To slow the spread of COVID-19, many of us in the assistive technology field face the huge challenge of shifting basically everything we do to some sort of remote format. Maybe you work in a school district or university, and you need to ensure accessibility of remote teaching and learning for all students. Or you need to provide remote assistive technology services and support to clients, families, and caregivers. Or you just need to meet remotely with colleagues, quickly, easily, and accessibly. All of these situations require some sort of remote technology solution.
How do we ensure the accessibility of these remote solutions, so that they meet the needs of everyone involved, including those with disabilities?
This is a big question with no simple answer, but working together we have a chance at crafting effective solutions that provide remote access for all. In this post, I’ll share some resources that I hope will help as you tackle this unprecedented challenge.
I started looking for useful resources yesterday as I realized that my own skills at providing remote access for all are pretty limited. Sure, I’ve hosted and attended remote meetings, using tools like GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Google Hangouts Meet. And I’ve done quite a few remote presentations, usually using whatever tools the organizers need me to use. It’s amazing technology. But it’s never easy, and something almost always goes wrong. And it can be hard to give accessibility the priority it deserves. So I need to do better, not just because of COVID-19, but that certainly is a catalyst that’s exposed areas where I still have a lot of work to do.
These resources are mostly from the University of Michigan’s (U-M) ongoing work to deliver all classes online and from Mike Marotta’s Town Hall panel on COVID-19, School Closures and AT: What Do We Do? I’m extremely grateful for the outpouring of expertise and leadership by these folks. All of the resources are evolving and being updated frequently. And some of them are crowd-sourced, allowing you and all of us to help build solutions together.
OK, here’s the list:
- U-M’s Center for Academic Innovation created Keep Teaching to support remote teaching, and the site is being updated frequently as new information and resources are developed. These are general guidelines, not necessarily focused on accessibility issues, but a useful introduction for universal best practices for all participants. The main page has links to sub-sections like Getting Started, Teaching Strategies, etc., each of which has very concrete and useful information, such as this on setting up a home studio for remote meetings.
- The Accessibility team at U-M has created a page on Access to Remote Instruction for Students and Faculty with Disabilities. This page has some great overall guidelines and principles for providing access to remote instruction, as well as links to additional resources. The principles hold for all types of online collaborative work, not just academic class meetings.
- The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) is maintaining a resource list on higer education access in the time of coronavirus. It’s a compilation of information specific to accessibility, crowd-sourced from a wide range of universities and other IHE’s.
- Aimi Hamraie’s post on Accessible Teaching in the Time of COVID-19 is short and packed with good information. It’s well-organized and based on disability culture and community.
- Mike Marotta hosted a Town Hall webinar with a panel of AT experts, entitled COVID-19, School Closures, and AT: What Do We Do? You can view a recorded archive of the webinar. Also check out (and add to!) the crowd-sourced Google Document with ideas / strategies and questions regarding supporting students with disabilities in these challenging times. Go to: http://bit.ly/remoteaccess4all
Upcoming Twitter chats
At least two AT-related Twitter chats will focus on the topic of accessibility and remote learning this week. These are:
- #PatinsIcam, Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 8:30pm ET
- #ATchat, Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 8:00pm ET
To join the chat in real time, just go onto Twitter and search for #ATchat (or #PatinsIcam). Click on Latest and you will see the whole conversation unfold. You can click on the Tweet button to write a post of your own. Just use #ATchat in your post and you will be added to the conversation! (Thanks to Beth Poss for this succinct tutorial!)
If you’re not able to be on Twitter during the chat, you may be able to access an archive of the chat later. For #ATchat, at least, a wakelet link is usually posted to the QIAT listserv the next day.
Keep in touch
As someone mentioned in yesterday’s Town Hall, we’re asking people to take on a lot of new learning right now. And in stressful times, that’s a much tougher ask than it usually is. I hope you find these resources helpful, and that you’ll contribute your ideas as well, either here in the comments or in the crowd-sourced documents.
Working together, we can get through this and find solutions that support the needs of everyone involved. All the best to you, and keep in touch!