By Jackie Womack
If you read the previous tips for "Making Resources Accessible
to the Disabled Student then you will remember that this is one
of the challenges facing academia. There is so much information
on this subject that I will do the best that I can to keep it to
technology use. With distance education soaring into the forefront
your use of the proper accessibility tools is important to make
your materials available to a wider audience. Online courses and
electronic resources must be designed so the experience is the same
for all. I bet you didn't know that Blackboard has an Accessibility
tutorial! Check the resources for the URL.
Windows 2000 has included new Professional Accessibility Features
to assist disabled people with the use of their computers without
additional software and hardware; you should use these features
as a way to assess your materials. Two new accessibility tools,
Narrator and On-Screen Keyboard, along with earlier introduced Magnifier,
are installed by default in Windows 2000. You will find them in
the Accessibility menu by going through Start then selecting Programs
from the menu.
On-Screen Keyboard will display a virtual keyboard that enables
people with mobility impairments to type using a pointing device
or joystick. Narrator is a text-to-speech utility used by people
who are blind or have low vision. The Narrator will read the text
from the screen. To enlarge what is being displayed on your computer
screen (text or images), the Magnifier utility will accomplish this.
PowerPoint has a plug-in that can assist in making your presentation
accessible when applied to the Web. This utility makes accessibility
easier to every type of disability group except one: the blind.
If you want to make accessibility easier for this group you should
choose a plain background, use a CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) or
create an outline in standard HTML. But watch out for pitfalls!!!
Falling into them can be time-consuming. So avoid using text boxes,
the text within the text box will not appear in the outline. This
means retyping and you don't want to do that. Avoid graphics unless
they are imperative to your presentation and if so, describe them
fully in text in the HTML outline. Embedded content will be excluded
in the outline (e.g., videos, charts, graphs, sounds, etc.). If
they are important describe them fully in text. Make sure the outline
reads logically or else reorganize your slides. Use good judgment
in formatting the outline. Additional considerations will have to
be looked at when multimedia content is included in the presentation
for the deaf, like including Captions. To empower your software
with this free download plug-in visit: http://www.rehab.uiuc.edu/ppt/install.html.
Unlike some other web creating software (we will not mention
names), Dreamweaver has accessibility extensions that can be installed.
There are two to choose from, one from Macromedia and another from
UsableNet called "Lift." UsableNet's Lift works better
and can be customized. Some schools within the university have already
purchased Lift, so check to see if your school has one. Macromedia's
accessibility extension will check the page for certain accessibility
and display its findings on-screen like Bobby. To download the extension
manager go to http://www.macromedia.com/software/
and download it. Use the program its self to create accessible templates
and library items. Just like some other web creating software, Dreamweaver
has its down side too. Avoid using layers
using layers can
cause the page to be completely out of logical order to a reader
(JAWS) and makes it impossible to use the keyboard for navigation
in Netscape 4.x. Dynamic HTML (DHTML) looks fabulous but is totally
inaccessible to the keyboard.
Having equal access to web sites and electronic resources will
broaden the learning experience, plus make the university available
to students with diverse needs. Visit the resources listed for links
to information on making resources accessible to the Disabled Student.