Replication Materials: Resources for Offering Accessible Online Informal Learning
The Access to Informal Science Learning (AccessISL) project has developed resources for making informal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities more welcoming and accessible to everyone, especially individuals with disabilities. Through the project, ISL programs and academic departments nationwide participated in training, consultation, community building, and activity and resource development. AccessISL provided internship opportunities for postsecondary students to enhance their learning about accessible ISL, promote building accessibility content into academic departments, and engage in activities to make ISL offerings more welcome and inclusive for everyone. AccessISL is co-led by the DO-IT Center (where DO-IT stands for Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) and the Museology academic department at the University of Washington.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, AccessISL activities that were designed to be on-site needed to be converted online. This publication shares resources to help ensure the accessible design of technology, videos, documents, websites, presentations and meetings, online courses, and other aspects of programs. More resources on these topics can be found on the DO-IT Center website, including in the AccessISL Knowledge Base, which links to resources developed by other informal learning programs and relevant organizations.
Access to Technology for People with Disabilities
People with disabilities access online resources using many mainstream and assistive technologies. Individuals who are blind use screen readers to read aloud text presented on the screen; some students with learning disabilities use text-to-speech technology so that they can see the text and hear it spoken at the same time. For both of these types of technology, web developers need to make sure that content is available in a text-based format and employ other accessibility practices as well. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing require that audio content be captioned or transcribed. For information about how people with disabilities use computers, consult these resources:
- Video: Our Technology for Equal Access
- Video: Using a Screen Reader
- Knowledge Base: How can people who have low vision operate a computer?
- Knowledge Base: How can people who are blind operate computers?
- Knowledge Base: How can people with mobility impairments operate computers?
- Video: Captions: Improving Access to Postsecondary Education
- Knowledge Base: Are there standards or guidelines for providing captions?
- Knowledge Base: Are there standards or guidelines for providing audio description?
- Knowledge Base: NAD: A Promising Practice in Streaming Captioned Educational Video
Videos can be designed so that all individuals can access their content. Accurate captions on a video make it accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, English language learners, those who are in quiet or noisy environments, individuals who wish to know the spelling of words, and others. Consult the following resources for more details about how to create an accessible video:
- Knowledge Base: How can people who are deaf access video and multimedia products?
- Web page: Creating Accessible Videos
- Video: Making Videos Accessible
Accessibility guidelines can be followed to ensure that online documents are accessible to everyone, including individuals who are blind, are deaf or hard of hearing, or have learning or other disabilities; some use assistive technology described above. For more information about creating accessible documents, visit these resources:
- Web page: Creating Accessible Documents
- Video: Creating Accessible Documents
- Knowledge Base: Alt-Text as Poetry: A Promising Practice in Reimagining Alt-Text
- Knowledge Base: Can the information contained in graphs, charts, drawings, and three-dimensional models be made accessible to students with disabilities?
Include a statement on your website affirming your commitment to accessible design. For example, you could include the following statement: “We strive to make our website accessible to everyone. We provide text descriptions of graphics, images, and photos. Video clips are open-captioned and audio-described. Suggestions for increasing the accessibility of these pages are welcome.” For more information about developing a website that is accessible to everyone, visit these resources:
- Web page: Developing Accessible Websites
- Document: 30 Web Accessibility Tips
- Video: IT Accessibility: What Web Developers Have to Say
- Website: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Knowledge Base: Are there any web-based tutorials on web accessibility?
- Knowledge Base: How can educational entities determine if their websites are accessible?
- Knowledge Base: How can I test my website for accessibility?
- Knowledge Base: How can non-technical administrators ensure that the websites their employees create and maintain are accessible to people with disabilities?
Presentations and Meetings
Online presentations and meetings can be made accessible to people with disabilities by speaking aloud content presented in visuals, using large san serif fonts and plain backgrounds, ensuring that relevant handouts are designed to be accessible, and employing other practices discussed in the following resources:
- Web page: Accessibility and Universal Design of Online Meetings
- Web page: Tips for Delivering an Accessible Presentation
- Knowledge Base: How can I ensure that a student who is deaf can access the content in my podcasts?
Many informal learning programs offer online instruction. Many resources are available to help ensure that these courses are accessible to students with disabilities and everyone else. The resources below provide a good place to start learning to design accessible courses.
- Video: Quality Education Is Accessible
- Video: 20 Tips for Instructors about Making Online Learning Courses Accessible
- Document: 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course
- Document: Equal Access: Universal Design of Distance Learning Programs
- Knowledge Base: Are some fonts more accessible than others?
- Knowledge Base: How can computing courses be made more accessible to students with specific learning disabilities?
Other Aspects of AccessISL Programs
Besides ensuring digital resources and activities offered, address the following questions to ensure what you are offering is welcoming and accessible to individuals with disabilities:
- Do pictures in your publications and website include people with diverse characteristics, including those with respect to disability?
- On your website and in promotional materials, do you include a statement about your commitment to access and procedures for requesting disability-related accommodations? For example, you could include the following statement: “Our goal is to make materials and activities accessible to all participants. Please inform [insert email contact] of accessibility barriers you encounter and request accommodations that will make activities and information resources accessible to you.”
For more information about making an ISL program more inclusive, consult these resources:
- Equal Access: Universal Design of Informal Learning.
- Knowledge Base: Are there Hour of Code activities that are accessible to students with visual impairments?
Learn From Other Informal Learning Programs
Many informal learning programs have addressed accessibility issues and shared the lessons they have learned, including those related to making online offerings accessible. Check out the experiences and recommendations from more than twenty organizations on the AccessISL Resources page.
Send to email@example.com to recommend other resources to include on this list.
Online Community of Practice
Staff and administrators of informal education programs, educators, students, individuals with disabilities, and other stakeholders discuss strategies and share resources for promoting accessible and inclusive ISL. Learn about this group and how to join at AccessISL Community of Practice.
Impact of Our Work
AccessISL brings together four groups of people—those who offer ISL programs, those who train future ISL professionals, those who specialize in access issues for individuals with disabilities, and people with disabilities—to work toward a worthy goal: More inclusive ISL programs in our communities. Project outcomes benefit society by making informal learning opportunities available to more citizens and enhancing academic and career fields with the talents and perspectives of people with disabilities. This publication points to resources you can find on the AccessISL website, including its Resources page and Knowledge Base. Access this website to access a comprehensive collection of resources and recommend more by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AccessISL is funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant number DRL-1906147) at the University of Washington. The content of this brochure does not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume their endorsement.