Hear from our Team about Accessibility, Gameful Course Design, Flipped Classrooms and Teach-Outs during Enriching Scholarship 2018

Jen Vetter, Design Manager

Several members from the Office of Academic Innovation team will present sessions showcasing our work in accessibility, gameful course design, flipped classrooms and Teach-Outs at the 21st annual Enriching Scholarship conference, held at the University of Michigan from May 7-10, 2018. The multi-day event, which hosts sessions across U-M’s campus, focuses on effectively integrating teaching and technology through lightning talks, panels, workshops, and more.

We invite you to join us for these sessions to explore how our office is enriching scholarship through education, collaboration – and innovation!

The Alt Text Writing Jam: Learning Accessible Design by Doing It!

Tuesday, May 8, 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

University Library Instructional Center (ULIC) – 4059 – Shapiro Library

Hosted by Rebecca Quintana, Stephanie Rosen, Yuanru Tan

What is the art and science of writing visual descriptions for course content? Instructors who use images within presentation slides do so to make content more engaging and understandable to students. However, students with visual impairments may not fully comprehend these images without a well-written visual description.

In this two-hour, hands-on workshop, you’ll learn effective methods for writing high-quality alternative text descriptions for visual elements such as photographs, tables, and charts. Reference materials and images will be provided by the facilitators. Participants are encouraged to contact Yuanru Tan ( with any questions.

Register for this session


Building Motivation into Course Design: Gameful and GradeCraft

Wednesday, May 9, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Shapiro Instructional Lab – 4041 – Shapiro Library

Hosted by Evan Straub

Have you heard about GradeCraft? GradeCraft is a tool built at the University of Michigan based on the principles that make games motivating. By offering students greater choice in the paths by which they pursue their assessments, creating transparent assessment systems and building up from zero, we have seen greater student engagement and satisfaction with courses here at University of Michigan. In addition, GradeCraft allows students to plan for the grade they want by using the Grade Predictor, which tracks assignments completed as well as assignments a student would like to do.

In this session, we’ll discuss the principles of gameful course design, go through some planning on how to redesign some (or all) of your class, and get started using GradeCraft.

Register for this session


Flipping Your Classroom: The Nuts and Bolts

Wednesday, May 9, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

CRLT Seminar Room – 1013 – Palmer Commons

Hosted by Evan Straub, Nicole Tuttle

The “flipped classroom” has garnered considerable attention in the academy in recent years. This approach to teaching involves the use of podcasting, videos, and other strategies to shift students’ initial exposure to content from the lecture hall to outside of the classroom. In the process, significant portions of class time are freed up for active learning and student engagement.

In this workshop, participants will explore teaching in a flipped classroom and consider how to use this approach in their own teaching. The session will highlight general principles for designing a flipped lesson, including how to hold students accountable for completing pre-class work. The workshop will provide an introduction to relevant instructional technologies and campus resources around them. Finally, participants will explore strategies for designing instruction to engage students during class time.

Register for this session


From MOOCs to Teach-Outs: An Emerging Format

Thursday, May 10, 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

University Library Instructional Center (ULIC) – 4059 – Shapiro Library

Hosted by Jeff Bennett, Jen Vetter, Steve Welsh

In the years since their inception, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have matured into a medium with a wide range of variable objectives and design models. Last year, the U-M Office of Academic Innovation piloted a series of nine Teach-Outs using MOOC platforms to engage a global audience around topics of pressing social urgency. Inspired by the Teach-Ins of 1965, the Teach-Out model was conceived as a two-day participatory learning opportunity providing 1-4 hours of content, with a constructivist emphasis on active community discussion. In contrast to a conventional assessment design, Teach-Outs culminate in a call to action intended to effect change at the individual, community, or broader societal level.

In this session, Michigan’s Teach-Out project team will present several case studies of innovative course design, focusing on moving from MOOCs as we have known them to a more agile, event-oriented model with narrower learning objectives and learner-centered outcomes. We will conclude with some generalizable findings with relevance for constructivist online course environments.

Register for this session


All Enriching Scholarship sessions are FREE and open to all members of the U-M community, but require registration. Click HERE to view a list of all sessions.

Sponsors include CRLT, U-M Academic Innovation, U-M Library, LSA Instructional Support Services, LSA Language Resource Center, and HITS (Health Information & Technology Services).

Join us May 7-10 for Enriching Scholarship 2018!

Introducing the “All Hands on Deck Writing Jam” for Visual Descriptions of Images

Rebecca Quintana, Learning Experience Designer

Yuanru Tan, Learning Design and Accessibility Student Fellow


In the context of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), adding a visual description to images that exist within online course materials is one of the most important aspects of creating an accessible learning experience. For example, faculty members may use images within video lectures, such as bar graphs, scatter plots, and photographs. These images can bring a course to life and help make lecture topics even more engaging and understandable. Faculty often describe the images in their lectures verbally, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Learners who are visually impaired may miss important information that is contained within these images. One solution is to provide visual descriptions of images as part of the downloadable files that we make available to learners (e.g., PowerPoint slides). Learners who use screen readers are able to listen to a visual description of images contained within lectures. Additionally, these visual descriptions are available to all learners, thereby creating opportunities for deeper engagement with course content. For example, a learner who is experiencing difficulty interpreting a graph could benefit from a clearly written, high level summary of the big idea behind the graph.

Yuanru Tan seated at the end of a large conference room tab with a monitor behind her reading "All Hands on Deck, Alt Text Writing Jam @DEIL"

However, course design teams who are tasked with creating and supplying instructional materials for learners face a significant challenge. Writing visual descriptions for images requires not only a lot of time and effort, but also a great deal of subject-specific content knowledge. At the Office of Academic Innovation, course design teams endeavor to include faculty and associated experts in the process of writing visual descriptions throughout the design process. However, sometimes additional effort on the part of Academic Innovation staff is needed to get the job done. Inspired by crowdsourcing approaches that leverage the expertise and time of willing participants, the “All Hands On Deck Alt Text Writing Jam” event series was born.¹

Writing Jam Format

At the writing jams, staff from Academic Innovation and from the University of Michigan (U-M) Library assembled to learn about effective methods for writing high-quality visual descriptions and to get down to the business of writing visual descriptions for U-M MOOCs that contain complex images. Led by Yuanru Tan, Learning Design and Accessibility Student Fellow, participants received instruction on how to write visual descriptions for both simple and complex images, and were given resources and reference materials to make the task easier. Each participant worked through a series of images, creating visual descriptions, and then reviewing the writing of others. To date, Academic Innovation has hosted two writing jams, but our plan is to make this a regularly scheduled event.

In the first writing jam, participants completed visual descriptions for 99 images in one hour for courses within three MOOC specializations, Applied Data Science with Python, Web Applications for Everybody, and Leading People and Teams. Participants worked independently before pairing up to review each other’s work. In the second writing jam, participants completed visual descriptions for 65 images in one hour for six courses within the User Experience (UX) Research and Design MicroMasters Program. Participants worked collaboratively, using a paired-writing approach, and drawing on subject matter expertise from all participants. Areas of expertise included web development, UX design, accessibility, learning design, and publishing. See below for an example of a visual description that was written for a screenshot image used within a course within the UX MicroMasters Program.

This is a screenshot of a Google search and results. It shows “user expe” typed into the search bar and the autofill results as “user experience,” “user experience design,” “user experience designer salary,” and “user experience researcher.”

Visual description of image: This is a screenshot of a Google search and results. It shows “user expe” typed into the search bar and the autofill results as “user experience,” “user experience design,” “user experience designer salary,” and “user experience researcher.”



Feedback from participants regarding the writing jam approach has been overwhelmingly positive. Monica Miklosovic, Iteration Manager at Academic Innovation, reflected , “It was a collaborative experience, at the end of which we had accomplished a meaningful short-term goal.” Ben Howell, Accessibility Specialist within the User Experience Department at the Library Information Technology Department, stated , “The concepts and practice of writing alt-text are challenging for beginners and for experienced accessibility staff. The group activity effectively crowdsourced writing alt-text for [Academic Innovation] courses. It was very helpful to identify, contextualize, and describe various images, infographics, etc.” Molly Maher, Behavioral Scientist at Academic Innovation, commented, “It was great to learn some of the key guidelines for image descriptions, especially through practice.” Stephanie Rosen, Accessibility Specialist at the University of Michigan Library, said, “I was so impressed with the amount of work we were able to do. I think the activities we did are excellent for educating people about alt text and accessibility in general.” Dave Malicke, Operations Lead at Academic Innovation, stated, “I enjoyed the paired writing approach. It was both fun and resulted in higher quality descriptions.”

Participants also had useful suggestions for ways to incorporate the writing jam approach into future activities and events. Ben Howell commented, “I look forward to using this practice where we can with librarians and content creators in the library. We’d also like to participate in more accessibility/design jams in [Academic Innovation].” Dave Malicke reflected, “My number one takeaway is that more of these events are needed in order to build an ever stronger and informed community of accessibility practitioners.”

In 2018, our goal is to host monthly writing jams. These events may focus on specific subject areas (e.g., humanities courses). We intend to invite course design team members including faculty members, instructors, learning experience designers, media specialists, design managers, and mentors, as well as U-M students who are interested in learning how to write visual descriptions. In addition to creating a high number of visual descriptions at our writing jams, we have found this “think aloud” collaborative approach was instrumental in helping Academic Innovation design teams reflect on how to improve our design processes. We learned the process of writing visual descriptions can reveal aspects of images that may be unclear to learners (e.g., an unlabelled y-axis). By adopting the practice of writing visual descriptions early within a design process, there is the potential to improve images (e.g., by labelling the y-axis!) that are included in lecture videos. We see this as an instantiation of the principles of universal design—following good design practices improves the learning experience for all.

Yuanru Tan will present on “Improving MOOC Course Accessibility” at the Web Accessibility Working Group Meeting from 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 9, in the Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery Lab. The event is open to all.


¹Alt text is a short word or phrase that describes images that are used in websites. Visually impaired users who use screen readers will hear an alt attribute that describes the image. We use the term “visual descriptions” in this post, because many of the descriptions that are added to our MOOC course materials are much longer than the typical alt text that is used to make web sites accessible for the visually impaired.

Creating Accessible Content for Online Courses: Exploring New Methods and Workflows

Yuanru Tan, Learning Design and Accessibility Fellow

As a Learning Design and Accessibility Fellow in the Digital Education & Innovation Lab (DEIL), my focus this summer was to develop ways to improve the accessibility of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at the University of Michigan. Here, I will focus on how I worked to improve the experience for learners who use screen readers to access online courses at U-M. However, we recognize that accessibility involves more than consideration of individuals with sensory disabilities, such as visual impairment and hearing impairment; learners with learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) and learners with limited technology resources (e.g., low quality internet) must also be considered when designing online courses.

In this blog post, I will share the process of how I assessed the accessibility levels of our current courses and how I developed methods and workflows to improve these assets, with the guidance of experts at U-M.


Getting started

To begin, I consulted with DEIL’s accessibility working group to learn more about the issues and challenges that are involved when developing a course. I learned that an overarching goal at DEIL is to design courses and produce materials that are accessible to the widest audience possible. I also met with leaders from U-M’s Office of Institutional Equity to further understand the requirements for online learners who are visually impaired and to learn about best practices for creating course assets that are accessible for them. Using these valuable insights as a starting point, I conducted an accessibility audit, which included reviewing our current MOOC materials and documenting the status of all course assets to identify areas for improvement. I learned DEIL has been doing an excellent job of creating materials that are accessible to many of our MOOC learners by consistently providing transcripts and captioning for all videos. However, two pathways for improvement were identified: (1) in many of our courses, we provide slides as downloadable files to accompany lecture videos, and we wanted to ensure these files are optimized for learners who use screen readers; and (2) some videos require that learners closely observe visual cues and content, revealing a need to create visual descriptions for these videos. My two main summer work goals were clear!


Optimizing files for use with screen readers

To gain insight into potential approaches for optimizing files for use with screen readers, I consulted with Jane Berliss-Vincent, Assistive Technology Manager at Information Technology Services. From my conversation with Jane, I learned there is often manual work that needs to be done to successfully convert a file. After repetitive experiments and tests, I found HTML is the most reliable and accessible file format for screen reader users. As a result, I developed a workflow that included multiple file conversions and use text formatting language (using Markdown syntax) to ensure the resulting HTML files were consistent in formatting and styling. In working with Brandon Werner, Screen Reader Specialist at Information Technology Services, I learned there are three essential attributes of accessible files. Users of screen readers must be able to: (1) use the arrow key to navigate, (2) use Tab key to locate hyperlinks and (3) use the “Enter” key to open hyperlinks. The HTML files I created using the workflow I developed, met these three requirements.


Preparing visual description for files and videos

Yuanru Tan

Some of our MOOC content contains static visual representations, such as figures, illustrations and graphs, often within lecture slides contained in our videos. We have been exploring how to write high quality “alt text” (alternative text), which is an informative and brief description of the essential content of an image. Learners who are visually impaired can then read the descriptions accompanying an image in the downloadable files we create (see section above) to accompany these videos. During this investigative process, we have found expert content knowledge is sometimes required to “interpret” complicated images. We are developing a process for gathering input and feedback from DEIL staff, faculty members and other content experts to ensure our “alt text” is highly accurate and informative.

Other visual content within some of our MOOCs are dynamic, such as demonstrations, performed on camera. For example, in a user experience testing video, learners are required to observe how a user interacts with a website. In order for visually impaired learners to interpret the exercise, it is necessary to describe the minute nuances of the user’s interaction with the website. In a follow-up consultation with Brandon Werner, I learned the preferred means of presenting this kind of content is in a separate text file with timestamps that correspond to video events. Brandon listened to the video’s audio and identified important questions about the users’ interactions with the website. To better understand the context of the activity, I met with the learning experience designers and project manager for the course. I then wrote a visual description to document what was happening in the video (e.g., mouse clicks, searching activity, scrolling) and tested it with a friend who had not seen the video. Following this iterative process, I improved the description and shared it with the course design team and faculty lead who approved it for use in the course. We believe it is important to be thorough and careful in this work because it has the potential to impact a learner’s understanding of course content!


Future Directions

Through the process, I have had many opportunities to speak with colleagues and experts at the University about how we might improve the accessibility of our online courses. However, I am still looking forward to hearing more perspectives, especially from MOOC learners with disabilities, to enrich my understanding of their experiences with the course assets we have created. Although my summer term as a Learning Design and Accessibility Fellow has come to an end, there are still ongoing opportunities to find and fill the gap between learner needs and the resources we provide. As a graduate student in the New Media & New Literacies program at the University of Michigan School of Education, I am very motivated by this summer’s experience and I will continue to work on improving the accessibility of online learning experiences in the future.

Accessibility and Universal Design – A Q&A with U-M Experts

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist

Last fall, accessibility and universal design experts from University of Michigan shared their insight into ways to enhance access to course content for residential students and U-M learners around the world.

The discussion was held during an Innovation Hour, a gathering hosted by the Office of Academic Innovation two times per month featuring a different theme each session, and featured the following accessibility experts from across campus:

  • Jane Berliss-Vincent, Assistive Technology Manager at Information Technology Services
  • Jack Bernard, Associate General Counsel and Intermittent Lecturer in Law at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
  • Stephanie Rosen, Associate Librarian and Accessibility Specialist at the University Library
  • Scott Williams, Web Accessibility Coordinator at the Office of Institutional Equity

Stephanie Rosen speaking while sitting down and Jane Berliss-Vincent listening while seated

These experts discussed methods to integrate accessibility and universal design principles into organizational policies, the potential for cost and time savings from constructing accessible environments and the imperative to build inclusive learning experiences for all learners. Read a full recap of the discussion here.

We followed-up with a few of these local experts to gather additional insight into accessibility best practices for faculty, students and staff at U-M:

What are the distinctions between accessibility and universal design?

Jane Berliss-Vincent: Accessibility generally refers to items that are designed to be usable by individuals with disabilities, with or without additions to the standard product configuration. For example, visual impairment exists on a continuum. Some low vision users need hardware or software additions to a computer (“assistive technology”) so that they can access a website, while others won’t need any modifications if the site is thoughtfully designed–e.g., reasonable default print size and color contrast (no yellow text on a lime background, thank you).

Universal design expands this idea to include the needs of a much broader audience. The Center for Universal Design defines it as, “The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” On our campus, this might include ensuring usability by disabled individuals, individuals who speak English as an additional language (EAL), individuals with limited prior technology experience, elders, and other contingents.


Why are the areas of accessibility and universal design becoming increasingly important in higher education?

Stephanie Rosen: These areas are becoming increasingly important because with the shift to digital, there comes a new possibility for “born accessible” content, tools, and learning environments. Whereas a print book would have previously been remediated for a student with print disabilities—read aloud to them by a person or, later, scanned and converted to an electronic file then read aloud by a machine—now an electronic book already has the capacity for remediation built into it (as long as it’s built right). Along with the shift to digital, there is a simultaneous shift in content creators. Faculty are now not only curating learning materials (in the old form of the syllabus reading list) but also designing and creating them, or seeing them designed and created by other entities of the University.

The old model of accommodations, where a dedicated office would remediate materials for students with disabilities, is giving way to a model of universal design, where materials are built to work for everyone from the beginning. This is very exciting, but it presents challenges because the expertise of universal design needs to be disseminated among whole new populations of content creators.


What aspects of accessibility and universal design are commonly overlooked or misunderstood? How should schools, colleges, departments and units approach these practices?

Jane Berliss-Vincent: The biggest myth is that accessibility/universal design exists in a vacuum–that it only benefits certain groups. In reality, it benefits a majority of users. For example, there is a proliferation of everyday things that have their roots in designs to accommodate people with disabilities–typewriters, TV captioning, text messaging, even football huddles. When mobile devices came along, the designers incorporated as a standard features that had long been used as assistive technology, such as touch screens, virtual keyboards, Zoom capabilities, word prediction, and so on.

The best approach, then, is to do away with labels–“this is for disabled students, this is for EAL speakers”–and put the focus on what just works well. There’s a lot of stigma around using technology that signals “difference”–my friend Jim Tobias wrote an exquisite short essay on this some years ago, and it’s still true. I’ve worked with students who are reluctant to use assistive technologies or strategies that could save them significant time and effort simply because they don’t want to be perceived as less competent than their peers.

The flip side is that U-M has a license for a software program called Read & Write Gold (the license covers both Windows and Mac) that is on all public Sites machines and that we can also distribute for free to every current student, faculty, or staff member. It was designed and is marketed as a kind of Swiss Army Knife of features for individuals with learning disabilities, but many of these features have universal appeal. The two most unusual are a homonym checker that helps you make sure you’re correctly using confusable words like “there,” “their,” and “they’re,” and a set of virtual markers that let you highlight text and then easily extract it to a Word file–the Windows version will also insert any bibligraphic information. Who wouldn’t want those? Any current operating system is also stuffed with assistive features, some of which are not necessarily identified as such. A personal favorite is the Windows setting that lets you change all the system icons so they open with one click instead of two. Much easier on all index fingers, and invaluable to anyone who can’t remember, never learned, or doesn’t want to bother knowing when double clicking is necessary.

Stephanie Rosen: The most common and most harmful misunderstanding about digital accessibility is that it is a matter of compliance that can be managed as a last minute checklist. Unfortunately, this resembles the way that accessibility is managed in architecture, as Jos Boys point out in Doing Disability Differently. Checking for accessibility compliance at the last minute can easily result in unnecessary delays and expenses — and can in the best of cases only result in a compliant resource. Alternatively, when accessibility and universal design are considered up front as design constraints, they may spark creativity and innovation that result in real advances in design possibilities for users.


How can faculty design online courses or adjust their residential courses to follow accessibility/universal design best practices and standards?

Stephanie Rosen: In the classroom, faculty can look to resources already available on campus such as the SSD Office’s 10 Instructional Accessibility Tips, the CRLT Resources on Inclusive Teaching, and workshops regularly provided by the CRLT and by the Library.

In the online space, faculty can create more accessible syllabus documents by learning from the Accessible Syllabus project and using the SALSA tool, and can make Canvas content more accessible by following General Accessibility Design Guidelines.


Are there any tools available to help faculty, students and staff make their content more accessible to learners?

Jane Berliss-Vincent: A few years ago, several of us put together a set of Instructional Accessibility Tips that represents a variety of needs. Scott Williams’ website is a gem, and he also runs the Web Accessibility Working Group, which has monthly meetings and a listserv. Scott, Stephanie, myself, and the staff of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities are always happy to be resources around any questions that U-M community members might have.

Stephanie Rosen: I mentioned that accessibility is too often “checked off” at the end of a project, but there are many “checker” tools that are useful at any stage of a project:

Beyond checkers, there are also tools that support the creation of more accessible content, such as:

There are new tools and projects all the time. I recommend following the #a11y (short for accessibility) hashtag on Twitter to keep up with developments, and paying attention to what people are doing in the academic field of Disability Studies. This field helps us understand our own ideas about disability (where our ideas come from, how they’re changing, how they affect different bodies) and, most importantly, gives voice to the knowledge produced by people with disabilities, who are constantly creating innovative ways to be in a world not designed for them.


Scott Williams also shared a list of resources faculty, staff and students may find helpful when constructing accessible learning environments and user experiences:

Join us during the next Innovation Hour! View our list of upcoming events to learn about future Innovation Hour discussions.

Incorporating Accessibility into the Development Process

Chris Teplovs, Lead DIG Developer

Scott Williams, U-M Web Accessibility Coordinator

Mike Wojan, DIG User Experience Designer

Onawa Gardiner, Marketing Specialist

In honor of the fifth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we are continuing our ongoing blog series that highlights the myriad of ways DEI incorporates accessibility into our ongoing endeavors. In the first blog post in this series, DEI Director of Policy and Operations, Mike Daniel, discussed how accessibility is at the core of DEI. Following up on this post, we as members of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) team, along with Scott Williams, Web Accessibility Coordinator for the University, came together to discuss the importance of incorporating accessibility into the design and development process in order build technology that is universally accessible and usable by all persons.

The DIG Team sat down with Scott, who has worked with DEI to conduct evaluations and has provided suggestions to increase the accessibility of DEI initiatives, to discuss how accessibility is incorporated into each step of the development process.

“DEI is a stellar example of a department implementing accessibility top-down in the organization,” Scott said. “I met with them only a few times to get the ball rolling, and, I was overjoyed to learn that with their policies, such as captioning of MOOC content, DEI continues to serve as a great guide for the rest of the University community, as well as higher education, in regards to accessibility.”

Recently, Mike Wojan joined our team as the DIG User Experience Designer to help us deliver products that are accessible to everyone on the U-M campus through universal design. Mike engages with the user community as well as a diverse community of user experience professionals in order to continue to better understand people’s needs for design. “Implementing universal design in the earliest stages of development ensures you are creating a product flexible enough to work for everyone and that you don’t have to return to the product and make accommodations later on,” Mike said. He recently attended the week-long AccessCyberlearning Capacity Building Institute in Seattle, where he studied the role of accessible technologies in cyberlearning. “At the conference I learned about the technology used to access products by people with varying needs. It’s important for us to review the accessibility of our products with those same tools to better understand and design online experiences that meet the accessibility needs of a wide range of diverse users. I’m excited to take this valuable insight and apply it to DIG projects.”

Website CSS Code

One of the projects that we have focused on implementing accessibility into the development process is ART 2.0.  ART 2.0 aims to provide robust data on courses and programs from past academic terms in a user-friendly format to further enable personalized and engaged learning on campus. During the development cycle for ART 2.0, we focused on ensuring the process was consistent with DIG’s guiding principles, which include a commitment to the creation of a minimum viable product coupled with rapid iteration. The first versions of ART 2.0 were made available to a small group of users within six months of the start of the development phase. These early iterations showed the range of possibilities for the product but were not particularly accessible. Throughout the iteration process, we made a concerted effort towards an accessible product, moving from using highly interactive charts to present data and complex network visualizations to more accessible implementations. For example, where possible we presented numerical values and shaded cells in a table to simulate histograms rather than using less accessible approaches, like interactive charts. We also tried to adhere to the Accessible Rich Internet Applications guidelines when creating the ART 2.0 application.

Additionally, we recently reached out to Scott to evaluate the global accessibility of the application,  who had met with DEI during the inception of ART 2.0 to discuss implementing accessibility in its production process. While evaluating ART 2.0, Scott used a variety of stand-alone accessibility tools, including assistive technology, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), as the standard to determine the accessibility of the ART 2.0 interface. He evaluated how the code was written and also observed how the content of ART 2.0  was revealed to different forms of assistive technology.

“It’s important to scrutinize the accessibility of the software during each iteration of the production cycle,” Scott emphasized. “Accessibility can’t be left as an add-on task at the end of production—which is extremely inefficient and costly. Platforms need to be designed and developed with accessibility in mind from the outset, and this is what DEI is doing.”

The DIG team, as a whole, was impressed with Scott’s thorough review of the ART 2.0 interface. His report included clear, actionable items that the team incorporated into the next iteration of the product. In some cases the suggested changes were surprising: not all icons, for example, should have “alt-text”, particularly when the information provided by the icons is repeated in the surrounding text. Through additional components that make resultant data accessible, such as increasing the accessibility of highly interactive charts that enable users to sort and filter data in ART 2.0, we strive towards greater accessibility. These Web Accessibility resources at the University are a valuable asset for software development teams to leverage while developing applications and programs.

By utilizing resources, like Scott’s expertise via the Office of Institutional Equity, on accessibility as well as following our Software Development Guiding Principles we are able to work together to integrate accessibility into the design and development of software and other initiatives. In doing so, the initiatives that we seed and scale up are able to impact a wide range of users with varying usability and accessibility needs, thereby continuing our commitment to creatively use technology and targeted experimentation with digital programs in order to enable engaged, personalized and lifelong learning for the entire Michigan community and learners around the world. To learn more about how we are helping to translate digital engagement tools from innovation to infrastructure, check out the DIG portal, or learn about our paid fellowship opportunities.