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Accessibility and OER for Graduate Center Open Knowledge Fellows

Accessibility Logo by Christy Blew of The University of Illinois for EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent GroupThe worldwide OER movement is rooted in the belief that it is a human right to have access to high-quality education. This is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s also about participation and co-creation. To quote from the OER Commons, the digital public library and collaboration platform from the nonprofit ISKME:

"OER offer opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning content through engaging educators in new participatory processes and effective technologies for engaging with learning."

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web has said “the social value of the web is that it enables human communication, commerce and opportunities to share knowledge”. By creating accessible OER, you share knowledge and accessibility at the same time.

Why care about accessibility?

  • All users will benefit from the creation of accessible OER. ‚Äč
  • Accessibility is for everyone.
    • Some need it always; it’s a basic need.
    • Others will need it urgently for some periods of time.
    • And others will appreciate it without noticing. 
  • It is really important to understand that accessibility is not about perfection.

What does OER accessibility mean?

When you create OER, or work with students to create OER think about creation in a way which removes barriers which prevent or limit users accessing your content. To quote Stephanie/Fen Slattery, a front-end engineer specializing in web accessibility:

"OER accessibility means accessibility should be included in the design of OER and should strive to remove barriers which prevent people with disabilities from using the OER".

Is accessibility hard to achieve?

If you come to OER creation with the mindset to include accessible content from the outset it will be easier for you to integrate accessibility considerations and content into your process.

“By building accessibility in from the start you can be more inclusive and reach a wider audience. A lot of people will appreciate your efforts - including me.” -- Marian Foley, a content designer

Gift of resiliency

In their 2021 “OER & Beyond” blog post Kristina Clement, Student Success Librarian for the University of Wyoming Libraries and Ksenia Cheinman, Manager of Research for the Canada School of Public Service wrote:

“Designing open educational resources (OERs) with accessibility in mind is a gift of resiliency. It’s a gift to those who have diverse needs, to learning professionals who wish to reuse your resources, and to your future self. Introducing accessibility considerations into your open learning resources is a commitment to resilience – to creating learning for all seasons of life.”

Accessibility Focus

A  few basic accessibility tips you can take away from this presentation and use in your OER:

  1. Make sure the content is clearly written and easy to read. There are many ways to make your content easier to understand. Write clearly, use clear fonts, and use headings and lists appropriately.
  2. Provide appropriate document structure. Headings, lists, and other structural elements provide meaning and structure to web pages. They can also facilitate keyboard navigation within the page.
  3. Ensure links make sense out of context. Every link should make sense if the link text is read by itself. Screen reader users may choose to read only the links on a web page. Certain phrases like “click here” and “more” must be avoided.
  4. Provide appropriate alternative text. Alternative text provides access to non-text content (such as images) in web pages.
  5. Do not rely on color alone to convey meaning. The use of color can enhance comprehension, but do not use color alone to convey information. That information may not be available to a person who is colorblind and will be unavailable to screen reader users.
  6. Create accessible data tables. Tables should be used to organize data, not layout, and should use either the “scope” or “header and id” attributes for easier navigation with assistive technology.
  7. Caption and/or provide transcripts for media. Videos should have captions. A text transcription must accompany all audio files.

-- Nashville State Community College Accessibility Criteria