Saturday, June 22, 2013

Spanish Community Service Learning and Issues of Accessibility

This image shows the reader how to add alt text to images in Blogger.
This screen capture shows how to add alt-text to the images you use in Power Point.

by Ann Abbott

I chair a campus sub-committee on Information Technology and Engagement, and this past year has been a whirlwind of learning through stimulating dialogues and expert presentations. This past week, we were lucky to have Brad Hedrick, Director of DRES, give a presentation about accessibility to our committee. Here are a few of the points I took away from his presentation, simple things that you and I can do:
  • In documents, including Word, use headings so that screen readers can make sense of the information.
  • In videos, go ahead and use the automatic captioning in YouTube but always double-check it and clean it up. It never gets it 100% correct.
  • In PowerPoints (and any document with images), write the description of the image and most importantly, the meaning that you want it to convey. 
These are some simple habits we can all form ourselves. We can also instill them in our students in order to benefit an ever-growing group of people with accessibility issues. Why not simply require that all assignments that students turn in to you use headings and alt text? You'll make accesibility something that students think about, and improve their learning. For example, writing good alt text for images makes you really think about why you have included that image and the meaning you intend for it to convey. (You can't just lazily put in a pretty picture.)

In foreign-language community service learning (CSL), there are a few more issues to consider:
  • Many CSL projects include deliverables that are documents, web pages, blog posts, Power Point presentations, etc. CSL projects, especially, should be cognizant of the special needs communities and make our information accessible to them.
  • By making our information accessible in Spanish, we are breaking down another barrier: language accessibility for people who are not fluent English speakers.
  • When providing information to recent immigrant communities, some of those community members might have low literacy levels in their first language and might benefit from screen reading because of that.
Here are some more reasons to think about accessibility, from my friend and colleague, Colleen Cook: "It makes a big difference for a number of audiences- not just students that need it for accessibility reasons. It also supports learners with diverse learning styles, and it's very popular for international audiences still becoming more familiar with the English language. Not to mention the benefits when harvesting the metadata to quickly search and find terms to review. Very happy to have you on board, Ann!"

Finally, I realized that I couldn't add a picture to this blog post without creating some alt text for it. But I didn't know how to do that! I clicked around without success. I googled, "How to create alt text in Blogger" and came up with these answers:
  • Click on the picture.
  • Click on "Properties."
  • Type in the image's title text and alt text.

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