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Accessibility & Accommodations

Western is committed to creating an accessible campus environment for students with disabilities. We understand that each individual may be facing unique challenges and/or circumstances during these unprecedented times. We recognize that each of these needs are unique, and a solution for one may not be a solution for others. We hope this resource provides guidance on ways to enhance accessibility in your courses.

We encourage you to consider the following:

A students’ individual physical abilities and their current environment

As we moved off-campus, students are now limited to digital access, and their assistive technologies might not play well with some of your digital formats for delivering content. Please consider:
  • Students may have limited or no access to personal aides and accommodation service providers while at home.
  • They may be trying to learn in a less-than-ideal environment with other members of their household working from home or learning remotely.

A students’ technologies and their technical knowledge

  • While at home, a student may be limited in their devices, digital tools, connection bandwidth, supportive working space as well as lack of familiarity with the new tools and formats you have chosen for adapted course delivery.

 

Course Planning

With these considerations in mind, we must pivot course planning to ensure each student is able to successfully access course content and complete course requirements. In your course planning, consider the following:

Time for planning

Give yourself extra time for course preparation. It will never be a simple as posting slides online, you may have to supplement your instructions and logistics.

Use well-established technologies

Stick to well-established technologies that have been checked for accessibility, such as Zoom and OWL. Find OWL support for Western online.

Provide multiple formats of instruction

  • Provide multiple formats of instruction.
  • Create accessible course material by integrating alternative text.
  • Consider using more than one method of assessment
  • Be flexible with the tools and format for students to submit their course work.

Be flexible

Be flexible with extended time (for accommodations), office hours (across time zones), class discussions and class presentation requirements, and consider adopting asynchronous online teaching for students.

 

Examples of Multiple Formats for Course Delivery

Always develop course content that permits the use of Adaptive Technologies.

Video

  • In your lectures, describe images and charts with greater detail (i.e., describe video as if you were speaking to someone over the phone).
  • To help mitigate issues associated with reliable bandwidth, turn off the default HD video in your Zoom settings to help.
  • Record your lectur: by recording your lecture, you will allow the opportunity for students to review on their own time and on a stable Internet connection. Additionally, a recording also allows for captioning of your lecture.

Learn more about Zoom’s accessibility tools.

Materials

Prepare your material in an accessible format. This includes providing the source files of PDF documents (e.g. docs or pptx). Ensure any embedded pictures or videos are accompanied with alternative text.

Class activities and interactions

Instead of large live group discussions, consider alternatives like discussion forums or small group discussions with report-backs. Provide flexibility for students when learning asynchronously.

Assessment

Review your course's learning objectives. Can students acquire the same knowledge with other instruction formats, and with different digital tools? Are there equivalent ways that you can use to assess them?

 

It is important to view such accessibility as beneficial for everyone, and not just one sub-group. By implementing these proactive practices, you will be able to provide inclusive content and remove barriers to your course content before they negatively affect anyone, which enables all students to access your course material regardless of a disability or condition. Accessibility & Accommodation is here to help you understand your obligations, and to offer services and resources to help you facilitate these accommodations.

If you have any questions, ask for help and reach out to Centre for Teaching and Learning at Western.

As we transition through these uncertain times, please lead with compassion and understanding. We want you and our students to feel comfortable while on campus. Be considerate for the various requests for accommodations and circumstances that may come your way. If you ever have questions, please reach out to Accessibility at Western.