EXTENDED UNIVERSITY PROGRAMS ACCESSIBILITY AND ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
Western Michigan University is committed to creating a working and learning environment where all members of our community can thrive. As an educational institution, we strive to promote inclusivity by providing awareness and access to resources that promote accessibility for our online educational content.
What does accessibility mean to me as an educator?
Creating accessible educational content is the process of designing courses and developing a teaching style to meet the needs of students with various backgrounds, abilities and learning styles. With that in mind, designing your courses using a variety of styles, methods and formats can enhance the student experience for all learners while complying with and in the spirit of WMU's Institutional Equity Policy and Web Accessibility Policy, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or W3C and Section 508 accessibility laws and policies.
As content creators and publishers in an Elearning environment, accessibility means using a logical hierarchical order of headings, correct table structures for data tables, providing descriptive text for hyperlinks, alternative text for images and captions for all video content.
Accessibility is the right thing to do. Students with disabilities may be unable to access websites and course content critical to their educational engagement. When you design digital communications and content for accessibility, students can participate without additional modification to your course content. With that in mind, your commitment to developing and integrating accessible content is critical. Effective accessibility in instructional technology is dependent on accessible design, and it is our responsibility as educators to design our content within these parameters.
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology is any piece of equipment or software that is used by individuals with disabilities to perform functions and access information in our Elearning environment. This is inclusive of any assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative device that enhances engagement in any desired activity by reducing or eliminating a barrier. WMU hosts a diverse community of learners that uses these technologies because of visual, auditory, motor/physical, cognitive and seizure disorders. These individuals may choose to utilize a variety of software and technology like text-to-speech software and screen magnifiers that require specific formatting and markup.
Designing course content with accessibility in mind
Everyone designing and implementing online content, for courses or other purposes, has the responsibility to integrate and maintain accessibility within their purview. Accessibility requires a proactive approach in planning and forethought when creating or updating course content. Designing for accessibility does not change any content in the course you created, just how it is formatted.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—WCAG—outlines the four accessible design principles for creating online content. These four principles are:
- Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. (Ensure content is accessible to people who are blind and/or deaf.)
- Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable. (Ensure all features are accessible by keyboard; not just by mouse.)
- Understandable: Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
It will take effort from all WMU employees to integrate accessibility into our culture. With style guides, accessibility resources and instructional design support we can ensure that our students and community of learners have full access and equity in online content distributed in the WMU Elearning system.
Accessibility and resource guides
It is every educator’s role at WMU to ensure that accessibility is incorporated in course development and design in order to have a sustainable accessibility program within our online learning programs. Accessibility design guides, as well as processes for checking accessibility are provided in the following links to assist you with updating and creating accessible documents.
Request support and services
Your shared commitment to making the WMU community one in which everyone can thrive is appreciated.By requesting assistance, we can help you update course materials into a compliant format that provides for equitable access for all users.
Thank you for making accessibility a priority.
Updating and accessing technology
With continuous updates to software and the emergence of new technologies we recommend that you ensure you are using the most up-to-date software as these will have the accessibility tools needed. Please visit the WMU Office of Information Technology to access software downloads and other information technologies that can support your research, course development, teaching and student learning outcomes.
Faculty needing to request accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act can contact institutional equity at (269) 387-6316. If you prefer to submit your request in writing, you may download the ADA Accommodation request form along with the Disability Verification form to initiate the process. The forms may be mailed to the ADA Coordinator at mail stop 5405 or fax to (269) 387-6312 (confidential fax). Additional information and resources can be found on the WMU Institutional Equity Disability web page.