Currently viewing the tag: "Accessibility"

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

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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. 

  1. If you have material on NILE then make use of Ally to help you improve the accessibility of content.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 

  • To view dates and register for this training, please visit HR Self Service > navigate to the Course Catalogue > search for Creating Accessible Online Content.
  • If you need help using the Staff Development function in U4BW please see the short user guide.
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Perhaps an unruly dog ate a student’s earbuds and there’s your essential video lecture on Ethical Engineering they simply have to watch in the jam-packed silent carriage of the 8:50 from Leamington Spa. In this all too common circumstance captions are key.

What if you have an especially grating tone and listening to you might drive your students mad and you fear they might explode? Captions could well save the day.

Maybe they are unable to hear sounds or find it difficult listening for long periods and so want a transcription to peruse at their own pace. Students undoubtedly love your educational videos but sometimes you mumble, sometimes you drone and at times you rattle along with such fury you sound like you’re being hunted by assassins.

Captions can be the solution to many physical, practical, social or emotional situations. In fact, students can expect video captions for any good or silly reason and of course you would want the captions to be there just when they need them. You’d not expect them to make a special request. Nor would you force them to fill out endless forms justifying why, for heaven’s sake, they could possibly want captions. It’s not an unreasonable request. They’re not demanding the hour-long presentation on 18th century macroeconomics is transcribed into semaphore, are they? Now, that would be a stretch. No, video captions are not an eccentric request in these modern times with cinematic teaching so twenty-four everywhere.

And so, we at the University of Northampton provide machine-generated captions for each and every one of your video masterworks sat on our MediaSpace platform. Hurrah, you yell inwardly in the slowly shuffling lunchtime queue. But hold your horse! Machines are, in many ways, remarkable but in other ways they are, like many a politician or pig, decidedly lacking in wisdom, wit or common sense. Captions are one such area where machines often fare poorly.

Consider an average video about a common subject, like making a pot of tea. How does a machine make sense of the clear instructions provided by the skilled and softly-spoken tea-maker? Utter gobbledegook, dear reader or listener. The machine’s algorithm struggles with even the simplest step. How does the mighty machine transcribe the modest instruction of leaving the tea-bag to sit in the pot and brew?

“Leave the tea bark in the pottery and lettuce prove.”

Ridiculous twaddle.

And so, in truth, though you may have many videos in your MediaSpace account with automatically-generated captions, the understanding of this machine-made text can be like tumbling headfirst into word casserole. A linguistic hell for those with a dyslexic mind or for that matter anyone with a passing knowledge of the English language.

A potential calamity.

Thankfully, one solution is provided in the form of a simple caption-editing interface. This electronic instrument enables the gentle presenter to easily tweak the nonsense generated by the machine or equally the nonsense generated by the presenter themselves.

I should also point out if a student has a specific need for captions, you can ask for a human being of immense skill and dexterity to write the captions manually with the machine as a mere assistant to the process. Thankfully, this service does not require any form-filling nor nosey interrogation but is instead founded on unconditional trust and the belief it is not merely a trick on the part of the video author to avoid undesirable finger-strain.

So, in the concluding stage of this somewhat rambling essay can I offer my modest advice on some good practice, if you’re to provide captions to your audience with the least amount of extra work. Academic life is ordinarily bursting with work, so to add more without need is surely a woeful circumstance.

My first tip is to be clear.

Be clear in both in diction and in content. That is to say, don’t mumble or speak with your mouth full, as all good children are taught. Don’t assume your audience has the faintest idea what you are talking about. Don’t assume your audience even cares what you’re talking about. Sure, they may need to understand the knowledge you are trying to transfer but don’t confuse that with thinking they want to listen to you. If this is about knowledge transfer and not a fascinating fireside yarn of monsters and magic, then be clear. If, of course, your video is precisely a story of monsters and magic, accept my earnest apology and kindly share the link as I am exceptionally partial to such tales. This leads me to my second and mercifully final piece of advice.

Keep your video short.

Surely an irony coming from one such as I, able to spin a lengthy yarn from such meagre thread? Like the best party food, learning is sometimes best consumed in small bites and if you cannot keep it short, then please keep it engaging. Tell a story. Your audience may forgive you if your story interests them, but a limp string of facts is no better than a shopping list. Be clear and be interesting and your video captions will sing.

Now, go on your way and teach the world to sing.

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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:

  1. Clear Colours.
  2. Logical Layout.
  3. Eliminate Expressions.
  4. Image information.
  5. Descriptive Details.

1. Clear Colours

University colours shown with both black and white text to show the contrast

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.

this screenshot shows where the text can be changed to Heading or sub/headings

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

literal interpretation of the expression 'bear in mind' showing a small teddy bear sitting in the mind of a silhouette head.

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.

Example 1:
“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.

Example 2:
“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.

Example 3:
“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.

­Further reading:

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The big Kaltura news for September is that users will now begin to have automatic machine-generated (ASR) Closed Captions created for any new video uploaded to their MediaSpace account. This is a significant step forward in making our learning content accessible to all our students.

When the captions are created, the CC icon will appear at the bottom of the video player, and viewers just need to select the icon to read them. If the captions are not 100% accurate, the video owner can correct them using the Kaltura Caption Editor within MediaSpace. There is a handy FAQ which explains how to edit the captions.

The many thousands of videos created before September will also be getting Closed Captions during the autumn to bring us in line with new accessibility legislation. In the meantime, if any videos created pre-September need captions, the Learning Technology team can help process priority caption requests.

Finally, if a student is referred from ASSIST and needs course videos captioned and the machine captions aren’t available or accurate enough, the Learning Technology team can authorise a special request for professional human-created captions to be created.

It’s important our video content is accessible to all our students and the Closed Captions project is going to help achieve that. If you have any questions about Closed Captions at Northampton, then email the Learning Technology team at learntech@northampton.ac.uk

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Image showing the NILE suite categories

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:

  • content
  • collaboration
  • assessment
  • information
  • management

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:

  1. Attend the ‘official’ LearnTech training sessions
  2. Access our detailed help guides and resources via the NEW Help tab in NILE
  3. 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: learntech@northampton.ac.uk

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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Photo of a student viewing the University app on an iPhoneLast week I presented on the iNorthampton project, at the Blackboard User Conference in Durham. The theme for the conference was ‘openness’, which links with the key aims of the mobile project – to open up access to information, and opportunities for learning, in new  contexts and spaces.

For this session, I focused on two key elements of openness – inclusion (that is, making learning and support available to the widest possible range of users), and making University data more accessible. You can view the slides from the session, titled ‘The University in your pocket’, on the LearnTech Slideshare pages.

Inclusion has been an important concern for the team from the very start of the project. Thanks to the mobile survey that ran last academic year (and is just closing for this year), we are already aware that not all students and staff have smartphones. We’re also aware that some users find using a mobile device challenging. The project team has a number of measures in place to try to address these issues where possible:

  • All of the information in the app is available in other places, usually via the University website or NILE. This means that in most cases, the app is simply another option for accessing information, and  although it may be a benefit for those who prefer to use smartphones, it is not a requirement for those that don’t. We have also tried to cover as many platforms as possible – there are versions of the app for iOS, Android and Blackberry, as well as a mobile web version for those with other types of phone.
  • For users who have smartphones, and who prefer not to use their own data allowance, the University is continuing to extend wireless provision across the campus. The LearnTech team also has some mi-fi (mobile wi-fi) units that staff can borrow for field trips etc., although the coverage, bandwidth and speed of these are still quite limited.
  • For specific learning and teaching projects, we have a small number of mobile devices available that staff can borrow, to allow those who don’t have smartphones to take part in planned activities.
  • For users with additional needs, we still recommend to staff that they provide alternative options for any mobile learning activity. We are also working closely with the suppliers to test the apps for accessibility*.
  • Training and support is available for any users on request.

The other important concern in opening access to University information was in surfacing information from a range of complex University systems, and presenting it in a coherent and user friendly way. To enable this, the project team included key staff from the web team, Marketing, Corporate Information Systems and the Library, as well as Student Services, the LearnTech team, and the Student Union (please note that some of these teams have changed post-PSR). If you would like more technical details about how the data is fed in to the app, please contact the team.

The project team will be getting together next week to start thinking about the next phase of iNorthampton. if you have any feedback you would like us to consider, please send it to the dedicated email address: mobilefeedback@northampton.ac.uk.

Thanks

Julie Usher

*Although there are no independent accessibility standards for native apps, there are some for mobile web apps, and the main platforms all publish their own accessibility guidelines for developers (see this blog post from Henny Swan for more links). With help from Student Services, we have tested the iOS app using VoiceOver (Apple’s built-in screen reading software), with some positive results, although the Android version is currently less readable. We are also working on improving the high contrast view of the app.
The iNorthampton app is developed by a US company. For more information about section 508 compliance and VPAT documentation, or if you’d like to contribute feedback or help us with testing, please contact the team.

For more general information on accessibility and web content, see the Accessible information page on the University website.
For more info on mobile accessibility, see the TechDis Mobile Learning for Inclusive Practice page.

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We have recently discovered that some assistive technologies do not work well with Turnitin. Screen readers like JAWS work when non-standard settings are selected, but are hard to follow and navigate.

So, if you anticipate asking a student with additional needs to submit their work online, please contact the team for advice, at least two weeks before the first submission is due.

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