Congratulations and well done to our three brilliant and amazing digital accessibility champions who took part in our challenge on the recent Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Simon Sneddon, Alison Power and returning competitor Jean Edwards join Charlotte Dann from last year in making their NILE sites more accessible for their students. This past year has placed huge demands on our time and our energy so it’s immensely wonderful these three were able to take part in the 2021 challenge alongside many other commitments. The 2021 trio contributed to Northampton’s final score of being 42nd in the World rankings and 4th in Europe.
The challenge was to see how much more accessible they could make their content within a short window of time. A prize for the most accessible NILE site, the most increasing in accessibility and the runner up prize for the greatest increase in accessibility. The results are in, and we are very pleased to announce the winners are:
- Simon Sneddon gets the highest overall score with a score of 97% on modules LAW2006 and LAW2007
- Jean Edwards gets the prize for the greatest increase with a whopping increase of 29% on PDT1068
- Alison Power gets the runner up prize for greatest increase – with a fantastic increase of 18% on MID3026
Alison, Simon and Jean can feel extremely proud of the effort they made, but if pride is not a significant enough reward for them, we have dug deep into the coffers to award them prizes of chocolate and sweets which we will be presenting to them in a modest online celebration. Formal wear is not obligatory, though neither are jogging bottoms.
Alison Power said, “engaging with this competition was a great opportunity to review my NILE site to ensure it is as accessible as possible. Ally is a fantastic tool to support Module Leaders in checking and revising content – I found it really user-friendly and wonder whether it could be included in the NILE Minimum Standards.”
Simons commented that “the main thing I think is to let people know that it is really straightforward to make documents and NILE sites accessible, and if you do it as you go along, it doesn’t take any additional time, so it is a win win activity. The Ally tool is really helpful, and the process also makes me think more about formatting and contrast and so on, and focusing way more on content than all the fancy things that PowerPoint can do. Substance not style.”
Jean, Simon, Alison and Charlotte now form our exciting celebrity digital accessibility tutors but of course we know there are many other tutors who couldn’t take part in the challenge but who are equally doing their bit to support and promote digital accessibility. We are immensely proud of the efforts made on a daily basis to make content and teaching more accessible.
If you would like training on making your content more accessible to students, please get in touch with your Learning Technologist and we will be happy to point you to resources or offer online one-to-one training. Making our content accessible to our audience does take time but as Simon observed if you can make the small changes early on in the process then what flows from that is infinitely improved.
Thursday May the 20th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day and to celebrate, the University is launching a competition to see who can make their NILE site the most accessible over the course of the day.
If you’d like to be involved, click the link below to register your NILE module and we’ll send you simple instructions on how to check your modules Accessibility score as well as some useful tips on how to use Ally to easily improve your site.
On the morning of the 20th of May you just need to email us a screenshot of your Accessibility score then send another screenshot by 8pm of your finishing Ally score. The module with the largest increase in score will win a small prize, a special mention in Unify and the satisfaction of creating an accessible site in line with the regulations for online materials.
Last year, Charlotte Dann and Jean Edwards took up the challenge to improve the accessibility of their NILE sites using the Ally tool. The challenge involved using the Ally module accessibility reports to incrementally make changes to their course which would make their course more accessible to students. The intrepid tutors worked during the day to make the necessary changes and by the end of the day, Northampton finished 28th in the World (3rd in Europe) for the greatest improvement!
Jean said, “I took part last year and in the process of checking and improving my accessibility scores on the day I learned a lot that I have been able to apply when I make new resources. I feel I can make my resources accessible as I devise them instead of retrospectively. This is time saving for me and supportive for students.”
Charlotte also got a lot out of the challenge. “Accessibility is an important issue for me, personally as well as within my teaching. When I saw the NILE site challenge relating to accessibility last year, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to test myself against how accessible I thought I was. And I really learned a lot! Some of the changes that were needed were relatively simple for me, but make a big difference to others – things like ensuring pictures have alternate text for screen readers, and referring to Word documents throughout my site rather than PDFs which some accessibility software find difficult to navigate. This has now translated into being aware of accessibility issues outside of the NILE module site (such as in social media use for hashtags and images), and the tool itself is something I refer back to for my modules since.”
We thank Jean and Charlotte for their involvement in the challenge and for sharing their experience. This has been a busy year for teaching staff and accessibility is unlikely to be a priority with so many other demands. However, as Charlotte says, a simple change of habit can have a massive impact for students.
If you don’t have the headspace for the challenge, please consider trying something new for September to make your content more accessible. It could be clearer captions for your videos, a shorter or more concise name for your next uploaded file or using less PDFs in your course.
Every NILE user deserves a first-rate digital experience so making your content accessible is really important. We hope this is a fun way to help you improve your sites. If you need help on the day then remember to contact your Learning Technologist who will happy to give you some training or tips to win.
For guidance on how to use the Ally tools in NILE, paste the following link into your browser:
For more assistance on using Ally then contact your Learning Technologist:
On the 21st May as part of Global Accessibility Day, Charlotte Dann and Jean Edwards took up the challenge to improve the accessibility of their NILE sites using the Ally tool.
The challenge involved using the Ally module accessibility reports (https://askus.northampton.ac.uk/Learntech/faq/189667) to incrementally make changes to their course which would make their course more accessible and ultimately make their courses more accessible to students. The intrepid tutors worked during the day to make the necessary changes and improve Northampton’s score on the global league table:
By the end of the day, Northampton finished 28th in the World (3rd in Europe) for the greatest improvement.
Congratulations to Charlotte and Jean.
For more assistance on using Ally then contact your Learning Technologist – https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist
All Northampton material must be accessible to everyone who needs it. If it isn’t, the content owner / University may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010 (see Appendix A) and the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.
This means we start thinking about how users might access and use content and systems before we design or build anything.
Accessibility isn’t the responsibility of just one person. Everyone involved is responsible for making sure the service is accessible. Training is available to all staff to ensure they are able to recognise their responsibilities and create accessible content.
- If you have material on NILE then make use of Ally to help you improve the accessibility of content.
- If you produce any material which is viewed on the web then please follow the University guidance which is under the brand element of the MIR pages.
- If you are just starting with producing web based content then attend the training on creating accessible online content (Full details below):
Improving your knowledge of creating accessible online content.
During this one-hour essentials course, you will learn easy and practical steps to ensure your online content – documents, attachments, files, videos, animations and web copy – is accessible to anyone who needs it.
At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long term illness, impairment or disability. Gov.uk (2018). In the academic year 18/19, just under 1000 University of Northampton students were actively using ASSIST services. This does not include students who may be registered with the Mental Health service but not ASSIST, nor those who have chosen not to disclose. Making your materials more accessible can help people with:
- impaired vision
- motor difficulties
- cognitive impairments or learning disabilities
- deafness or impaired hearing
For any resources you provide to your students, whether online, printed, or displayed in class, it is your responsibility to ensure they are accessible. This blog post acts as an introduction for teaching staff who are unfamiliar with making accessible content. My top 5 tips include:
- Clear Colours.
- Logical Layout.
- Eliminate Expressions.
- Image information.
- Descriptive Details.
1. Clear Colours
Accessibility standards specify a contrast ratio between text and background. The ratio can be lower when the text is larger. I would recommend only placing text on a strong colour for headlines or titles. I’ve included a link to a contrast checker at the bottom of the blog post.
When it comes to being able to read longer pieces of text easily, black text on white background seems to be accepted as the clearest combination. But for many people, such a stark contrast can make the text appear to skate about on the surface of the page. Using a very dark grey instead will help alleviate this. Some people find a pale coloured background really helps too. Ask your students if they prefer a pale blue or cream background colour behind text on your PowerPoint slides. Use Bold type to emphasise important words or phrases in the sentence, rather than using red. Finally, avoid placing text over an image, unless there is very clear contrast.
2. Logical Layout
This is one that will help most of your students. Make sure you describe things clearly and without ambiguity. For example, instead of putting a link to a journal article on NILE and write in brackets underneath, “you need to be logged into NELSON”; you should first explain how to log into NELSON. Obviously, this is just an example and third-year students can probably be expected to know how to log in to NELSON if they’ve done it before.
Another example is having content folders on NILE saying Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 etc. The folders are clear, consistent and not cluttered. Ensuring sites meet the NILE standards (see link below) means students have consistency across all the sites they use and can find what they need quickly and easily.
On NILE you can pick heading styles to help everyone using screen-readers. When you build a content Item, for example, there are options in the toolbar to let you change from Paragraph to Heading or Sub Headings. Use these instead of simply changing the size or making them bold. You can still change the size once you’ve set it to be heading/sub headings.
With larger pieces of text, the use of accurate, meaningful headings and subheadings can help students who feel overwhelmed by a sea of text and make it easier when people come back later on to find something. Learn more about how to use heading styles in the staff development training ‘Creating Accessible Online Content’. A link to more information about this is included at the end along with a download link to the ‘Designing for Diverse Learners’ posters, which explain all of this and more.
3. Eliminate Expressions
This is vital for the most important information and giving instructions. Following on from the previous step where we are making efforts to avoid ambiguity, the use of expressions or idioms can cause confusion or be completely undecipherable by others. Bear in mind, a lot of expressions taken literally word for word, make no sense at all.
“You will be assessed in just two weeks. It’s time to pull your socks up!”
I’m not sure how my socks relate to the assessment, much less the slouchiness of them.
“You have been working really hard all year, don’t throw it all out the window now”.
Throw what out of the window? I wasn’t planning on throwing anything out of my window.
“You seem to have grasped the wrong end of the stick”.
What stick? I don’t remember any stick.
Similarly, avoid sarcasm and subtle exaggeration. Present information, clearly, simply and factually.
Besides certain groups of people taking them too literally, many expressions are becoming old-fashioned and you’ll find your younger students will have never heard them before. In these cases, they can identify that it is an expression and it shouldn’t be taken literally —but they still won’t know what it means.
Your challenge for the rest of the day is to make a mental note of every time you use an idiomatic expression. You might be surprised how much you do it.
4. Descriptive Details
Again, with giving instructions or perhaps announcements from your NILE site, make your expectations are clear, without making assumptions. For example, if you have students booked in for tutorials, make sure you tell them to arrive early, how long they have and what will happen if they turn up late.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I can’t help thinking this is a slight exaggeration. The key with this one is not to assume everyone will interpret the image in the same way. Just as you might teach your students to interpret data on a graph; when using images to convey information, make sure you explain what the picture is and what it’s there for. If you use a screenshot, for example, make sure we know what we’re looking at within the image. More importantly, don’t just put an image in place of any explanation.
Ideally, any images or charts should be there to enhance or add meaning to what you have said or written. In fact, most people benefit from something pictorial to illustrate the concept. However, if the image is there for purely decorative purposes, that’s fine and that brings us onto the number 5.
5. Image Information
In addition to people who won’t interpret an image the same way you do, there are those with visual impairments who can’t see the image at all. If you’ve followed the previous advice, you’ve already helped these people. However, there is standard practice for using images on the web, which are outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), see link below. When you upload an image to NILE, you will see two boxes just above the image preview. One says Image Description and the second one says Title. Give the image a relevant title and the description needs to contain the essential information. Think about why the image there, the information it presents, and then decide which words you can use to convey the same function and/or information. Leave the description blank if the image is for purely decorative. Get into the habit of doing this and it will become second nature. To help you with this, the Blackboard Ally tool has been applied to our NILE sites. You may have noticed a small gauge icon next to items you have uploaded. If you see a red/low gauge next to one of your images, click on it to find out how to improve its accessibility. Click the link at the end, to download Guidelines for Creating Accessible Word Documents. This is great resource for you to save a refer back to.
Caution: If you use an image that contains text, screen-readers will not be able to identify the words. Therefore, you must make sure any essential text from the image is also included as text. Try to select the text on the image below. You will see that you can because the text is not part of the image. In the previous images in this blog post, the text is part of the image.
Remember to book onto the staff development training session to learn how to make your Word docs and PowerPoints accessible too.
Find details on Unify in ‘staff development and training’.
Just 5 suggestions to help you support your students
In closing, please note I have deliberately avoided mentioning specific impairments, difficulties or disabilities in any of the sections. This is because I believe implementing each of these ideas can help all of your students, regardless of any additional needs. I strongly believe making accessible content should be about helping and supporting your students, not purely for the sake of meeting legislation.
It’s up to you to have an open dialogue with your particular students to find out ways in which you can support them. They do not have to disclose anything to you, and those who have declared something on their application probably won’t realise that information isn’t automatically passed onto their lecturers.
If you have content on Edublogs, please meet with your Learning Technologist before Sept 2020 for advice on making your Edublogs sites meet accessibility standards.
These were just my top 5 simple ways to get started, please leave a comment to let us know what tips and strategies you recommend. Thank you for reading and check out the links below if you want to learn more.
- JISC – UK law on accessibility
- GOV.UK – Understanding new accessibility requirements
- Creating content that works well with screenreaders
- WebAim – Contrast checker
- Designing for Diverse Learners. Posters
- AskUs – Editing Kaltura Captions
- AskUs – What is the new Ally accessibility tool in NILE?
- NILE Design standards 19/20
- Unify – Creating Accessible Online Content
Have you ever wanted to do something in NILE, but been unsure which tool to use or how to do it? If so, then this breakdown of the core technologies that comprise NILE may be of help!
The core NILE functionality has been broken down into five main categories:
Depending on the task in hand, have a look at the appropriate column and see which tools and applications may be relevant. Each category is mapped to the UKPSF to assist tutors in the process of submitting an HEA Fellowship application.
Sources of Help: There are three main ways in which tutors can get help with using these tools:
- Attend the ‘official’ LearnTech training sessions
- Access our detailed help guides and resources via the NEW Help tab in NILE
- Contact your dedicated school Learning Technologist for 1:1 support.
We hope you find this useful. If you think anything is missing, please let us know: email@example.com
Monday saw the second iteration of the App Cafe – a new drop-in lunchtime session in the Tpod, run by the Learning Technology team and looking at how we can use apps in the learning and teaching context. This week’s starters included a second look using Dropbox for Cloud storage and some syncing issues, but the main course was a meaty demonstration of the new Turnitin app for iPad.
The most difficult thing that anyone will find with this app is the initial syncing of NILE modules to the iPad, but that is only because it involves an additional step in the SaGE workflow.
Syncing involves generating a class code which is possible using your desktop pc / laptop from within one of the Turnitin papers on the module you are marking. Simply click on the ‘new’ iPad icon at the bottom left of the screen and then Generate code. Once you have the 16-letter code you need to enter it into the app. You don’t need to login with your Turnitin username as most staff don’t have one of this (it isn’t your NILE login!) The code will link that module to your iPad and then you are ready to go.
If you are used to using an iPad then this app is very intuitive – so intuitive that we don’t think you need a help guide on it! Just have a go and see how you get on. The functionality is better than that on a pc as you can take full advantage of iPad features like touch screen technology to add or create a quick mark, Siri to enter the text both for existing and new Quick Marks, longer in-text comments or the full text comment at the end. Voice comments as found in the desktop version of Turnitin are still possible but obviously Siri makes using voice much quicker and easier in the standard QM/text comments as well. So even typing may be a thing of the past!
One other major advantage of the app is that once you have downloaded the papers you can mark offline. So no more paying for wi-fi so that you can do your marking when on holiday, or when abroad working as International Flying Faculty! Simply sync, download, mark and then re-sync when you next have a (free) signal.
Roshni Khatri, Senior Lecturer in Occupation Therapy, has been using the app for a while now and has this to say about it:
“The Turnitin App gives me the flexibility to mark where and when I want to without the need for a WIFI connection. The user friendly interface allows me to give feedback, use comments, rubrics and sync grades without any fuss. Makes marking easier but enables tutors to continue giving high quality feedback!”
The Turnitin iPad app is honestly the best thing since sliced bread – and you won’t find that on the menu at the App Cafe!
The App Cafe is on the 1st Monday of every month, from 1-2 in the TPod, Park Library. Next meeting: 6th January 2014. Bring your lunch and your mobile device (this isn’t just about iPads you know!) We will provide coffee and tea.
Providing Mobile Access to Learning and Teaching
The Learning Technology team are pleased to announce a new monthly lunchtime event for all staff at the University of Northampton.
With more and more people accessing the internet via mobile devices, The App Cafe provides an opportunity to look at the implications of mobile devices and apps in HE and how we can better use them in learning and teaching. This first App Cafe will look at the top five essentials for going mobile and consider some different apps that you can start to use easily in a learning and teaching context.
We want to hear from you. This is a participative ‘by you, for you’ event with an opportunity each month to share the apps you already use in the classroom with fellow staff across all disciplines.
With take-aways like ‘Your 5-a-month’ (top apps for learning and teaching), coffee and even cake, this is one lunchtime event in LLS you shouldn’t miss.
First Monday of the month, starting 4th November 2013 | 1-2pm | in the TPod, Park Library
Book your place by signing up today: https://theappcafe.eventbrite.co.uk
We hope to see you there!
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