Accessibility at UMass Boston
At UMass Boston we are committed to providing an inclusive learning community that is accessible to all students. As an instructor, it is your responsibility to ensure that all students have equal access to your coursework.
While we often think of accessibility as only pertaining to students with disabilities, providing multiple means of access can improve your course for all students. We know that students learn differently. By making your course more accessible, you are also making your coursework more dynamic for students without “traditional” disabilities. For example, by presenting a lesson as both a recorded audio file and a text file (or printed document), you’re not simply catering to visually and audibly impaired students. You’re also giving every student options, so they can choose the method which best suits their learning needs.
We’re Here to Help!
Making your coursework accessible should be a common, proactive practice, not a reactionary activity. This is often achieved by simply employing the most efficient practices to your course design.
The following guidelines will help you develop good habits in building your course materials so that all students will benefit equally.
Utilizing Clarity and Consistency in Blackboard Learn
In general, Blackboard is accessible to all students when the documents and media uploaded are themselves accessible. However, when planning the online element of your course, consider what will most benefit the student. The following is a list of best practices to help make your Blackboard Learn course intuitive and clear.
- Don’t stray too far from the template. All Blackboard courses at UMB start with a basic template. This allows for consistency from course to course, and our students are best served if they spend their time and energy learning the content of a course, not how to navigate the course itself.
- Use default settings. While personalizing layouts and using different color schemes or formatting may be fun, it can be confusing to your students. Save creativity for the content of the lesson itself!
- Make sure the programs and content you use are up to date. At UMass Boston we strive to offer our faculty and students the latest instructional and technological applications available. Visit the Software – Faculty and Staff webpage to make sure you’re using the current version of your software. *NOTE All active UMass Boston students, faculty and staff may download the newest version of Office 365 at the UMB Microsoft Office webpage.
Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)
VPATs offer in-depth analyses of the accessibility of certain elearning software. These documents can help you ensure accessibility to all your students while utilizing applications like VoiceThread, Echo 360, or Turnitin. To learn more, go to our Voluntary Product Accessibility Template webpage.
For a list of VPATs corresponding with the most commonly used software at UMass Boston, visit our VPATs For Commonly Used Tools webpage.
Universal Design for Instruction
At UMass Boston, we want our instructors to be cognizant of universal design and how it can benefit our students. A great resource for understanding this is the approach put forth at the University of Connecticut, called Universal Design for Instruction.
Broken down into nine principles, UDI can guide you in making your course more beneficial to all your students. Visit the University of Connecticut’s Nine Principles for UDI webpage for more.