Complex Images and Accessibility – Portland Community College Website

When adding images to your documents or web pages/WordPress pages, to meet best practices around accessibility you need to add appropriate descriptive text to your images so that learners who can not see the images have an alternate way to access the images.  But adding text to images can be tricky when you are dealing with more complex images like graphs, maps, diagrams, charts, etc.

This Complex image Accessibility site (which opens in a new tab or window) from Portland Community College has some excellent guidelines for how to make complex images accessible to all.

Supporting Students with Disabilities in BC Postsecondary Online Course

Today, I’d like to take a moment, and a short post, to promote an online course offering, available for you, for free, from the Justice Institute of BC:  the open, online course Supporting Students with Disabilities in BC Postsecondary .  In addition, content in the course and associated resource site are Creative Commons licenced, so material is available for you to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute!

From the website:

“In collaboration with Selkirk and Camosun Colleges, Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) has developed this course and a resource website to educate trainers on disability issues in the classroom. The purpose of the course is to increase the success of people with disabilities in a trades / technical program by dispelling common myths about students with disabilities and to address faculty’s concerns and questions about different disabilities. It will help each faculty member to obtain the appropriate knowledge and problem-solving skills to offer accommodations and select appropriate teaching strategies for their disabled students. The expectation is that the new techniques learned will help students achieve their full potential and success in their chosen programs.

This multi-modal course can be taken online independently, or in a facilitated face-to-face group. Throughout the course there are several engaging learning activities including scenarios with reflection questions, case studies followed by discussions, and simulation exercises aimed to trigger learner empathy.

This course provides practical information and easy-to-use strategies to help you to better support the learning of students with disabilities in your classrooms and campuses.

At the end of the course, you will be able to

  • Define what is meant by having a disability and become familiar with a wide range of disabilities and how they impact learning
  • Identify the concepts of duty to accommodate and understand the process of reasonable accommodation
  • Apply strategies and tools from Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to create an inclusive learning environment to accommodate your students
  • Develop personal goals, address institution-wide responsibilities and identify next steps for creating inclusive campuses”


Introducing ReadSpeaker (in the D2L Content tool)

ReadSpeaker “is a web-based personal literacy support tool that makes it possible for the user to listen to texts and documents using text-to-speech technology in a standard web browser”. We will be looking at the version of ReadSpeaker which is found in the Content tool of D2L. Some of you may have already seen ReadSpeaker in action, but for those of you who haven’t, this post will introduce you to how to access and use it in Content.

As noted above, one of the functions of ReadSpeaker is to read text-based content (HTML files, WORD documents, PDF files, etc.) aloud. This gives your students the opportunity to either listen to the content through headphones in situations where they might not be able to read easily (for example, while driving, or when using a phone), or to read and listen to the content at the same time (which is especially useful when trying to assimilate complex content).

There are two main ways ReadSpeaker can be accessed in Content, and we will look at each in turn.

First, for reading “web pages”.

  1. Go to the Content tool in your D2L course.
  2. Click on a page that is identified as a Web Page (if your course does not have “Web Pages”, see reading for WORD documents, etc.)

    Click a Web Page

  3. Click the Listen button at the top, left, and ReadSpeaker will start reading the webpage from the beginning, highlighting words as it reads them.

    Click Listen

  4. The Listen toolbar controls include: Pause or Stop buttons to pause/stop play, the Seek bar slider to move forward through the document, the speaker icon to adjust Volume, and the Download icon to save the audio file to your device as a MP3 file.

    The Listen toolbar

  5. Click the little down arrow to the left of the Listen button to find additional options, including:
    1. Settings: change the Reading speed, Highlighting (word and/or sentence, and colour options), Text Settings (font size, type, colours), General (scrolling, etc.).
    2. Changing between American and Canadian English
    3. Read on Hover: click then hover your mouse over the part of the document you want to hear.
    4. Enlarge Text
    5. Simple View: Highlight text first, then click Simple View. A box will open showing the selected text without any formatting.
    6. Page Mask allows you to highlight parts of the text as it is being read (the mask is a light horizontal block while the rest of the page is darkened). Click + to make the block larger, and to make it smaller, click X to turn off Page Mask.
    7. Translation: Highlight text first, then click Translation (and the language you wish the text translated to). A box will open with the translation.
    8. Word Lookup: Highlight a word, then click Word Lookup. The definition will open in a box.
    9. Help (opens a Help box).

      Additionl functions

Second, for reading WORD documents, PDFs, and PPTs.

  1. Go to the Content tool in your D2L course.
  2. Click on a page that is identified as a Word Document, PDF document, or PowerPoint Presentation.

    Click a WORD, PDF or PowerPoint document

  3. Scroll down to below the page that opens, and click the Open with docReader button.

    Scroll down and click Open with docReader

  4. The page will load into a new interface with a toolbar at the top, a left sidebar allowing you to view Thumbnails or an Outline of the pages in the document, and the document itself on the right.

    docReader interface

  5. In the toolbar, you can Show/Hide the Sidebar, jump to specific pages in the document, click Listen to hear it read aloud (using the Pause or Stop buttons to pause/stop play).

    Sidebar, Listen, Pause, Stop

  6. You can control how you view the document using the Layout mode or Text mode (which will show the text without formatting) options.

    Layout and Text mode buttons

  7. Under More tools, you can access Settings, Page Mask, Reading Ruler, Download mp3 of page, and Save document.Settings gives you the following options:
    1. General: Change the Speed, change the menu language, change how you select your reading area, change how the pages flip,
    2. Highlight settings: Sentence highlighting, Word highlighting
    3. Text settings: Text Colours, Font size, Font type (all with a Preview window)

    Page Mask allows you to highlight parts of the text as it is being read (the mask is a light horizontal block while the rest of the page is darkened). Click + to make the block larger, and to make it smaller, click X to turn off Page Mask.

    Reading Ruler allows you to move a dark block (like a ruler on the page) over the page, for example, to underline the text as it is being read. Click + to make the block larger, and to make it smaller, click X to turn off the Reading Ruler.

    Settings, Page Mask, Reading Ruler

  8. To return to the Content area, use the breadcrumbs at the top of the page (you can’t move to the next page through the docReader application).

    Return to Content using the breadcrumbs


Making Your Print Materials Accessible for All Learners Brochure (and Website)

Those of you who were at our annual Walls Optional conference last spring will remember the launch of a new brochure, designed by our own Sue Doner, called Making Your Print Materials Accessible for All Learners. Well, this brochure is now available electronically at the Download Brochure page on the website, also created by Sue, Practical Applications of Universal Design of Learning (UDL).

In Sue’s own words:

“This website, Practical Applications of Universal Design of Learning (UDL), is one of the outcomes of a 2018/2019 project for UDL-based resources @ Camosun College and was made possible by funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training.

The background research into and outcomes of the 2018/2019 project are intended to help build capacity & awareness at the college for UDL  and other accessibility and inclusive design guidelines.

The focus on Accessible Print Materials is  the first-phase of this website.”

I encourage you to take a look at the brochure as you start thinking about your next term of teaching (and perhaps even for your fall courses). Sue Doner and her instructional designer colleagues s in eLearning are available to provide support for you or answer questions about how to redesign your print materials for accessibility, as well as to show you how you can use some of the new tools in D2L to help make this a bit easier for you.

You can contact eLearning support at to book an appointment with an instructional designer at either campus, or contact Sue directly at

Ethical Dimensions of Educational Technology: Part 2 – Some important ethical issues to keep in mind

It’s been awhile since the first post about this workshop, and now it’s time for the second revolving around some important ethical issues that came up during the face to face session. So, for today’s post, I am going to introduce and briefly discuss six big ethical issues we decided need to be considered when integrating educational technology into teaching and learning. This will not be an exhaustive (or exhausting) discussion of these issues – rather, I will introduce each one (in no particular order) and point you to more resources both here at the college, and outside.


When you use an online tool, do you and your students have to set up accounts? Do you need to provide the tool with your name and/or email address? What happens to this information (and any material you work with in the tool) and who owns it? Privacy is about keeping your personal information or intellectual property safe. While Camosun has a Privacy Policy (, it does not directly address the use of cloud-based tools to support teaching and learning. For that, we need to turn to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in BC (

In a nutshell, if you are asking students to provide personal information to a third-party for any purpose (for an activity, assessment, content access, etc.), you need to inform them of FIPPA, give them the option to opt-out, and be prepared to give them an alternate way of accessing the material if they choose to opt out.


Can your students access your course material? Can they see or hear it? Do they have access to the right equipment or software to engage with it? Do they have access to support and training for the tools you are using? Accessibility/inclusivity involves incorporating a variety of instructional formats, assessment strategies, etc. to support any number of issues, including visual, auditory, learning, mental health issues, and access to technology.

Consider how to make your courses accessible by designing your course materials ahead of time rather than waiting for someone to ask for an alternate format later (which is accommodation). When adopting a tool, review any accessibility features it promotes. If you can’t find any information, send them an email. An instructional designer in eLearning can help you assess the tool you are wanting to use.

To find out more about WCAG (Web content Accessibility Guidelines), see

Want to go further? Learn more about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) UDL Guidelines:

Also, see Camosun’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion policy ( for information on how the implementation of UDL principles supports college priorities.

Learning Analytics

Do you like to know what your students are doing in your online course site, for example, how often they logon, how long they spend reading materials, how engaged they are in course activities, their overall progress through the course? These are learning analytics, and while they can be useful for knowing who is doing what with your online tools, and for ensuring that your students are completing the tasks you have given them, using them comes with ethical concerns.

We need to consider transparency and consent, as well as how we interpret and act on analytics. ( some of the considerations)

Online classroom ethics

Like the face to face classroom, the online classroom should also be a place where students feel safe interacting with their instructor and fellow students. Some things to keep in mind:

  • If you are adding others to the course (for example, another faculty member, or an assistant of some kind), let your students know who they are, and why they are there.
  • Discuss Netiquette with the whole group, or have students draft class or group/team codes of conduct for engagement in the online classroom.
  • Address any concerns or questions students may have about anonymity.
  • If you are using student or class progress tools in D2L, let students know you are tracking them.

Some college policies which support conduct in our teaching and learning environments include


I am in no way qualified to discuss indigenization, but I can point you towards those at Camosun who are!

According to our Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning website:

“Indigenization is the process by which Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing and relating are incorporated into educational, organizational, cultural and social structures of the institution. The goal is to create a more inclusive environment through the presentation of a different world view, and to enhance and enrich the educational and cultural experience of the educational community. This does not mean the institution is Indigenous-centred, but it does mean that consideration of Indigenous issues comes “naturally”.”

And you can find out more about Indigenization initiatives, and who to contact for support, at and

Digital identity

Closely connected to privacy, a person’s digital identity is their footprint online. Every time you sign up for a tool using your personal information, this information is saved and sometimes passed on to others, with or without your knowledge or permission. It is not enough for us to say that “all students use Facebook” so they know how to protect themselves because even if students are using cloud-based social media tools already, it is still our responsibility as instructors and as an institution to inform them of how to protect themselves from cyber-bullying, identity theft, etc.

Ask yourself “What do my students know about their digital identity?”, then ask yourself what do you know about your own digital identity.

In addition to one’s personal digital identity, consider how you and your students can protect your intellectual property. When using a cloud-based tool to host course or research materials, as yourself Who owns it? Who is using it, and how are they using it? Check the privacy settings, the copyright/ownership information, and don’t’ be afraid to send an email to the company to find out more. These are things you need to know before asking or suggesting students to use these tools

To learn more about digital identity, and for tools to help you and your students navigate this complex issue, go to UBC’s Digital Tattoo site (

Of course, there are many other ethical issues to keep in mind when adopting educational technology, including:

  • Social Justice, human rights, and equality with regards to the non-neutral nature of (educational) technology (for example, silencing, constraints, access, power structures, openness (or not), etc.)
  • Digital literacy and fake news
  • Emotional wellbeing (digital detox) and online addiction

If you ever want to talk more about the ethical issues raised here, or any others that come to mind, our instructional designers in eLearning would love to talk to you! Contact to arrange for a consult.

In the next post (the third of four) about this workshop, I will talk about some of the outcomes from the discussions and things participants wanted to do or learn more about!

Universal Design for Learning conference at Royal Roads University!

The Third Pan-Canadian Conference on UDL will take place at Royal Roads University October 2- 4, 2019. This is an amazing opportunity for people working in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), wanting to connect with some of the leaders in the field, or wanting to find out more about UDL and what it might mean for their teaching and learning.  Early bird registration is available until the end of this month, so check it out – I hope to see you there!

Rather than repeat everything on the conference website, I am simply going to give you the link to it here.



Walls Optional at Camosun College- May 2nd

I wanted to let you know what is happening at Walls Optional this year (on Thursday, May 2nd to be exact).  For those of you who don’t know, Walls Optional is Camosun’s annual one-day conference celebrating the amazing work of the people at our college.  Every year we have a different theme, and with the launch of the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy, this year’s Walls is all about Inclusion through Universal Design for Learning.

“Our goal is to explore how we can develop and support teaching & learning environments that are inclusive to an increasingly diverse student population:

“The homogenous class made up of students of similar abilities, backgrounds, ethnicities, interests, learning styles, languages and expectations is long gone – if it ever existed.” [from “You Need to Know About Universal Design for Learning”, 2014]

Inclusivity is at the heart of the proactive strategies found in the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines. The more we practice and discuss UDL strategies in our teaching & learning environments, the more flexible our course materials, activities and assessment methods will become, and the fewer barriers members of our diverse student population will encounter.

Walls Optional 2019 will open with a facilitated dialogue consisting of faculty and students who will speak to the theme of “inclusion through UDL”, and their experiences with this approach in their own classrooms. We will then break into peer-led workshops, of either 45 minutes or 5 minutes (“lightning rounds”) in length, and end with a closing plenary session.”

To find out more once our presentation schedule has been posted, and to register for this immersion experience into UDL, go to our website ( – We look forward to seeing you there!

4 Great People to Follow on Twitter

When integrating educational technology into our teaching, we often find ourselves faced with a myriad of challenges and ethical issues to consider beyond the simple question of how the tool supports our learning outcomes. If you are wondering where to turn, here are four experts I follow on Twitter whose work has helped me work through some of the struggles I have faced when assessing a new tool. And yes, these are only four – if you have a go-to expert on your list, let me know in the comments!

Jesse Stommel:

According to his website, “Jesse Stommel is Executive Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at University of Mary Washington. He is also Co-founder of Digital Pedagogy Lab and Hybrid Pedagogy: an open-access journal of learning, teaching, and technology. He has a PhD from University of Colorado Boulder.”

Exploring digital pedagogy from a critical lens, with the student forefront in his mind, he says about his own practice, “My scholarly work is about the sometimes wondrous, sometimes horrifying relationship between bodies and technology. My particular expertise is in digital pedagogy, digital humanities, and open education. I believe all learning is necessarily hybrid. In on-ground pedagogy, it is important to engage students’ digital selves. And, with digital and online pedagogy, our challenge is not merely to replace (or offer substitutes for) face-to-face education, but to find new and innovative ways to engage students in the practice of learning.”

Rajiv Jhangiani:

A champion of and innovator in the Open Pedagogy movement, Jhangiani says on his website: “I am the Special Advisor to the Provost on Open Education and a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I currently serve as an Associate Editor of Psychology Learning and Teaching and an Ambassador for the Center for Open Science. Together with Robin DeRosa, I am co-founder of the Open Pedagogy Notebook. I also serve as an Advisory Buddy with Virtually Connecting and on the board of KDocs, KPU’s Official Documentary Film Festival.”

I highly recommend exploring the Open Pedagogy Notebook site which contains concrete examples of open pedagogy in action, and encourages you to collaborate and engage with open pedagogy practitioners from around the world.

Julia Hengstler:

An advocate for and specialist in privacy as it applies to our world of educational technology, The White Hatter tells us that “Julia Hengstler is a Professor, Educational Technologist, and Chair of the Centre for Education & CyberHumanity (Faculty of Education, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada) … Her doctoral research specializes in privacy and the use of educational technology in BC public schools… With over more than 25 years as an educator in BC’s public-school system, Julia has taught a wide variety of subject areas and grade levels ranging from K-12 to post-graduate. Julia blogs about education and technology at “ED Tech Thoughts”.”

Much of Hengstler’s work revolves around understanding and managing your digital footprint, and the impact of using social media in education.

Jess Mitchell:

Jess Mitchell is the Senior Manager of the Inclusive Design Research Centre  at OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario which “was created as Canada’s first research hub focused on digital inclusion. It is adding new approaches to learning that are championing cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration, and the integration of emerging technologies.” (

An advocate for inclusive design, as you may have guessed, Mitchell “manages large-scale international projects and initiatives focusing on fostering innovation within diverse communities while achieving outcomes that benefit everyone”, which is inclusive design in a nutshell: inclusive design benefits all, and practicing inclusive design makes something more accessible overall. When I started reading more about inclusive design, I realized that there is a difference between inclusive design and universal design, as well as between inclusive design and accessibility. The essay “The Number 1 Thing You’re Getting Wrong about inclusive Design” is a good place to start when beginning to puzzle through the distinctions. Following Jess Mitchell will help clarify them.

BCcampus Inclusive Design Webinar Series

In case you haven’t heard, this month BCcampus has been running series of webinars related to Inclusive Design.

According to the Inclusive Design Research Center, “[i]nclusive design is design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference. Designing inclusively results in better experiences for everyone.” With the addition of Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness policies at our institutions, and as we move more into the world of University Design for Learning (UDL) these webinars are a must for everyone to check out.

You can watch the recordings of the webinars, as well as peruse some great resource links on inclusive design and how to get started, by clicking on the links related to each of the webinars as listed for each of the Webinar headings.

Webinar 1: Part 1, Inclusive Design

Want to know more about what inclusive design is, and how it relates to accommodation and accessibility? Jess Mitchell from the Inclusive Design Research Centre discusses this and more in her presentation on Inclusive Design in which “[s]he touches on ideas like inclusion, design, transformation, innovation, access, diversity, equity, atypical, perspective-shift, data (quantitative and qualitative), anecdote, change, social justice, precarious value, intersectional, mismatch, multi-modal, and revolutionary.”

Webinar 2: Part 2, Presentations

Wanting to make your PowerPoint presentations more accessible, Josie Gray has some best practices for you in her presentation on Inclusive Design and Presentations. While the webinar addresses PowerPoint specifically, “the basic principles can be applied if you use a different presentation software. We talk about the technical aspects of setting up accessible slides, strategies to ensure all of the content on your slide is perceivable by people in the audience, and how making your slides available in multiple formats before your presentation can increase the impact of your presentation.”

Webinar 3: Part 3, PressBooks

Thinking about writing an Open Textbook? Josie Gray is back to give you some information on how to make your open textbook accessible in her presentation on Inclusive Design in PressBooks (soon to be available on the main BCcampus video site.

While “[t]his webinar [highlights] accessibility features of Pressbooks … [and] the importance of offering multiple formats, and other design choices that will improve the accessibility of your open textbook.”, the best practices presented are also applicable for other instances where you might be placing images, video, or audio in an online environment.

Webinar 4: Part 4: What Makes Something Inaccessible or Not?

As of the time of this post, there is still time to put the fourth webinar, “What Makes Something Inaccessible or Not?”, in your calendar. “This webinar aims to highlight overlooked or unrealized accessibility barriers by giving concrete examples of what might make something inaccessible and how that barrier might present for different people. By connecting the ideas of the previous webinars, we offer a way to think more critically about digital and print accessibility, especially as it relates to open textbooks and open educational resources. “

Go to the BCcampus Inclusive Design Webinar Series site for more information on how to access the webinar. If you miss it, no worries – the recording will be posted on the main BCcampus video site, where you will also find links to the many amazing webinars offered by BCcampus!

Pedagogy + Empathy = Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Contributed by Sue Doner, Instructional Designer, eLearning (Originally published in The Confluence, November 2018)

As you begin to prepare course materials for next term, may I draw your attention to some great advice laid out in the UDL Guidelines about providing learners with Options for Perception?

But first, a couple of common-experience questions for empathetic context

  • Have you ever cursed the tiny 8-pt font on a Children’s Tylenol bottle in the middle of the night when you and your aging eyes were just trying to find the right dosage information?
  • Have you ever been listening to a radio program, missed hearing what that author’s name was (or when that event is happening, or what the URL was for that guest’s website), and wished you had the information written down?

My contextual reason for asking these questions is this. In our daily quests for information, we all have occasions to require information be presented to us in multiple or different ways. We’ve all appreciated being able to access information we needed, how and when we needed it. But we’ve probably also all experienced the frustration of a barrier when the information we need is presented in a singular format that is inaccessible to us.

Information formats and barriers to learning

What if that Children’s Tylenol bottle and that radio program are sources of information you need to successfully satisfy a course learning outcome? If 8-pt font is imperceptible to you, or if you don’t hear or remember all of the relevant details for information you only receive aurally, then you are missing information that is considered essential for your success in the course. In short, these singular representations of information are going to create significant barriers to your learning.

Implementing UDL Principles & Guidelines to avoid

Excerpt from the UDL Guidelines: Provide Options for Perception
Excerpt from the UDL Guidelines: Provide Options for Perception

barriers to information

Consider the difference it would make to your success in the course if your instructor recognized that “there is not one means of representation that will be optimal for all learners”.

Consider the difference it would make to your success in the course if that paper-based information in tiny-font was also readily available in a digital format that allowed you to:

  • Customize how the information was displayed (e.g. you could enlarge font-sizes, or adjust brightness & contrast between background and text),
  • Use text-to-speech technology to hear the text read aloud.

And consider the difference it would make to your success in the course if the oral information was also readily available in a format that allowed you to:

  • Access visual alternatives (e.g. text, graphics) to the oral information/instructions.

In your role as an instructor, you play a critical part in the selection of course materials. If you provide learners in your course with Options for Perception  and present information in multiple formats, fewer of your students will encounter learning barriers that result when the singular format provided is inaccessible to them.

Questions about providing more Options for Perception in your courses?

(Camosun College instructors) connect with a working group that is currently focused on this very topic. Contact group via: