How Can Distance Learning Be Made More Accessible?

By Donna J. Jodhan

I'd like to answer the following frequently asked question: 

How can distance learning be made more accessible to blind and visually impaired people?

Many blind students today continue to face huge barriers when it comes to being able to take advantage of distance learning classes.  Many professors are often at a loss as to how to make their courses more accessible to blind and partially sighted students.  Believe it or not, there is a happy medium and I'd like to offer some suggestions.

The first thing to remember is that accessibility should be viewed through the eyes and ears of the student and not through those of the professor.  Each individual has a unique or specific need and no two students are alike.  A good start would be as follows:

1. Make sure that your student can access web content on your website independently.  That is, that the student does not have to depend on sighted assistance to navigate the website.  

2. Make sure that your forms are accessible.  That is, that the student can read it with their access technology; screen readers and screen magnifiers and they would need to ask for sighted assistance to do so. 

3. Make sure that your student can use these forms to do such things as request and search for information, and complete tasks without having to ask for sighted assistance.

4. Your student should be able to obtain information in alternate formats; braille, large print, in MSword, HTML, RTF, and TXT versions of files. 

5. Documents and files should be made available on CDs and/or flash drives.

6. Your student should be able to complete online exams without having to seek sighted assistance and they should be given additional time to do so if they require it.

7. If the student is required to write their exams at a center, the center should be equipped with the required access technology.  That is, whichever hardware the student uses along with the appropriate software. 

8.  Videos should contain adequate audio description. 

I hope that these points can help to give you a good start.  It is not as daunting as you may think.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:

(Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all)

(Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility)

(Weekly features on how to increase your success with your business ventures)


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