Teaching with Technology
Teaching Technologies are technologies that enable the development, design and delivery of curricula to learners. Many tertiary education providers utilise a range of technologies to deliver content to students. These technologies range from electronic tools and devices such as mobile phones, computers and hardware to learning management systems, electronic resources and online virtual classrooms.
Presenting Visual Information for Online/Blended Delivery
Students who are blind or vision impaired can experience exclusion if teaching practices are primarily visual. Barriers are created when teaching staff present significant content on the screen that is not audibly described or when printed information is based on visual diagrams without any accompanying text. In these cases, educators need to ensure text-based or audible descriptions are provided for inaccessible content.
A great way to assist all students with their learning and ensure they can access your content is to provide clear instructions and information on what will be delivered and how delivery will happen (what tools and formats will be used). Clearly communicate any expectations you have of the students.
Informing students of the software you will be using
- Check with students or staff who are blind or vision impaired to find out whether they have a sound working knowledge of the platform you will be using. Ensure they know the basic shortcut keys for the functions that are going to be needed in the upcoming session.
- Provide guides on how to use platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams with assistive technology, and share essential shortcut keys for the functions that will be called upon in the upcoming session. Some helpful guides for students are listed at the end of this page.
- Offer an opportunity to test/train in the use of the platform well before the session commences. A practice session for anyone who would like to attend can be beneficial and a great icebreaker for staff and students, giving them an opportunity to make sure everything works for them in an informal session.
Setting clear expectations
- Are students expected to have their cameras turned on?
- Are students expected to talk?
- Will students be moved into breakout rooms?
- How will the session run? Will there be a break if it is a long session?
- Can and when should participants ask questions? Via chat, voice?
Reducing cognitive load
A method to assist students who are blind or vision impaired in processing information presented online is to consider how to reduce the cognitive load for the student; that is, the number of things that are required to be focused on at the same time. One method would be to have any presentation in a full-screen format when presenting it.
Another method to reduce cognitive load is to ensure all information presented is clear, relevant and concise. Where content is not relevant to the presentation, it should be removed or hidden. For example, when presenting information such as a website in your browser, hide your bookmarks, or if showing a Word document, use the Focus View to remove all the interface and show only the content of the document. The focus option is available in the Microsoft 365 Word View menu and is also located at the bottom right of the application screen.
Audio quality and connection
If you are using audio content during online learning, there are several steps that are critical to ensuring students can follow the content efficiently. These include:
- checking the quality of your internet or Wi-Fi connection
- trying a headset mic and not your camera microphone because a camera microphone can sometimes pick up a lot of background noise
- using a noise-cancelling microphone
- recording and listening to your own voice and timing.
If you are using audiovisual content, it is important to provide links to this content, ideally in advance, because there may be buffering issues during playback due to connection speeds or technology that does not support smooth playback.
Another method to ensure that students can efficiently access the learning material provided in audiovisual content is to provide a transcript of the audio content.
If using audiovisual material such as documentaries or films, remember that these are not often available with audio description, and if the documentary or film uses subtitles to translate language into English, blind or vision impaired students will not be able to read this alternative. In these circumstances, it is essential that you contact your local disability support service to investigate what options may be available such as an English transcript of the video.
Finally, providing students with information about the audiovisual content file size or running time will support students in ensuring they can save the content to their device of choice for viewing.
Further information is available on supporting Deaf and Hard of Hearing students via the ADCET Guideline: Supporting Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students Online.
Transcripts provide the information in written rather than visual or audio form. This can be more accessible for people who are deafblind or who find it easier to access the information in this way.
Turn on closed captioning or let viewers know whether they can turn it on or off themselves. Provide details of any available versions that are audio described.
Instructional videos and screen captures
Be mindful when describing visual processes. This is particularly relevant when demonstrating software, how-to guides and steps to complete online processes. Try to avoid visual references to the layout of information on your screen and be explicit about the action itself.
Here is a brief list of things to avoid and some suggestions.
- “So if you just click here” would be better as “So now select the submit button”.
- “Grab the brush tool from the left menu” would be better as “Select the brush tool from the tools menu”.
- “If you go to the top of the screen you can see the filter function on the right. Make sure it is selected and then press the arrow to process your request” would be better as “In the main menu there is an option for applying the filter. Activate the filter and submit your request”.
When demonstrating software, it is a good idea to also announce the keyboard shortcuts for the various functions and menu items you may be selecting, if you know them. These will often be listed with the menu item or can be found in the help/support information.
A good way to check whether the instructions of your video work is to follow along without the video, just listening to the audio instructions. For example, can you still follow the same steps on a mobile? What about when your browser window is smaller or when you only have a transcript of your video to read?
Would the following transcript make sense without the visual?
So, as you can see here, if I enter a value into this box and then select this option, I can scroll to the bottom of the form and update the results by clicking here.
Audio description for videos/alternative presentations
Visual information in an online video may be inaccessible to some students and staff who may be blind or have vision impairments. Audio descriptions make videos accessible by providing narrated details of what is happening on screen.
Check out The Interviewer – Captions and Audio Description to experience audio descriptions for yourself.
- Try closing your eyes and listening to the video.
- Does the audio description relay all the relevant information?
Further information and examples can be found at Audio Description in Australia .
The ability to add audio description may not be possible for everyone, so please contact your local disability support area to look at what options are available. Not all videos may need audio description; it depends on the nature of the video. For example, a “talking head” delivering a lecture may not need to be audio described if there is enough information available already. 3PlayMedia has a good overview of When and When Not to Add Audio Description to Content .
Describing images and diagrams
Clearly tell students and staff what you are referring to. Instead of saying “As you can see here, there was an increase in …”, try “This graph shows the population growth over time in Melbourne. It shows that there was an increase in …”. Avoid using screen shots that do not have a corresponding text description.
WebAim has a great article on techniques for creating alternative text , and the Diagram Centre POET tool for describing images and the Highcharts resource How to Write Accessible Descriptions for Interactive Charts can help you in determining what and how to write image descriptions.
Colour contrast and colour blindness
Not everyone sees things the same way. In many cases, colour blindness and eye conditions can cause information to become invisible or confusing if the contrast between the background and the text colour is too low.
There are many colour contrast and vision simulators you can use to test your content. The Contrast Checker from ACART Communications is a useful tool that measures the contrast in compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Silktide is a browser plugin that provides a dyslexia simulator and other options to show how a range of different eye conditions may have an impact on the perception of your online content.
Discussion boards are a useful way for students and staff to post ideas and feedback on assessments and topics relevant to the subject and are good at grouping discussions around specific topics and themes; however, many discussion boards are not fully accessible to screen readers. While blind and vision impaired students may be able to access the board, many tend to avoid them because they can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that is presented. Providing an alternative way for students to interact with the discussions is vital.
If students are required to post to specific topics or discussion, then providing them with direct links to the topics can help minimise some of the unnecessary navigation. Alternatively, some boards allow students to receive emails on new posts, or daily digests of new posts. This may be an opt in/out option. Some boards may also have different ways to display the information, which may be more accessible. Check with your local teaching support team to investigate whether there are options available for students to personalise how and what information is presented.
Third-party interactive tools
It is important that you inform students of the various interactive tools and elements they will need to use during their studies.
HTML5 Packages (H5P) enable the development of rich and interactive web experiences quickly and easily using pre-made content types. Many of the H5P content types have been developed to meet the web accessibility standards (WCAG 2.1 AA); however, it is important to note that in their H5P Content Types Recommendations , content can be made inaccessible as “due to mistakes done by authors, the example content (not the software) on H5P.org isn't always accessible”.
When adding H5P interactive elements to your online content, please ensure you develop them to be accessible. For example, provide captions with your videos and check that your content has sufficient colour contrast. Check with your teaching support team to making sure your H5P can be used by all students.
Polling, whiteboards and quiz tools
Polling tools (such as Mentimeter, Slido and Kahoot) and interactive whiteboards and project workspaces (such as Padlet, Miro and Lucidchart) are common features in many online environments. Note that most of these tools do not work well with screen reading software. Some vendors are working on upgrading their software to be more accessible, and it is important to check that any third-party tools you plan on using currently meet accessibility standards or can be used in an accessible way.
Check the vendor’s website for an accessibility statement or for a Voluntary Product Accessibility Statement (VPAT), which will help you determine whether the tool meets current accessibility standards.
While making their tools accessible is an ongoing commitment from many vendors, it does not mean these tools should not be used until they are fully compliant. You should limit their use or provide alternative means for students to engage with the learning.
This information has been extracted from the ADCET Guideline: Online Access for Tertiary Students who are Blind or Vision Impaired