Making Discussions Accessible

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A screen for the fingers by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 licenseLast week’s Chronicle article “Why We Dread Disability Myths” reminded me that I need to think about accessibility as I pursue my goal of improving online discussion. Slack’s iOS and Android apps are accessible, and the company is working to build further support into the tool. As an example, a company blog post explains how to change the tool’s settings to better support those with color blindness.


There’s more to accessibility than just having tools that are accessible, however. As I have written about in a previous post, Tara Wood and Shannon Madden’s “Suggested Practices for Syllabus Accessibility Statements” on the Kairos PraxisWiki explains how much more can be done to provide students equal access. Following their ideas, I need to foreground accessibility information for Slack on the assignments and course website, much as I did when I worked on Improving My Accessibility Policy on my syllabus.


The Help with Slack page that I designed for my course doesn’t even mention accessibility. It should be readily available at the top of the page. As I revise the page for the next time I teach, I’ll add the information on using the iOS and Android apps for best accessibility, as well as the information on changing settings as needed to improve visibility on the site.


In addition, I want to create an Accessibility Statement for the website, which explains the accessibility goals for the site and how to contact me. There is even an Accessibility Statement Generator to make the process simple and easy.


Finally, I want to create an Accessibility Guide for the entire course, which includes details on Slack as well as the rest of the resources we use in the course. Inspired by the CCCC Conference Accessibility Guides (like this one from the 2017 conference), I will create a document that treats the course website and the tools that we use as places, explaining how to navigate and use the resources. I’m thinking more of something that explains how to walk through the resources, find what you might need, and locate the access aids that are available. I imagine that creating the document will be a lot of work at the outset, but it should be easy to maintain unless something major changes (like the campus CMS).


Overall, these are challenging goals, but they’re critical to making sure that everyone can take best advantage of the course. In fact, I hope that these changes will help all students. It can’t hurt for everyone to know how the different portions of the sites and tools that we will use work. What do you do to make sure that the resources in your courses are accessible? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.



Credit: A screen for the fingers by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.