How to make distance learning more accessible

Hello everyone:
Each month I will be responding to a question; chosen from a pool of some of
the most commonly asked ones that I have been asked over the years and
continue to be asked.
This month, I’d like to answer the following question:
How to make distance learning more accessible

As distance learning grows in popularity, the demand for making it more
accessible is only going to grow and the one important thing to keep in mind
is this; accessibility goes hand in hand with usability and it is all about
an end to end process. So with this in mind, here are my tips for this
month.

1. Keep your registration process as simple as possible. You can do this
online or give the student the choice to be able to do it over the phone
with a staff member who has been trained to handle calls and queries from a
person with a disability and one who prefers to avoid the online process.

2. Make sure that texts are made available in any one of the following
accessible formats; accessible PDF, MS Word, HTML, TXT, RTF. The trick here
is to be able to accommodate the student’s needs based on their experience
with online processes along with their technical constraints. It is
important to keep in mind that students will be using a wide range of
technology so that one solution will not fit all problems.

3. Make sure that a student with a disability can write exams online being
able to access exams easily. Additionally, be ready to provide the student
with readily available technical support while they are writing their exam.

4. Students with a disability normally require additional time to write
their exams.

5. Professors need to be made aware of the needs and requirements of
students with disabilities so that if/when a student asks for additional
help/support, for texts and slides to be converted, professors are able to
handle requests easily and quickly.

6. Appropriate training needs to be provided to front end staff, professors,
and administrators with regard to how to handle requests from students with
a disability.

This list is by no means complete as there is much more that can be added
here but this is a good start.

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