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rgibson1
Community Champion

Support for a blind instructor

We have an interesting challenge this term. Whereas we’ve successfully supported sight impaired students taking online courses, we’ve never had the challenge of a sight impaired instructor. He’s been asked to teach an online course. Going through relatively basic functions (setting up modules, adding content, etc.) has proven to be challenging and very time consuming for this person – even with JAWS. Has anyone dealt with this challenge and can offer some suggestions? I’m anticipating issues with setting up quizzes, grading, and other functions we take for granted. I thought if perhaps I can locate other sight impaired faculty that he might be able to contact for advice and assistance.

BTW, I asked a disability list serve for suggestions and they pounced on Canvas being the problem. Is that true?

17 Replies
kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

rgibson1, I really don't know if it's Canvas or just that setting things up in an LMS (in general) when you have a visual impairment. In a former life I worked with students with various disabilities, including a blind PhD student, and he found doing many things online in Moodle to be difficult even with JAWS and other accommodations.

I did a quick search for Canvas and visual impairement and found the following articles:

From this information it seems like Canvas is trying to do the best they can to make things accessible. In addition, someone from Instructure might have some leads on other teachers with visual impairments who are using Canvas.  @Renee_Carney ​ or Deactivated user​, do you have any suggestions for this?

Thank you Kona.

rgibson1​ I saw your question this morning and reached out to our accessibility team for their thoughts.  I'm waiting to hear back from them.

First, I'm bummed you got that type of a reaction from a disabilities listserv.  I would agree with Kona that it is not Canvas, all technologies are harder.  The Canvas Accessibility team works continuously to maintain the highest level of accessibility.  You'll find Instructure's commitment detailed in their Voluntary Product Accessibility Template.

I hope to have some resources for you soon!

awilliams
Community Champion

Hey rgibson1​, while I don't have any assistance to offer I find this situation incredibly interesting. Our institution had a blind faculty member for a brief time and I tried very hard to set up a time to work with her on using Canvas because I wanted to observe the process. Unfortunately I was not able to ever make that happen. I'm sure things are going to seem more challenging than normal at first because the process is entirely different, but I think you are lucky to be able to have this experience. If possible, would you mind documenting the process in some way and perhaps reporting back on how things go?

I am also curious what a blind person's experience in the community is like as well. If it is good, it would make sense to have a group set up here for Blind faculty to share their experiences and tips and tricks with each other.

Keep us posted, I'll be following intently and good luck!

rgibson1
Community Champion

Sure! Surprisingly, the disability list serve to which I subscribe was not terribly helpful, although one person is going to seek out campuses with similar challenges. They were more interested in casting stones at Canvas. It's not a Canvas issue per se'. JAWS works, but its efficacy is the question. Think about setting up a calendar task or assignment or quiz or whatever. Then think about having the screen reader re-read every-single-word on every screen and every drop-down menu. It's not feasible. It would take the faculty member 10x as long to accomplish anything.

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi Rob:

I am old school, and like to keep it simple. As others have stated, it's not Canvas, which has been certified by the national Federation for the Blind.

The problem, as someone stated, is the workflow within any LMS for designing and developing courses. I tell my faculty that to create a high quality new course from scratch can take anywhere from 40 to 140 hours or more more depending on the nature of the course.

My idea would be to have this faculty member sit down with an instructional designer, and tell him/her what she wants the course to look like. Instructional Designer builds course for instructor, then someone can walk the instructor through working in this classroom.  Doesn't have to be someone with an official Instructional Designer title, but someone within your department who has that basic skill set. It might even be possible to adapt a similar course from another instructor to meet this need. There are several advantages to this approach:

  • Much easier on the faculty member - online courses are challenging enough for vision impaired students where the functionality is very limited, let alone for a faculty member in the build process with a vast array of functionality, menus and tool sets.
  • It will be virtually impossible for a vision impaired faculty member to make a visually engaging course for sighted students, so this method provides an opportunity to accomplish this.
  • Navigation and functionality can be designed to be as simplified and logical as possible within the limits dictated by the planned curriculum to provide for a more efficient workflow for the instructor.
  • Simplified faculty navigation also means simplified and logical student navigation which is a best practice design principle.
  • This initial effort could result in a template that could then be used for future courses for this or any other vision impaired faculty members.
  • eLearning staff will gain an incredible amount of practical expertise in this area of accessibility.

Don't know what your school type and size is, but if a TA could be provided (or even a work-study student), then that person could provide grading support to the faculty member throughout the term.

Use this opportunity to develop a workable and well-documented system for future occurrences!

I hope this helps.

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

I would like to add one other point Rob...........

It may be that this faculty member's pride will encourage him/her to want to build the course themselves. This is something I understand and support, because I have a bit of pride in my work and abilities myself.

If that is the case,  I would recommend offering this faculty member continued training to learn how to build this same course for themselves after it has been built for them so that next time they can do it themselves. I would also strongly caution that the instructor be informed and have input on every bit of the design process. If you add an image, piece of content, navigation link whatever, explain what it is and why it's there, get his/her feedback and honor it.

However this plays out, you and this instructor have a huge job ahead of you, and you have my respect. The challenges will be great, but the opportunities greater. I agree with Adam, and hope you will document the process and share it in the community for all of us to learn from.

Stefanie
Community Team
Community Team

rgibson1​, this has evolved into a very interesting conversation indeed, and I wonder if we might be able to preserve it by converting it from a question (which is something that implies a status of "Answered," "Not Answered," or "Assumed Answered") to a discussion, so that it remains open indefinitely. What do you think?

rgibson1
Community Champion

Whatever you think will work, Stefanie...

Thanks!

rgibson1
Community Champion

"My idea would be to have this faculty member sit down with an instructional designer, and tell him/her what she wants the course to look like. Instructional Designer builds course for instructor, then someone can walk the instructor through working in this classroom."

~ I think this is an excellent idea....