[Ohio-talk] College web accessibility.

Sheri Beth Wells-Jensen swellsj at bgsu.edu
Mon Apr 1 16:28:49 UTC 2013

Hi, Kaiti,

I preface my remarks with the info that I'm a university professor up in bowling Green, so my answer to you comes from the faculty perspective.

I recommend boldness: even if you don't feel confident or bold: it's the best approach.  Here's what I'd do...

Pick the course you want to take as soon as possible: get any outside help you need to make that happen.  You can come back later to have the argument about the accessibility of their catalog, but  since time is limited, focus on the summer class.

People respond best to specifics.  So, once you have picked your class, 
call the IT people and ask what applications you will have to run in order to successfully take an Online class.  Ask them, for example, if the courses ar on Blackboard, Canvas or some other course management system.
They might not give you the full list, but they will have some ideas.  Explain your situation, and ask them to forward you to the people who are the support staff for online classes.  They may or may not give you accurate information about accessibility, but it's one step you can take.

There absolutely has to be someone in the IT department who knows about the creation of accessible webpages and such.  It probably won't be the person who answers the phone though:  I've been at BGSU for 12 years, and the last time I called our IT people, I got someone on the phone who said he'd never heard of 'Screen Reader' and wanted to know what company made it ... because I should just call that company with my concerns.
It was at that point that I sweetly asked to be forwarded to someone who worked with web accessibility.  So... be patient.

I would next email the course instructor. Not all instructors use all of the software platforms in the same way. I, for example, put most of my content on my own website and use BlackBoard as little as possible.  Other instructors add skype to their online classes while some rely on conversation boards within something like Blackboard.  Getting a list specific to the course might be very useful to you.
Since this is the person who will be giving you  your grade, it's important to project a nice combinationof confidence and respect, and to be clear that your concern is about the accessibility of the software not about course content.  You might add that you're looking forward to the class very much: just checking to make sure all will be well.

Let the disability services folks know what you'll be taking and when you'll be taking it.  Let them know you have concerns about accessibility, and that you're eager for the course to go well, so you're asking these things in advance. Ask them to check out the accessibility of online classes, mentioning some of the things you've learned from your conversations with the IT people and the course instructor.  Tell them you'd just like to start that conversation now and that you'll check back with them... in... whatever time they think makes sense: a week maybe?  If they act overwhelmed, suggest that you could connect them with  the UD folks who know how to do these things.

I know some folks would tell you that all you need do is tell the disabled students office what you want and they should take care of it for you.  This is the ideal maybe, but in the case that they don't'... or that they forget something... it becomes your problem... and it becomes your problem in the middle of the class  session when you have no time to resolve it well.

Hope  this helps some.



-----Original Message-----
From: Ohio-talk [mailto:ohio-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Kaiti Shelton
Sent: Sunday, March 31, 2013 12:05 PM
To: NFB of Ohio Announcement and Discussion List
Subject: [Ohio-talk] College web accessibility.

Hi all, 


I'm writing in the hopes that someone who is more tech savvy and in the know
about web accessibility guidelines will read this and be able to provide
some feedback, although any feedback is welcome.  


Long story short, in high school I participated in a two-year teacher prep
program.  The senior year of that program involved completing a portfolio
based on the praxis domains, which would be graded for college credit and
passage of the course.  Sinclair Community College was in charge of
processing all the tech prep portfolios for southwest Ohio, including the
ones from Teacher Academy students.  Every student who passed their course
received a scholarship waver for a three credit hour course at Sinclair free
of charge.  Naturally, I want to use this waver on a summer course.  


Since I've started getting set up with Sinclair I've had a few web
accessibility issues.  The first happened when I tried to go online to
review their course catalog.  I found a pdf file which Jaws couldn't read,
so I emailed their disabilities office to let them know that the catalog was
not screenreader friendly.  I didn't hear a response back, so I called.  I
was able to get in touch with a disability councelor, who then sent me a
word version of the catalog, which ended up not having course listings in it
and being more like a brochure or student handbook.  When I told her about
the file being a misnomer she sent me instructions on how to view available
courses online.  I followed the instructions she sent me and found that the
flash interface the schedule planner uses was inaccessible.  Comboboxes were
not labeled and neither Jaws or NVDA would read them.  Apparently there is
also a huge table which shows up once you select your search criteria for
courses, and neither screenreader picked that up either.  


Although I was able to get sighted assistance to work around these issues, I
am more concerned about the accessibility of the course distribution site,
be it Blackboard or whatever other system, as the course I want to take will
be in an online format.  I am also concerned that if their school site is
this inaccessible that their IT department may not have the training to
follow web accessibility guidelines.  At UD, if something doesn't work with
jaws I can email the tech support staff and they'll make sure the issue Is
resolved, but I'm not sure if I will be able to get that kind of support
from Sinclair based on what I've seen so far.  I feel really uncomfortable
jumping into a course which may or may not be accessible, but I also feel
like to not take my scholarship would be silly and that I shouldn't be kept
from redeeming it because of correctable accessibility issues.  It is also
quite possible that I will want to take other summer courses in the future
through Sinclair since I'm already a registered student there, so if
possible I would like for these accessibility issues to be addressed but
don't really know how to proceed.    


Again, any feedback would be appreciated, and happy Easter! 


Kaiti Shelton

University of Dayton---2016

Music Therapy Major, Psychology Minor, Clarinet

Secretary, Ohio Association of Blind Students (OABS)-NFB

Member of Alpha Phi Omega-Alpha Gamma Xi Chapter



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