AccessEDU Episode 4 – Jessie Male

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Episode 4 – Jessie Male

“I used to never allow computers in my classroom. Now that I’ve become integrated into disability studies. I’m ashamed of that former teacher who didn’t allow computers in her classroom. I’m embarrassed for her because that’s so important to allow that kind of technology into the space.”

In the fourth episode of AccessEDU, your host interviews an OSU English professor who is new to teaching online and has a unique (and exemplary) philosophy on access and inclusion in her classroom spaces.

Referenced in this episode:

Read a transcript of episode 4 

Accessible Teaching: Start Now

Another semester has rolled right up to your door and started knocking. You’ve thrown on a robe (whipped up a course plan) and opened the door. But every semester is a bit different and our goal here at ODEE is to make sure you’re fully dressed before the knock sounds. But before you consider yourself fully dressed, it’s time to talk about accessibility, the hat to top it all off.

Accessibility is the assurance that all students, no matter their ability, will have access to your educational materials and learning experiences. There are many things to consider when making a course accessible, and many issues are eliminated by using an accessible learning management system (Carmen). But for the remaining considerations, when should you get started?


David Gooblar writes that now is the time to think about accessibility. And I agree. We have always desired to empower people to be proactive about accessibility rather than reactive. Any preparation you can do to accommodate your diverse student body will save you time in the end and make students feel more welcome across the board. Gooblar argues that thinking about accessibility isn’t much different than thinking about how you will deliver a lecture powerpoint, notes, or give a review session before an exam. These are all accommodations you make as educators – to help students learn. Therefore, modifying assignments to make them more flexible for diverse learners, is no different than going out of your way to produce a study guide.

“We’re wrong to think of accommodations as exceptions that detract from our normal way of doing things. Accommodating students is our normal way of doing things.”

Build accessibility and UDL into your teaching, allow the possibility of a diverse student body to inform the way you plan activities. Slowly but surely, embracing the language of accessibility and inclusivity will not only make you a better educator, but will also set you up to learn the technical ins and outs to practice what you preach.

Add language to your syllabus that reflects your approach to accessibility and accommodation. Inside Higher Ed recently highlighted an OSU English professor, Jessie Male, who added the following language to her syllabus:

“I assume that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, or you might prefer to articulate ideas via email or discussion board. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them.”

Male made an effort to bring personalization and empathy to the boiler plate language we copy and paste into our syllabi. Read through our introduction to universal design for learning to plan how you will incorporate accessibility into your teaching. Begin to familiarize yourself with the language of accessibility, both in the physical world and the online environment. Gooblar’s article links to an excellent resource developed by Anne-Marie Womack called Accessible Syllabus. It gives a general overview of everything an instructor should consider about their teaching practice as it relates to accessibility. Read up, attend our accessibility workshops, and tackle every semester fully dressed.

AccessEDU Episode 2 – Matias Grioni

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Episode 2 – Matias Grioni

In the second episode of AccessEDU, your host interviews OSU student Matias Grioni about a project he created at the annual Hackathon. Find out how the creation could impact those with hearing differences.

Referenced in this episode:

Matias on stage with Cartune demo

Matias and team, on-stage at the 2016 Hackathon, explaining their demo of Cartune.

Read a transcript of Episode 2

AccessEDU Episode 1 – Jessica Phillips

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AccessEDU Episode 1 – Jessica Phillips

In this introductory episode to the exciting new AccessEDU podcast, host Megan Fogel interviews Jessica Phillips, Instructional Designer at OSU. The two discuss the state of accessibility in higher ed and reveal the story of how this podcast came to be.

Referenced in this episode:

Read a transcript of Episode 1.

Accommodation: Notation

Universities across the country are adopting a new technology to accommodate many types of students in the classroom. On a recent visit to the AccessibleNU at Northwestern University, I got a chance to see a live demonstration of this new note-taking technology that is also in use by the Office of Disability Services here at Ohio State. The Livescribe Echo Smartpen can be loaned out to students who would have previously been paired with a note-taking volunteer or classmate. The smartpen records the audio in an environment as soon as the user clicks the “record” icon on the smart notebook that corresponds with the pen. After a student has taken a few notes and the recording has ended, clicking back on a section of the notes starts the audio playback from that point.

View a demo of the Livescribe Echo Smartpen:

Specifically, note-taking becomes an accessibility issue in classes with long lectures that don’t distribute notes or slides to students, and especially for students with attention or mobility differences. As the number of these students grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to set up that peer note-taking relationship as the only form of accommodation.

As with any disability, the increased demand for improvement and universal availability creates a window for what we call “assistive technologies” to step in. These are both software and hardware that are constantly improving and range from the variety of screen reader software, braille typewriters, and adaptive mice.

The Livescribe Echo Smartpen is a hybrid of software and hardware, is relatively affordable and like many accessible technologies, could benefit all users, not just those with a disability.

Read more about assistive technology in use at Ohio State and if you have the need, request to loan out a Livescribe Smartpen.

Choosing Color for Accessibility

color palette from Coolors toolWhy we talk about color.

As we as a university acclimate to our new learning management system (LMS), Carmen Canvas, we now have the ability to alter the aesthetics of our courses, create custom content to insert, and make a variety of choices that were not possible in the old system. For some, this means adjusting the HTML code on “pages” or anywhere the Rich Content Editor is displayed. For others, it means creating videos and images to embed and display within the course. Creative use of the LMS spans all disciplines in appeal and utility: design is both a tool and an aesthetic, and we all want to convey our content in a way that is pleasing and effective. Overwhelmingly, we find that people universally want to affect the way their course looks. As we move toward more personal ability to make choices that ultimately affect the user experience, one of the key components that comes up both in terms of good design as well as universal design is color. Continue reading

5/25 Think Tank a success! Check out the recording!

Last week’s UDL and Accessibility Think Tank was a great success! Lots of great dialogue from people at OSU Columbus Campus, OSU Wooster Campus, UCAT, McKendree University, University of Illinois-Springfield, University of Phoenix, and from the group Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. We also had a participant from OSU’s Office of Disability Service, Bennet Whitaker, who was able to share some fantastic insights!

If you missed it, check out the recording above!

Next Think Tank is June 15 from 2:30 to 3:30 PM and the topic is Accessibility of Complex Images. Register to attend virtually or in person! See you there!

Online Tools and Accessibility: Not All That Glitters is Gold (Webinar Recording)

The Think Tank on March 16, 2016 was a great success! View the recording below!

Join the next Think Tank!

The next Think Tank topic will be Online Tools and Accessibility: Insights From the Professional World and will focus on what we can learn from the ways that people with disabilities use technology in their careers.

Register to join in person in Denny Digital Union Room 0063 or virtually via Carmen Connect.

Questions? Email

2016 UDL/Accessibility Think Tanks Kick-Off With New Ideas and Cross-Institutional Collaboration

3-D circle with diverse faces.2016 UDL/Think Tanks off to a powerful start!

The first UDL/Accessibility Think Tank of 2016 was a great success! We had a great group of both virtual and in-person participants from a wide range of roles. In fact, we even had several other institutions join us to take part in these important conversations. Several representatives from University of Illinois-Springfield, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and University of Phoenix attended from afar and were an invaluable addition to the group.

The group threw out their thoughts on a series of questions related to challenges they face with accessibility, questions they get from those they work with, their biggest areas of concern or confusion, etc. Upon gathering their responses and doing some analysis for patterns and themes, the following topics have been selected.

2016 UDL/Accessibility Think Tanks

  • Online Tools and Accessibility: Not All That Glitters is Gold (March)
    • There’s a new tool that would be great to use in a course, what do I need to think about?
  • Online Tools and Accessibility: Insights from the professional world Registration Open

    • What can the professional world teach us about accessible tools in our classes?
  • Accessibility and UDL: The Art of Building Buy-In
    • How do I gain buy-in around accessibility from my colleagues and leadership?
  • Accessibility and the LMS
    • What sort of accessibility considerations must be made when building in the LMS?
  • UDL/Accessibility Done Right
    • What does it look and sound like when UDL/accessibility is done right?
  • Accessibility: Working Smarter Not Harder
    • How can we make accessibility implementation easier?
  • Forming a Strategic Approach to Captioning
    • What’s an effective way to approach a plan for captioning?
  • Getting Started with Accessibility Evaluation
    • What are the best methods/tools for faculty and staff to evaluate accessibility?
  • Working the UDL Magic
    • How do I apply or coach people to apply UDL effectively?
  • Clarifying Accessibility of Complex Images
    • How do I need to approach accessibility of complex graphs, charts, or images?

Looking forward to the insightful dialogue and shared strategies to emerge from these conversations!

Email Jessica Phillips ( with any questions.

Online Tools and Accessibility: Not All That Glitters is Gold

Gold glitter

Not all that glitters is gold…

At the UDL/Accessibility Think Tank on March 16 we will be discussing what to do if you find a third-party tech tool that you want to use in your class. Often companies do not take steps to make their products accessible unless someone pushes them to do so. We’ll explore some questions and beginner level evaluations you can conduct to find if the tool you want to use is likely to cause accessibility issues. In some cases, vendors are open to working with experts to improve their accessibility, which is an ideal situation because everyone can benefit!

Join the conversation around a thought process and testing to determine a tool’s accessibility and ensure that you both know how to talk about accessibility with those who might wish to use these tools and/or use these tools in your own course.

A collaborative approach

If you haven’t attended a UDL/Accessibility Think Tank, they are an informal discussion amongst multiple groups across OSU campus and multiple institutions outside of OSU. We are all facing the same questions and uncertainty around accessibility and talking together has proven to help shed light. At these sessions you’ll hear from experts as well as those in the trenches of creating accessible student experiences.

The details…

Register for the Think Tank and join the conversation! This session will be Wednesday, March 16 from 2:30-3:30 PM. You can join in person in Denney Hall 0063 or virtually via CarmenConnect (register for virtual link info). If you have questions email