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Accessible Digital Teaching

Tips for Teaching Staff

Even in times without a corona pandemic, digital teaching is generally a valuable format for diverse, inclusive teaching. Particularly students with special needs can benefit from digital teaching. However, it also poses certain challenges for this target group, which is why we ask you, as teachers, to continue to ensure the accessibility of digital teaching even in this particular situation, despite the potentially high level of stress that you all might experience now. In the following, we are particularly concerned with accessibility for students with hearing or visual impairments, but also, for example, for students with limited mobility (especially with regards to taking notes), impairments due to ADHD, dyslexia, mental illness, or impairments due to medication.

Keep in mind: Measures you take to increase the accessibility of digital teaching will benefit all students, who have to adapt to new teaching and learning formats during the corona pandemic!

General Measures

  1. At the beginning of a course, ask your students about any special needs. Refer to the advice and counseling services offered by KIS and kivi.
  2. Be very specific when defining work instructions and course requirements. It is also important that you give your students the possibility to ask questions about your course and materials. Respond to questions and requests from students sympathetically and with understanding.
  3. For students who have difficulties with self-structuring, it is important that you explain the course structure, the scheduling, and logical processes in detail.
  4. It is often helpful if you set a time frame for tasks: How much time should be spent on this particular task (based upon CPs)? With various impairments, students lose sight of the big picture and sometimes cannot see that an assignment was intended as a “small” task. Thus, a weighting of an assignment should be provided.
  5. Texts that are scanned must be readable and should be checked for legibility. Since scanned texts cannot be read with screen readers (unless the scanner supports text recognition), they are not barrier-free. It is, thus, important to avoid using scans, since even if text recognition is supported, you will need to add tags for images.
  6. If you teach courses with web conferences and other attendance formats, it is important to offer alternatives of participation and fulfilling course requirements (such as watching recorded sessions). This is also important because students have different technical equipment.
  7. For students with impairments, it can be challenging to sit in front of the computer for 60 minutes at a time. Generally, several small teaching units have proven to be more suitable.

Accessible Digital Lectures and Seminars

  1. When recording lectures, make sure that your sound and picture quality is very good and that there is no background interference.
  2. Apply the principle of communication via two sensory input channels, such as seeing AND hearing: Information that is seen should also be heard and vice versa.
  3. Many students cannot listen and take notes at the same time and depend on you also providing a written outline (such as transcripts, lecture notes, a transcription of blackboard notes developed in class, or similar) in due time, in addition to the recorded lectures.
  4. Leave the digital content (recorded lectures and scripts/notes) uploaded at least until the final examination and re-examination.
  5. You can synchronize lecture recordings with all your presentation and accompanying materials. During the recording, make sure to explain pictorial representations in the slides and speak clearly (mlecture.uni-bremen.de/ml/). Add subtitles or audio description to your videos (bik-fuer-alle.de/leitfaden-barrierefreie-online-videos.html).
  6. Record your online presentation in the studio (even partially and only if the situation allows it) and edit your materials so that they are barrier-free (egs.zmml.uni-bremen.de and e-lecture.uni-bremen.de) (in German).
  7. In principle, the learning platform Stud.IP allows you to make all course information and materials such as lecture slides, course scripts, literature lists, etc. available to your students. Modify the documents according to the instructions for creating accessible documents.
  8. Teaching staff have no influence on the accessibility of the learning platform Stud.IP. Offer students with an impairment, who have difficulties with Stud.IP and therefore with submitting their assignments, to submit their work via other means (e.g. Seafile, email, or similar).
  9. You can find tips and further information on how to design barrier-free digital courses on the following page: www.e-teaching.org/didaktik/konzeption/barrierefreiheit (in German only).

Accessible Documents

PDF files are frequently used in day-to-day studies. For people with visual impairments or dyslexia, such files can only be read with the help of so-called screen readers, which convert textual information into verbal information. If PDF documents are not created barrier-free, the screen reader often cannot convey the files in a way that is understandable.

The charitable organization Aktion Mensch has dealt with the topic of creating accessible PDF files and created a short introduction to the topic and a checklist. It gives examples of typical types of PDF files and how they can be made accessible to a wide range of user groups. The checklist can be downloaded at the following link: www.einfach-fuer-alle.de/artikel/checkliste-barrierefreie-pdf/ (in German).

First Tips for Creating Accessible PDF Documents:

  1. Clearly structure documents so that screen readers can interpret them properly. This includes the consistent use of style sheets, especially for the assignment and hierarchical structure of headings, but also for (bulleted) lists, footnotes, tables, etc. (so-called “tags”).
  2. It is recommended that you structure documents in a linear way and add page breaks instead of successive blank lines. This ensures that the end of a chapter/section is clearly recognizable.
  3. In texts, you want to activate the “wrap text” function as “in line with text”. This adapts the arrangement of text blocks in accordance with the zoom level so that the text always remains completely visible on screen regardless of the zoom setting.
  4. Use descriptive internal and external hyperlinks and make sure they are active and lead to the proper page.
  5. Do not use any colored backgrounds or text highlights.
  6. Do not use any self-drawn tables. They are not recognized by screen readers.
  7. Add descriptive alternative text to images or charts.

In order to produce barrier-free PDF documents, the TU Dresden provides easy-to-understand instructions (in German) that explain in detail which steps are necessary to convert a Word or PowerPoint document to a perfect PDF file.

Instructions for converting a Word document to an accessible PDF document: https://elvis.inf.tu-dresden.de/dokumente/upload/737e1_anleitungword_2013.pdf?menuid=44.

Instructions for converting a PowerPoint to an accessible PDF document: https://elvis.inf.tu-dresden.de/dokumente/upload/01473_anleitungpowerpoint_2013.pdf?menuid=45.

Accessible PowerPoint Presentations

All students can benefit from the use of suitable PowerPoint presentations. They visualize the course topics and facilitate a better understanding of the lectures or seminars. For students with a hearing impairment, it is especially important to be able to use this visual aspect during lectures. However, students with visual impairments can also benefit from PowerPoint presentations, provided that they are made available beforehand. This enables the students to prepare themselves for the class with the help of the appropriate software.

First Tips for Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations:

  1. Use outlines and headings on each slide.
  2. Use a plain font and high contrast for emphasis.
  3. Avoid the color combination red-green.
  4. Include no more than three to four statements on one slide.
  5. Add descriptive alternative text to chart/images/quotes.