Accessibility Online and In The Classroom: Opt-In?

Accessibility in the digital world is becoming increasingly visible, especially on social media platforms. Instagram users with large followings have been including an image description in their captions, and Twitter has a feature to opt-in to create alt text for pictures. This is an incredibly important feature, and I believe rather than opting in a user should have to opt out instead. Methods of accommodation need to be built into the digital world and be intuitive to access. As these practices become more common, the Internet transforms into a more usable and accessible tool.

Image Description: This is a screenshot of the alt text option from Twitter. The top of the screen reads ‘Write alt text,” and the picture uploaded is of a black cat being held by a man. The bottom of the screen requests that the user describes the photo of the cat.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative is a digital resource centered on making the Internet more accessible for people with disabilities. THE W3C offers a free Digital Accessibility Foundations course customized to the needs of the user, such as website design, coding, or advocating for accessibility. (Digital Accessibility Foundations Free Online Course) The website within itself offers more information on what web accessibility is and different tools related to web accessibility standards. These standards are divided by different components that engage with each other: web content, user agents, and authoring tools. (Accessibility Principles)

The Web Accessibility Initiative emphasizes how accessibility on the Internet benefits everyone. The following is reinforced through the strategies shared on this website: “The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.” (Introduction to Web Accessibility )

The Web Accessibility Initiative website models the principles it advocates for. For content-heavy pages, such as “Accessibility Principles,” information is divided into clear subheadings. There are two buttons at the bottom of the menu, where the user can either go ahead and expand all sections or collapse them. This makes the website’s navigation easier, especially on a mobile device.

Image Description: This is a screenshot from the Web Accessibility Initiative website. At the bottom of the screen, the options to expand text sections or collapse them is visible.

Examples of different accessibility features are described under Tools and Techniques. Some features are more familiar than others, such as captions and audio descriptions. There are other features I had not considered before diving into this website, including easy-to-read text (summaries for passages of text) or word prediction, which I had never before recognized as an example of assistive technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed technology use in the classroom. While I was completing my clinical internship in 2020, I had to sign up for my students to use the class set of laptops about a month in advance; this same school district is now one-to-one, meaning all students are provided with a laptop. The Web Accessibility Initiative will be central to ensuring my digital classroom will be accessible to all of my students. I already have accommodations built into certain aspects of my lessons and materials, such as using captions and transcripts for videos and podcasts. The practice of proactively including academic and technological strategies for accommodation while planning a class is known as universal design. (Academic Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities) I have a similar mindset when it comes to both accessibility in the classroom and on the web: accommodation tools and technologies should not be accessed by opting-in, as they should be the default.

3 thoughts on “Accessibility Online and In The Classroom: Opt-In?”

  1. Kara, I found the Web Accessibility Initiative to be a great website, but a little hard to use due to the content heavy pages. I am glad that you were able to derive some great accessibility aspects to implement into your classroom. All classrooms at all levels saw a sudden shift to online learning two years ago and it is efforts like this that sustain positive progress for accessibility.

  2. I totally agree that Covid-19 has changed so much whenever it comes to the classroom. My student teaching semester was whenever school was happening on zoom and then back in class. I had to learn how to teach everything I wanted to do in person and learn to actually be able to teach it on a online class zoom setting.

  3. From an accessibility standpoint, this website seems like an incredible resource for helping students achieve! I cannot wait to see how this is implemented in your classroom!

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