Classroom DEI Newsletter: February 2023 Issue
Posted by the CCAPS DEI Council Faculty Subcommittee
Welcome to the CCAPS DEI Council’s first newsletter focused on small, actionable teaching tips and practices for engaging diversity or fostering inclusive and equitable learning environments. The faculty DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) subcommittee will be sending out this regular newsletter which will be divided into three parts: Explore, Do, and Connect. The goal is to invite you to explore a particular DEI topic relevant to teaching, suggest actionable items you can do, and provide opportunities to connect with others to further learning.
When the topic of accessibility comes up, we may consider wheelchair ramps or buttons at entrances of buildings to hold open doors as accommodations for physical disabilities. Similarly, digital assistive technologies are available for people with vision, auditory, or motor-skill disabilities and are broadly used as assistive learning tools for students with disabilities. There are a range of techniques instructors use to ensure digital materials meet university policies and laws. For now, web link accessibility will be explored and demonstrated with the hope CCAPS instructors will apply or review this technique in their classroom materials this month.
As providing digital instructional materials is normalized, digital accessibility techniques ensure all learners have equitable access to course materials and communications. The University of Minnesota and CCAPS embrace students with disabilities and seek to create a sense of belonging and inclusion for all students. Our community is committed to digital accessibility practices as a means to embrace the diversity of our learners. We know our instructors share these values and want to create inclusive learning environments; we seek to provide guidance in accordance with the legal precedents and university policies that require such accessibility. Read more about these policies and resources with these links:
- CCAPS Resources: ATD Tutorials: Accessibility & DEI
- University of Minnesota: Accessible U and Legal Obligations and Civil Rights Explanations
- University of Minnesota Policy: Accessibility of Information Technology
Web links are important to creating the connections that make up the world wide web and easily connect learners to relevant materials as web links allow instructors reference articles, videos or software for learning purposes. Sharing web links is just a part of how we live our lives on the internet, and the following practices help learners using screen readers to understand and access web links.
When learners use screen readers as assistive technology, a screen reader will orate text verbatim to the user. If a weblink is listed, the screen reader will dictate every letter and recognizable word of that link. An example of how this works can be heard through ATD’s tutorial: ATD, Web Links and Accessibility.
As a quick example, we’ll use the following URL that an instructor could share in an email to help connect students back to their course Canvas page.
Accessible design of course web links requires instructors to use descriptive and exact titles for weblinks. With the above example, accessible design would look like this:
This example may help to understand the technique, but for a more in-depth tutorial, review ATD’s Web Links and Accessibility Tutorial. There are instructions in the Tutorial on how you can actually add links.
- The next time you communicate through digital modes such as emails or Canvas Announcements or Inbox, change plain web links to hyperlinked text with descriptive and exact titles for any referenced web links.
- Review course Modules and materials in your Canvas courses and update web links. For the remaining weeks of the semester, create Google Documents and other digital products using the above technique to meet digital accessibility standards.
There are a few communities and learning opportunities within our university for instructors and staff to gather and make these important changes for accessibility: