessons learned and the initiatives which need to work alongside the technology to drive inclusive practice forward. Participants will have some hands-on experience with using Ally in the session allowing them to review the accessibility of a resource and access the alternative formats it produces. This will help participants to understand how Ally works within a Blackboard VLE, explore the common accessibility errors it identifies and discuss how we can develop the digital capabilities of staff to create accessible digital learning content.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
In 2016 UoD created a working group called Inclusive xxx to tackle some of the challenges faced by the changes in DSA funding as well as promoting inclusive practice more widely across the University. The group commissioned an inclusive audit which covered the digital services of the University including the VLE. Within the audit the accessibility of materials in the VLE was identified as an area which needed improvement and as a result the University purchased the Ally integration. This, alongside other staff development and assistive technologies, has provided UoD with the opportunity to create a culture of change which puts inclusive practice at the heart of learning and teaching at the university.
The project has been evaluated from a systems perspective and participants will hear about the lessons we have learnt along the way of implementing this tool. Using Seale’s (2006) rainbow metaphor the session will also discuss how different stakeholders from across the institution have been involved in the process of evaluating the usability of Ally. In addition, the systems level analytics will be discussed providing an overall picture of how the university is working towards the aim of optimal accessibility for digital content and where the next steps for development lie.
HEFCE. (2017), What do you mean inclusive practice?. [online] HEFCE Blog. Available at: http://blog.hefce.ac.uk/2017/02/17/what-do-you-mean-inclusive-practice/ (accessed 26/03/2018).
Jisc. (2017) A strategic approach to inclusive practice in education. [online] Jisc Website. Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/a-strategic-approach-to-inclusive-practice-in-higher-education (accessed 26/03/2018).
Pun, K. (2016) Dos and don’ts on designing for accessibility. [online] Gov.uk Accessibility Blog. Available at: https://accessibility.blog.gov.uk/2016/09/02/dos-and-donts-on-designing-for-accessibility/ (accessed 26/03/2018).
Seale, J. (2006) E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility research and practice. Abingdon: Routledge.
University of Derby. (2018) Inclusivity. [online] Digital Practice Handbook. Available at: https://digitalhandbook.wp.derby.ac.uk/menu/accessibility/, (accessed 26/03/2018).
Resources for participants
Laura Hollinshead posted an update in the session Is finding an Ally the way to unlock inclusive practice in a VLE? [18-132] 7 months, 2 weeks ago
Link to site which supports the session http://bit.ly/ALTally