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Accessibility at HOL

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:12 pm
by Prof. Amy Lupin
Quick links:
Accessible alternatives
How to make website navigation accessible
How to add alt text to images on websites

Hi everyone!

As you know, here at HOL, we all come from diverse backgrounds. Amongst our members, we have different religions, orientations, nationalities, abilities and more. As such, inclusion and tolerance is a crucial part of the community (not to mention in our everyday lives as well).

While tolerance and inclusion should form a part of all of our interactions with each and every single member of this community, there is one further step that we can (and should) all take as leaders of the community, and that is improving accessibility for the activities we host as well as the classes we teach.

Accessibility involves enabling people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability to interact with the web as well as other products or offerings. People with hearing losses, visual impairments (including blindness), limited mobility, learning difficulties and conditions such as fibromyalgia aren't able to enjoy HOL to the same extent that other more able members are. It's important that everyone is made to feel welcome here.

Jigsaw puzzles, for example, can't be completed by those with visual impairments or limited mobility. People with hearing losses are likely to struggle with song identifications or analyses on videos. While that's not to say that jigsaw puzzles (as well as other types of puzzles of puzzles or tasks) shouldn't be included at all, accessible alternatives need to be made available to anyone with disabilities that prevent them from completing part of an assignment or an activity task. Ideally, these should be incorporated into one's activity or class where possible from the get go, but at the very least the option for an alternative needs to be clearly stated. We are making this a requirement for all activities and classes going forward.

I've added the following note to my current classes, which you are free to adapt for both your activities and classes:
Should you rely on assistive technology or have any other needs that should be taken into account, please contact me and we can discuss other options for certain parts of the assignments.

Alternatives

Please read this list of suggested alternatives for assignment options and tasks. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a good starting point. I would like to encourage you though to have a conversation with the student/participant to find out what they can handle and where they can meet halfway (such as completing something that's on theme and is close enough to the intentions of the original task). Every person has different needs. A research task might work well for someone who relies on a screenreader, but not necessarily for someone who has fibromyalgia.

Should you have a disability and be willing to give us further insight on which tasks work for you and which don’t, please drop us an email at headoffice @ hol.org.uk (without the spaces) and we’ll add it to the list.

Activity Requirements

In terms of activities, going forward we will require you to include in your proposal two examples of accessible alternatives that could stand in for any of the non-accessible tasks that are part of the activity. Should your activity only have one non-accessible task, then only one example would need to be included. If there are no non-accessible tasks that form part of your activity (such as a pure writing-based activity), then this requirement does not apply.

That being said, you will still be expected to make adjustments if someone with a condition like chronic fatigue syndrome or any other long-term illness wishes to join in and can't handle the workload -- a suggestion in this case would be to give them an extended deadline until the end of the activity. Similarly, for those who can't concentrate for long periods or find it hard to sit in one place, it gives them a chance to manage the tasks in a way that works for them. If someone approaches you because of a condition like that: automatically grant them the longest time possible to do things, then chat with them to see if there are any tasks that might be problematic.

The Activity Proposal template has been updated to include this crucial step of including examples of accessible alternative tasks. Those alternatives don't need to be set in stone, as it's important that you and your fellow organisers have a conversation with participants who might need an alternative task and adapt the activity alternatives accordingly. This step is more to show the Head Office that you have taken accessibility into account when putting together your activities.

Although not all activities offered by Clubs and Houses go through the Activity Center, you will still be required to provide accessible alternatives upon request.

Class Requirements

Drop down menus (such as Lesson 1, Lesson 2, etc. appearing under Lessons) using Google Sites and Weebly unfortunately are not accessible through screenreaders. The same applies to HTML websites that rely on ‘hover’ alone to display the drop down menu. A simple solution for this would be along the lines of what Maxim Trevelyan does for his class where there is a dedicated Lessons page with links to the individual lessons (similarly with the assignments). This doesn't mean that you have to get rid of drop downs, but rather drop downs should be used in conjunction with an accessible alternative way of finding the relevant pages. With Weebly and the modern Google sites, more often than not, the 'Lessons' (and similar) is already clickable and could be used to point at a tab where the links are displayed in a regular HTML format. Please check this guide if you're unsure how to implement this.

In addition to the above, we request that you add alt text to any images on your class websites. Alt text (or alternative text) conveys what an image is about, and should be able to stand in for the image when it cannot be viewed. This might be due to the image failing to load or perhaps someone relying on a screen reader. Please read this step by step guide on how to add alt text to your websites. We’ll only be requiring the class homepage, syllabus, first lesson and assignment to have alt text when you submit your class application (between 1-20 August). You would then have until mid-September to add alt text to the remainder of your class website, as that is when classes will be checked to make sure they are complete.

If you need help with adding alt text to images, please don’t hesitate to contact us at headoffice @ hol.org.uk (without the spaces).

Additional considerations:
  • When uploading images to your website from your computer, please rename them to something meaningful, as screenreaders do read out file names. “Hogwarts_castle.jpg” is more informative than “DSC_157.jpg”.
  • There should be enough colour contrast on your websites to aid readability for those with varying degrees of colour blindness. For best results, use black text on a white background, or white text on a black background. The following colour combinations should be avoided: green/red; green/brown; blue/purple; green/blue; light green/yellow; blue/grey; green/grey and green/black. This resource is useful for checking whether there is adequate colour contrast.
  • Try to limit the amount of very long sentences, as that would be beneficial for those who have concentration difficulties.
Consequences

Additionally, should students ask for an accessible alternative and you fail to provide one (regardless of whether you refuse to do so or ignore the request), we will be taking this very seriously. It's absolutely essential that we build a community of tolerance in all aspects. If someone were to discriminate against someone else for their religion, orientation, etc., we'd be coming down on them hard — this isn't any different. If you do know that you’ll be away for a period of time, it’s your responsibility to let your students know.

If, however, you are struggling to come up with an alternative even after communicating with the person, you’re more than welcome to email the HO at headoffice @ hol.org.uk (without the spaces) and we’ll gladly work with you.

For those with disabilities

As difficult as it might be to speak out about your disability, we would like to encourage you to notify one of the people organising a particular activity soon after it is announced so that they can help accommodate you more speedily. The same applies when signing up for a class -- please try let the teacher know ahead of time as well if you need accessible alternatives in order to complete the class.

Additionally, should you have a disability and an activity organiser or teacher isn’t willing to help you out, please feel free to reach out to the Head Office at headoffice @ hol.org.uk (without the spaces), and we’ll take it further.

Further Discussion

Please keep in mind that this is not an opt out for anyone who finds a particular assignment/task challenging or doesn't particularly enjoy doing it but can otherwise complete it unaided.

Note: I am locking this thread because I know it can be painful for the people that this affects to read about other people’s concerns and thoughts on implementing accessibility (however well-intentioned). Please feel free to send an email to headoffice @ hol.org.uk (without the spaces) as we are more than willing to engage with anyone on this topic.

Thank you!

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Summary

For activities, we require the following:
  • Two examples of accessible alternative tasks in your activity proposal
  • A note in the introductory post of your activity that should a participant use assistive technology or have any other needs that should be taken into account, they are to get in contact with the activity organisers. Ideally, a similar note should also be placed with the non-accessible tasks themselves.
  • Accessible alternative tasks to be made available upon request.
For classes, we require the following:
  • A note on the homepage or Syllabus page that should a participant use assistive technology or have any other needs that should be taken into account, they are to get in contact with the teacher.
  • Accessible navigation
  • Alt text for images
  • Informative file names for images (preferable)
  • Sufficient colour contrast between the text and background (preferable)
  • Limiting the amount of very long sentences (preferable)
Any questions or concerns can be directed to the HO at headoffice @ hol.org.uk (without the spaces)