Skip header navigation

The Accessible Curriculum

Accessibility Indicators

Paul Amery 05 September 2002

Abstract

The focus of this section considers the ‘Accessible Curriculum’ and offers an overarching three stage approach, to providing the academic community with points of good practice regarding the design and delivery of academic modules of study. To accommodate this eight ‘Accessibility Indicator guide sheets’ have been created, that relate to specific areas of academia and offers points of good practice. The paper (see Appendix A) also suggests that a review and data gathering process, of how well the Accessibility Indicators have performed could be attached to an existing review mechanism; ‘Semester Module Review Report’. 

The Process (Stage 1)

It is envisaged that the eight ‘Accessibility Indicator guide sheets’, be posted to an Intranet site. The academic community will be informed, by email, at the beginning of the semester and occasionally reminded of the Intranet site. All documentation relating to:

  • Semester Module Review Report
  • Faculty Rolling Review Report
  • Proposal for a New Academic Programme
  • Proposal for a New Module
  • Major Revision of an Existing Academic Programme

could be appended to identify the URL for the location of the Accessibility Indicator guide sheets.

A single page questionnaire to be known as ‘Review of Accessibility Indicators Questionnaire’ could be attached to the ‘Semester Module Review Report’ (the existing mechanism) asking for the kind consideration of the course co-ordinator to disseminate and gather from colleagues the completed questionnaires prior to forwarding them for analysis. This would be on a semester by semester basis.

By using the ‘Semester Module Review Report’ as an existing mechanism for gathering data, and by involving all teaching staff associated with a module allows for a wider participation of accessibility awareness on a continuous basis. It is envisaged that this will significantly enrich the data collection and inform much more rapidly, areas of greater need.

Stages 2 and 3 do not form part of the above see Proposal for an Integrated Accessible Curriculum for details.

Accessibility Indicator (1)

Course Materials 

Narrative

During the last seven years the University has been evaluating and implementing a varied range of enabling technologies that sit along side mainstream technologies to assist the studying practices of students with visual and hearing impairments, dyslexic related difficulties and mobility difficulties. These technologies are now installed on over four hundred PC’s across the University allowing for student integration. None of the technologies have been allowed to become obsolete and the reviewing process of the technologies has allowed the University to boast it has the best-integrated site in Scotland if not the UK.

From an accessibility point of view, these technologies perform at their best when the materials being accessed are themselves accessible. On the whole, to create accessible materials, simple or expert knowledge, on how the technologies work is not a perquisite. However, some consideration as to the format and production of the material is required.

Whether course materials are developed for a new or an existing program of study, accessibility planning from the outset inevitably prevents the need for alteration at a later date. Creating an accessible curriculum requires a base line, a starting point. A simple base line would be: “How would a blind person access the course?” Depending on the nature of the course it is possible to extrapolate all other needs / requirements from this basic starting point.

By and large the majority of course materials fall into three categories:

  1. Course materials (the deliverable course, lecture notes, handouts etc.)
  2. Instructional material (for practical laboratory and reporting sessions or an IT element, where specific or general software packages are to be used as a requirement)
  3. Departmental documentation (course information reading lists and so on).

The remainder of this guide sheet will implicitly assume that all materials in the developmental stage will also be used for the virtual learning environment.

1.1 Indicators: Course Material

To ensure accessibility and continuity across the institution, all course materials are generated (where possible) using a collection of common tools give the best results. The University recognises and supports MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint *, these are among the most common tools, which sit along side some specialised others: SPSS, Mini-Tab etc.

  1. Materials prepared using such common tools can be considered as fully accessible and where possible these tools should be considered as the preferred option.
  2. Where part of the course consists of journals, or other articles, and no electronic format is available (word-processed, web-based or pdf file/s etc.) consideration should be given to creating an electronic copy** , copyright rules permitting. Some publishers allow for in-house formatting for accessibility purposes. If the material forms part of the course but not the internal infrastructure of the course, i.e. not lecture notes, departmental hand outs and so on, then funding for altering the material may be available.
  3. If tables are required within a text document use the Table function in Word to format a table rather than using the Tab key to align columns of text / figures.
  4. If graphical images form part of the course, typed descriptions (depending on the number required) may provide the “accessible answer”. The Library houses a tac-tiling machine, capable of creating raised diagrams of image based material. Ruth Simpson, situated in the library, can be contacted regarding the production of raised images. Good practice regarding images would be (1) Provide a type description and or (2) Ensure that the images can be converted to raised-diagram by contacting Ruth Simpson. It is envisaged that from August 2003 the University will house a “Tiger Embosser” capable of replicating printed images in to Graphical-Braille. This device will have a significant impact for blind students wishing to study: Psychology, Math, Computing Science, Biology and Environmental Science. This embosser will be student operated.
  5. Where video footage or clips form part of the curriculum contact Paul Amery for advice on adaptation. The University currently alters approximately thirty video films a year.

1.2 Indicators: Instructional Material (For IT or Laboratory Based Practical Sessions)

As with course materials, instructional materials are best prepared using Word as the editor. In some cases departments often want to insert screen dumps depicting how a screen should look after a number of steps have been accomplished. Good practice regarding the use of screen dumps should be:

They are only used to reinforce the completion of an action rather than to form part of the instruction itself.

Instructional material should offer explicitness in design through to the production processes. Explicitness is to mean that full instruction is given along side a simple method. Example, in a computer class, to open Internet Explorer the simple instruction will resemble something like the following:

  • Double click the explorer shortcut on the desktop.

The explicit instruction for the above may resemble:

  • Click Start, select and click Programs or press P, select and click Applications, select and click Internet Explorer (keyboard shortcuts should always be included)

When producing instructional material the creator will be able to follow their actions from the on-screen activity and document the necessary key presses or mouse clicks required.

Practical Sessions will be discussed in more detail further on “Accessibility Indicator (5)”

1.3 Indicators: Departmental Material

Materials falling into this category should follow the guidance as above, and be firmly embedded into departmental web pages or the departmental virtual learning environment (WebCT) as HTML, RTF, PDF, XLS and DOC files. All of these extensions are accessible via the University’s enabling technologies.

Notes

The points mentioned so far have been in general terms, they can be applied to the majority of all text and image based materials being produced by academic and administrative departments. Having applied all that can be, will identify the deficits. It is these deficits that can be examined and discussed in detail with the support services, with a view of finding the most appropriate solution. In the first instance any identified deficits can be directed to Paul Amery (Special IT Needs Advisor) Information Services.

Accessibility Indicator (2)

The Accessible Lecture (Guide)

Narrative 1 (Lecture Theatres)

From an accessibility point of view all lecture theatres now have three assistive technology systems built in:

  1. Infra red broadcasters; students with hearing and visual impairments and students with low hand dexterity are provided with miniature infrared receivers.
  2. Wheelchair stations have been installed and fitted with audio feed sockets for recording purposes.
  3. The public announcement (P.A) system within the lecture theatres creates an ambient sound that is detected by sensitive microphones supplied to students.

All of the devices mentioned so far are dependent on the lecturer/speaker wearing the radio microphone.

Narrative 2 (Lecturing Materials)

Lecturing materials, notes and handouts that are electronically prepared (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) in English or other modern languages can be easily accessed by Speech and Screen Magnification systems and Screen and Intranet readers once posted on the Intranet. Graphic or diagrammatic based material prepared electronically (Equation-Editor and so on) can also be accessed by Speech and Screen Magnification systems. All PC labs have the appropriate technologies installed.

If possible prepare lecturing materials in electronic formats.

Indicators

  1. Face the audience when speaking (students with a profound hearing loss will position themselves so you are in their ultimate line of view).
  2. Present verbally (where feasible to do so) electronically based materials, even if printed on acetate for the OHP
  3. Present verbally hand-written material (ensures the audio recording for visually impaired students) and describe the mapping/s of any diagrams
  4. Announce where lecture and other materials can be found on the Internet or departmental Intranet site.

1.4 Notes

If a master document is only available in a printed format (no electronic copy), a laptop and scanner with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software can be made available to departments so that an electronic copy can be produced.

To book the laptop and scanner please email Paul Amery or Darren Matheson stating the language of the material to be scanned (English, French, Spanish, German or multi-lingual).

Accessibility Indicator (3)

The Accessible Tutorial / Seminar (Guide)

Narrative

As mentioned in the “The Accessible Lecture (Guide)”, students with disabilities may require the use of recording devices or other recording / communicating methods within the tutorial environment to aid their studies.

In the main the probable barrier within the tutorial environment will be the physical layout of the teaching / tutorial room. For example: where a teaching room is set out in a school room appearance (desks in columns and rows) some students, depending where they sit, may not hear or see who is speaking and be unaware that some points may have been missed.

A preferred room layout, is where the desks are positioned in a square or horseshoe configuration and the students sit around the perimeter. If possible tutors should position themselves so their back is to the white board.

Some students may require time to “personalise” tutorial questions / material prior to a tutorial taking place. To reduce the burden of academic workload for teaching staff, instructional material posted to a department Intranet site allows students to produce their own formats. For example, Braille, large print, colour manipulated, or even audio-recorded, are just some possibilities other than traditional handouts consisting of black print on white paper. This is not to suggest that tutorial questions and subsequent solution handouts are no longer required.

Indicators

  1. Spend a moment or two with the help of some students to arrange desks into a square or horseshoe configuration.
  2. Ask all students to write their names on a piece of paper and place it upright in front of them.
  3. If asked to wear a radio microphone please do so. Some students with hearing impairments carry their own equipment.
  4. Tutorial Questions and Responses

    4.1 If you expect any student to respond to a question, it is good practice to state this, for example: “Can anyone give me an answer to question four?” Look directly at the student who is offering a response and address them by name.

    4.2 If directing a specific question to a student look directly at them and address them by name.

    4.3 Consider the volume of a student’s response! If on the low side ask the student to repeat the response or repeat it yourself.

    (Your line of sight, when addressing a student, provides a directional cue that will be followed by students with hearing impairments. In addition, addressing students by name allows visually impaired students to know to whom the questions are being directed, including themselves.)

  5. When presenting materials using the white board, OHP or other projection devices face the group when talking and describe aloud any depictions of diagrammatical mapping/s and workings of a given problem that forms a solution/s.

    (While some students might take notes, verbally expressing all presented materials will allow for the audio or other recording devices to take place for students with visual or hearing impairments.)

  6. Announce where lecture and other materials can be found on the Internet or departmental Intranet site.

Accessibility Indicator (4)

The Accessible Written Language and Spoken Language Class (Guide)

1.5 Narrative

It is fully recognised that for the Written Language Classes and the materials used, students are issued with a structured work pack identifying weekly assignments. While the Spoken Language Classes have a different format, similarities between the two structures can be partially identified. For this reason it is hoped that the information and indicators below can be applied where appropriate to both structures.

As with the “Accessible Lecture (Guide)” students with disabilities may require to use recording devices or other recording / communicating methods within the language class environment to aid their studies.

Some spoken language classes may want to consider and discuss contemporary issues, articles that are making the top news headlines on TV, in newspapers and or magazines. While wholly appropriate this can lead to difficulties and sometimes exclusion of participation for blind students depending how close to the language class the articles are handed out.

When French, Spanish, German or Japanese news stories / topics are to form part of the spoken language class, consider where the editorial can be found on line and announce / send the URL either by email to particular students or via the lectures or both. A URL announced at today’s lecture can be Brailled in time for Tomorrow’s spoken language class. In some cases it may be more appropriate to download the article and mail it to particular student/s.

Commonly used materials that form part or all of a structured timetable of either written or spoken language classes should be considered to have a prominent place on the departmental Intranet site allowing students access at all times.

Indicators

  1. As with the “Tutorial Guide” the physical layout of the room may create possible barriers. Spend a moment or two with the help of some students to arrange desks into a square or horseshoe configuration.
  2. Ask all students to write their names on a piece of paper and place it upright in front of them.
  3. If asked to wear a radio microphone please do so. Some students with hearing impairments carry their own equipment.
  4. Questions and Responses

    4.1 If you expect any student to respond to a question, it is good practice to state this, for example: “Can anyone give me an answer to question four?” Look directly at the student who is offering a response and address them by name. 

    4.2 If directing a specific question to a student look directly at them and address them by name.

    4.3 Consider the volume of a student’s response! If on the low side ask the student to repeat the response or repeat it yourself.

    (Your line of sight, when addressing a student, provides a directional cue that will be followed by student/s with hearing impairments. In addition addressing students by name allows visually impaired students to know whom the questions are being directed, including themselves.)

  5. When using the white board, OHP etc. read aloud anything you write. Again if there is a particular spelling issue being discussed, spell the word/s out aloud. While most of the class will see the spellings a visual impaired student will rely on their audio or other recording device.
  6. Announce where materials can be found on the Internet or departmental Intranet site.

Accessibility Indicator (5)

Laboratory, Practical and Report Writing Sessions (Guide)

Narrative

During practical laboratory and report writing sessions some attention may be required to the psychical fixtures and fittings of laboratories or teaching rooms. The traditional style stomach high worktop containing standard laboratory fittings can create a psychical barrier for some students. Depending on the size of the laboratory, it is worth considering replacing n meters of benching with an adjustable solution containing the same apparatus. Where lab and report writing sessions are held in a teaching room, thought should be given to the removal of a standard desk in favour of an adjustable one.

As a short term measure an adjustable table could be made available (depending on demand) from Information Services, contact Paul Amery.

Some students may require time to “personalise” instructional material prior to a practical session taking place. To reduce the burden of academic workload for teaching staff, instructional material posted to a department Intranet site allows students to produce their own formats. For example, Braille, large print, colour manipulated or even audio-recorded are just some possibilities other than traditional handouts consisting of black print on white paper. This is not to suggest that handouts are no longer required.

For what ever reason some students may require to make notes or audio recordings of their lab session findings, and appropriately ask to hand in the report element within an agreed time limit. Such requests should be considered as a reasonable adjustment from the mainstream structure and facilitated. In such cases the support services (Darren Matheson, Catriona Mowat) can be contacted for confirmation of need.

Indicators

  1. Ask all students to write their names on a piece of paper and place it upright in front of them.
  2. If asked to wear a radio microphone please do so. Some students with hearing impairments carry their own equipment.
  3. Questions and Responses

    3.1 If you expect any student to respond to a question, it is good practice to state this, for example: “Can anyone give me an answer to question four?” Look directly at the student who is offering a response and address them by name.

    3.2 If directing a specific question to a student look directly at them and address them by name.

    3.3 Consider the volume of a student’s response! If on the low side ask the student to repeat the response or repeat it yourself.

    (Your line of sight, when addressing a student, provides a directional cue that will be followed by student/s with hearing impairments. In addition, addressing students by name allows visually impaired students to know to whom the questions are being directed, including themselves.)

  4. When presenting materials using the white board, OHP or other projection devices face the group when talking and describe aloud any depictions of diagrammatical mapping/s and workings of a given problem that forms a solution/s. 
    (While some students might take notes, verbally expressing all presented materials will allow for the audio or other recording devices to take place for students with visual or hearing impairments.)
  5. Announce where materials can be found on the Internet or departmental Intranet site.

Accessibility Indicator (6)

The Accessible I.T Practical Session (Guide)

Narrative

All centrally maintained computer labs have at least one adjustable workstation. In addition all the machines, approximately 450, have a full complement of enabling technologies installed. These technologies range from additional proofing tools that interact with the MS Office Suite of products, too screen magnification and screen reading systems, including web and PDF file reading.

As mentioned in “Accessible Course Materials (Guide)” Instructional Material for computer classes requires to be explicit in its design and appearance. Explicitness ensures that participation for a screen-reader user (low vision to blind) is achievable. In addition some students, with varying levels of need, may require time to “personalise” instructional material prior to a practical session taking place. To reduce the burden of academic workload for teaching staff, instructional material posted to a department Intranet site allows students to produce their own formats. For example, Braille, large print, colour manipulated or even audio-recorded are just some possibilities other than traditional handouts consisting of black print on white paper. This is not to suggest that handouts are no longer required.

In a case where a blind student is part of a larger group, it may be necessary for them to use two machines. The first to read instructional material either from an Intranet site or other location (a Word file in the students home directory) and the second to carry out the instructions. The use of two machines will largely depend on the students Braille reading capabilities.

Some courses may require their students to prepare graphical images, in such cases tutor assistance may be required for simple corrections to be made. An alternative method, through discussion with the student, would be an extension for the submission of work that requires the production of graphical images. Visually impaired students can arrange with the library to have graphical images converted into raised diagrams in order to check any results themselves, this process depending on how busy library staff are can take up to a week. (For safety reasons visually impaired students are not allowed to use the tac-tiling equipment.)

It is envisaged that from August 2003 the University will house a “Tiger Embosser, which produces Graphical-Braille” this will allow visually impaired students to quickly check their own work.

While this guide sheet has mainly highlighted visual issues, there will be on occasion students who experience slow or poor dexterity and are unable to complete a practical within the given time frame. It would be a reasonable adjustment to extend assignment dates if requested. The support services (Darren Matheson or Catriona Mowat) can be contacted to confirm additional need.

Indicators

  1. Where it is known that a visually impaired student or a student with poor dexterity is undertaking a practical IT class, it is advisable to have an additional tutor on hand.
  2. If asked to wear a radio microphone please do so. Some students with hearing impairments carry their own equipment.
  3. When presenting materials using the white board, OHP or other projection devices face the group (if possible) when talking and describe aloud any depictions of diagrammatical mapping/s and workings of a given problem that forms a solution/s. (While some students might take notes, verbally expressing all presented materials will allow for the audio or other recording devices to take place for students with visual or hearing impairments.)
  4. Announce where instructional or other materials can be found on the Internet or departmental Intranet site.

Accessibility Indicator (7)

The Accessible Class Test / Examinations (Guide)

Narrative

Students with disabilities entering the University, among other things, undertake an I.T Assessment. The assessment is geared to ensure that the correct technologies are matched, as well as they can be, to the need/s of the student and the requirements of their chosen program of academic study. It is from the assessment processes in conjunction with medical documentation that recommendations are forwarded to the Chair of the Additional Academic Arrangements Panel (AAAP). 

Approved arrangements are then put in to place for the autumn and spring diets of examinations. There is however, on occasions, necessity to apply the approved arrangements for a given student to a mid-semester class test. It is very rare for approved arrangements to be applied to an assigned piece of work. In the main it is mostly students with visual impairments, sever dyslexia or those with slow or poor dexterity that require class test arrangements. 

n some cases, especially with first year students the class test occurs prior to any formal AAAP arrangements being approved. If the student has supporting medical documentation then a reasonable adjustment would be to allow a recognised AAAP arrangement to be applied for a class test. This being the case the student should be directed as soon as possible to Paul Amery or Darren Matheson who will advise the department of any arrangements and inform the Chair of the AAAP. Paul Amery is a recognised advisor of examination arrangements to the AAAP.

For the majority of cases class tests and examinations, papers are required on disk. For the main diets the request for disks are made by the Registry, “University’s Chief Examinations Officer”. For class tests Paul Amery or Darren Matheson will request the papers directly from the department. Examination papers provided on disk occasionally require altering to ensure accessibility is achievable, as part of the paper may need to be converted to a raised image, pie chart or other type graph and so on. Any alterations made to an examination paper need to be approved by the department prior the class test / examination taking place, and therefore it is essential that papers are available at least a week before any class test. It is advisable to speak with Paul Amery prior to preparing a class test paper. 

The department provides Invigilators for class tests, whereas the Registry provides Invigilators for the main diets of examinations.

Indicators

  1. Inform Darren Matheson of the dates when class tests are to be held and provide the names of students.
  2. Speak to Paul Amery or Darren Matheson regarding the layout and content of the paper, preferably before creating a final draft.
  3. Provide a copy of the paper a week before the class test. This allows for accessibility testing.
  4. Liaise with Paul Amery or Darren Matheson regarding the venue.
  5. Inform Paul Amery or Darren Matheson of the Invigilation arrangements.

Accessibility Indicator (8)

The Accessible Internet / Intranet (Guide)

Narrative

This guide sheet assumes that all materials that can be posted to WebCT or department Internet / Intranet sites have been generated using one or more of the common tools as described in “Accessible Course Material (Guide)”

So far, all the Accessibility Indicators have made reference to departmental Internet and Intranet sites. Generally speaking departmental Internet / Intranet sites can allow for equality to exist within the student body while at the same time can prevent additional workload for the academic community. Where, in the past, a request for lecture notes has been made, this has clearly identified individuals and in a sense can create a possible dependency factor. Viewing this from the academic side can be seen as an additional academic burden especially if different coloured paper is the recommended request. The scenario given has been known to cause animosity and considered atypical for H.E. Example points taken from the legislative framework now governing H.E clearly identifies that handing out lecture and other materials to those who require it is a reasonable adjustment and should be facilitated. 

Any academic, instructional or administrative material posted to a departmental Internet / Intranet site will resolve any need of identification of student, and place a lesser burden on teaching staff. The enabling technologies within the University will allow students to view, Braille, change the colour of, have read aloud and magnify the bulk of materials posted to such sites. It is then the responsibility of the student to access and manipulate the materials as required, thus removing any dependency factor that may have previously existed. 

It is suggested that course materials could form part of WebCT thus providing a consistent interface and access while also giving a manageable course environment. Simon Booth is the University’s WebCT Administrator and can be contacted on 7247 or emailed. Alternatively, and in the absence of WebCT, a departmental Intranet site (private to the University) rather than the Internet (there for the rest of the World to see) using a named module-folder and sub-folder structure would suffice.

Materials posted to WebCT or a departmental Intranet site, that have been generated using one or more of the common tools as identified in “Accessible Course Material (Guide)” do not require any additional or special formatting. They can, if you so wish, be converted to PDF files, however, normal Word, PowerPoint or Excel files can be posted as they are.

Wherever materials are to be found, whether WebCT is used or a departmental Intranet site, a link to them on the departmental home page will allow for easier access.

Indicators

1. Consider posting all course, instructional and administrative materials to WebCT or a departmental Intranet site.
2. Announce in lectures when and where the materials can be found (URL address)

Accessibility Indicator (9)

Institutional Cross-Curricular Audio Recording Policy

Narrative

As part of its ‘Anticipatory Duty’, the University has begun to refurbish the microphone, PA, listening post and infrared systems within the ten main lecture theatres. These new systems will provide continuous audio signals to the listening posts and infrared broadcasters, without the lecturer / speaker needing to wear a radio microphone. For the ten main lecture theatres, students who require to audio record may be provided with special infrared receivers that feed directly into their audio recording equipment or plug directly into any one of the listening posts. For lectures that take place within ‘Teaching Rooms’ students who require to audio record may also be supplied with miniature infrared transmitters.

Appendix B, a background paper for an Institutional Cross-Curricular Audio Recording Policy can be found: http://intranet.stir.ac.uk/Quality/unit_review/index.htm

Indicators

When in a teaching room, if asked to wear a miniature infrared transmitter (equal in size to a radio microphone) please do so. There is no need to wear more than one transmitter, all receivers operate on the same frequency.

The University has no objection to audio-recording by students of lectures, tutorials, seminars, practical sessions and workshops delivered by members of its academic or external staff provided that:

  • the recording is done in an unobtrusive manner which does not inconvenience the lecturer or fellow students (e.g. a tape or mini disk of sufficient length should be used);
  • the recording is used only for the purposes of private study by students of this University; copyright of internal lecture material remains with the University and it is a disciplinary offence to use it for any other purpose.

It is the responsibility of the relevant staff in academic departments to ensure that visiting speakers are informed of this policy.

Notes:

Visiting Lecturers / Speakers

Code of Practice 8.7B States:

A visiting lecturer provides a series of lectures at a university. He is not given any instructions about the reasonable adjustments that need to be made for disabled people on the course. The lecturer fails to make adjustments for these students and some students are substantially disadvantaged as a result. The responsible body is likely to have been acting unlawfully by failing to ensure its agent, the visiting lecturer, made reasonable adjustments. (The lecturer may also be liable for aiding an unlawful act - see 8.8 below.)

Students

The terms of this Regulation for part of the contract between the University and its students. Students assent to it on registration.

Notes

* When creating PowerPoint slide presentations, please avoid creating text-boxes when in the slide is on display mode. text-boxes created in this way are not formerly labelled and are therefore not detectable by screen readers. Screen readers can access most slides, minus graphics, that are designed using the Auto-Layout wizard.

** Laptop, scanner and OCR software can be made available to departments for reformatting purposes. Contact Paul Amery (ext. 6618) for details.

Scroll back to the top