Over the past year, HSLS has been overhauling its digital instructional materials to comply with the accessibility standards established in Pitt’s new EIT Policy. This focus on universal design has resulted in changes large and small, most noticeably in improvements made to instructional materials for end-users. Beyond highly evident developments like accessibly formatted class files and captioned videos, the EIT Policy has also impacted how HSLS instructors approach teaching and course design behind the scenes.
Like most of the University, HSLS classes have been hosted via Zoom since March 2020. As part of our accessibility efforts, HSLS instructors have adapted the remote environment to ensure that all virtual learners can attend and participate in HSLS classes. At your next Zoom meeting, try implementing the following practices used by HSLS instructors to create an inclusive learning environment.
- Encourage attendees to use the chat, microphone, and reaction buttons (such as “thumbs up” and “raise hand”). Participants may not be able to access and comfortably use all available features, but by offering multiple methods of engagement, you’re allowing attendees to choose how they can best interact with you and the group discussion.
- Don’t expect all participants to be able to access and use the chat. Those with visual impairments rely on a screen reader to read chat messages, which interrupts their ability to listen to the live dialogue of the class. Be sure to read content aloud from the chat before verbally addressing it. You should also email out any links and other vital information from the chat to meeting attendees.
- The whiteboard and annotation tools allow you to write and draw in real-time on your screen. However, visually impaired participants can’t read what is being written or drawn with these tools. To use these features accessibly, verbally describe everything that is being written, and if necessary, provide an alternate way for visually impaired attendees to participate in the discussion.
- Breakout rooms enable small-group discussions within larger meetings, but remember that if an attendee requires live captioning or an ASL interpreter, these accommodations should also be offered within their breakout room.
In addition to these standard practices, HSLS also offers individualized accommodations to class registrants.
To learn more about the EIT Policy and how you can implement accessibility improvements in your own work, visit the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’s page on digital accessibility. The University Center for Teaching and Learning also provides informative resources on educational equity and accessibility. Please contact the HSLS Technology Help Desk with questions regarding accommodations for HSLS classes and Falk Library’s efforts to provide accessible digital materials.