Management Responsibilities Toolkit Preparation
New technologies, digital platforms and procurement
When using digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment consider the possible impacts on disabled learners and tauira so that pedagogical outcomes are inclusive and equitable to these learners.
Best practice standards
- The adoption of online tools, technological platforms and device-based software licences for teaching, learning and assessment is undertaken with consultation of disabled learners and is accessible for their assistive technology.
- The use of online tools, technological platforms and device-based software for learning by disabled learners is supported by academic, teaching, demonstrator and learning support staff.
- The acquisition of new assistive technologies to assist and be used by disabled learners is discussed with those who require this technology.
- Teaching, IT and other support staff receive training and other resources so they are familiar with assistive technologies that disabled learners may find useful.
"Technology should be accessible, usable and user-friendly, and individualised support should be available to teach learners how to use it. “The software systems across the university are not accessible ... which means they are not accessible to the disabled learners. But the university doesn’t give a [deleted] if it’s accessible, because they don’t have to.”
- Tertiary institution staff
- It is essential that there are institution-wide policies and procedures around the procurement and adoption of online tools, technological platforms and device-based software licences, so that these are accessible for disabled learners.
- IT managers and their staff should be accountable for implementing these policies and procedures and should receive the necessary training to do so.
- The development and use of assistive technology is a fast-paced environment. As well as specialist software for disabled learners, there are now many accessible apps on smartphones that disabled people can use.
- Some tertiary disability support services such as at Victoria, Canterbury, Auckland and Otago Universities, AUT, Unitec and Ara have assistive technology specialists or staff with knowledge in this area. These people are worth contacting if you are looking for a solution.
- The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training also has an assistive technology group that can be contacted for assistance.
- Talking with disabled learners about their latest apps and other assistive technology should also be considered. Disabled people such as the blind community or those with specific learning disabilities are always on the lookout for new and accessible tools that will assist them and may share their ideas.
The specialist interest groups, questionnaires and background research have identified the following examples of useful assistive technology.
- Cardiff Metropolitan University developed this great overview of general areas to consider with assistive technology for learners with different impairments:7
- Dyslexia assistance – assistance with spelling, thesaurus and word prediction, scanning text, mind-mapping, speech-to text (user dictation), text-to-speech (screen reader).
- Those with vision impairments – all Information available electronically to accommodate screen readers, text-to-speech (screen reader), Braille embosser, magnifying and scanning text, text-to-speech (screen reader).
- Those with mobility impairments – speech-to-text (user dictation), text-to-speech (screen reader), mouse equivalents.
- It is important that disabled learners get their own technology established while studying, because this will assist them with employment and other areas of their life.
- All course materials should be available for the appropriate screen reader and the browser that supports it within the learner’s operating system.
- Browsers and other interfaces for users are tested for accessibility when rendering web content.
- Images and other non-text content used in teaching must be accompanied by a title and text description, also called ‘alternative text’ or ‘alt text’.
- Teaching software widgets must be checked for accessibility.
- Screen-based learning tasks must be accessible by keystrokes at all times for disabled learners who don’t use a mouse.
- Content writing learning tasks, such as blog writing, are accessible to learners with diverse learning support needs.
- Encourage staff to use the Microsoft365 Accessibility Checker for documents, slides, spreadsheets and email in Windows and MacOS operating systems, as well as in apps and platforms using web content.
- Website design:
- All staff should be aware of the accessibility standards set out by Digital. Govt.NZ.
- All staff should be familiar with the international accessibility standards set out by W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in the Web Content Access Guidelines (WCAG 2).
- Web Accessibility Guidelines V.1: How to use Screen Readers & Shortcuts.
- Web Accessibility Guidelines V.1: PDFs and Alternative Document Formats.
- Testing your apps for accessibility: The ArcGIS Approach.
- Smartphone app and other assistive technology:
- Office 365 has many accessibility functions that are worth checking out, e.g. a read aloud function that also highlights the text as it goes, Cortana, etc.
- There is also the Natural reader that will read material aloud to you, and there are voice typing options on Google and with Dragon Naturally Speaking.
- The easiest way to check if a PDF is accessible is to open it and try and highlight some text with a mouse using read aloud software.
- Texthelp Read&Write Gold has multiple tools and can handle Word docs, PDFs and inaccessible PDFs.
- Using a smartphone, Dreamreader allows you to photograph typed but not handwritten text and have it read aloud by the app on your phone. If learners can access the internet from their phone they can download other readings and have them read aloud or you can send something to a Dropbox or Google drive account.
- If a learner is vision impaired they could look at NVDA. This is a free screen reader similar to Jaws for Windows.
- The Hemingway Editor app is a tool that helps to improve readability. It highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors. It may help to make writing simpler.
- Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) can also provide advice and support on alternative formats for people with learning disabilities, those that are blind or vision impaired, the Deaf community, etc.
- There is a Google Chrome extension that improves colour contrast for a vision impaired audience and YouTube has a free closed captions function that slows or stops the video to sync it with what is being typed.
- Otter for Education - Otter.ai and Glean are currently being trialled in some universities for transcribing notes in lectures. There are also other systems such as Rev and Temi that can convert audio and text files to text. - E-book readers for multiple textbooks with accessible features across all functionality.
- Scanning C-pen devices (text-activated reader, digital highlighter, text-toWord scanner).
Engaging disabled learners
In these clips learners explain why digital accessibility is so important. They also cover why learners are hesitant to disclose their disability and why creating an inclusive environment is so important.
Other useful ideas
- Staff working in computer services have the training and time to meet the needs of disabled learners.
- Lecture notes and online recordings of lectures available on the institution intranet in an accessible format.
- Procedures to ensure these notes meet established guidelines, so there is no conflict with specialist software or features that learners with dyslexia, vision impairments or blindness may be using.
- E-texts are helpful and often staff assist learners by liaising with publishers. There is the Marrakesh Treaty that aims to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or experience difficulty with print material.
- Some tertiary providers use a library retrieval service and learners can request e-texts to be emailed or books to be delivered to their homes.
- A specific equipment area, often located in the library, containing equipment suitable for disabled learners (e.g. computers with specialist software, ergonomic chairs and desks).
7. Accessible Curricula - Good Practice For All (2002). Carol Doyle and Karen Robson edited by Simon Ball and David Campy. University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC). Pg. 44.