In collaboration with the Center for Collaboration and Development, CTEL launched an Accessibility Series in the Spring of 2014. It was is designed to guide faculty in adopting foundational practices that result in accessible digital learning experiences for USM students, including learners with disabilities. Topics included basic characteristics of disabilities; resources and assistance provided for both students and faculty by USM’s Disability Services Center; practical considerations when developing courses; steps for ensuring accessibility of course readings and educational materials; and features of Blackboard that maximize use and engagement by all students.
The series was led by USM Faculty members Cynthia Curry and Julie Alexandrin and USM’s Director of Disability Services Center Joanne Benica. If you'd like to discuss the below resources further, please feel free to reach out to Julie, Joanne, or Cynthia with any questions or to explore this topic further.
Accessibility Series included:
Please click the links below for a workshop description, video, and additional resources.
- USM’s Obligation to Our Students with Disabilities: The Role of Collaboration Between Faculty and the Disability Services Center
- The First Steps to Successful Online Teaching for Students with Disabilities
- Syllabus Inventory: Are Your Digital Text Readings Accessible for Students with Disabilities?
- Blackboard for Diverse Learning Experiences
Julie Alexandrin, PhD
Julie R. Alexandrin, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Abilities and Disabilities Studies in the department of Educational Psychology and Exceptionality in the School of Education and Human Development. Julie has worked with students with disabilities at all levels of education. Her teaching and scholarship have focused on creating better understanding of who students with disabilities are and how to best support, work with, and teach them. She brings not only her knowledge from her research and scholarship to the trainings, but also her hands on teaching in face-to-face, blended, and completely online courses which are Universal in Design, and therefore meeting the multiple needs of diverse student learners.
Joanne joined the USM community in August 2012 as the Director of the Disability Services Center. Her primary role is to work individually with students who have physical, medical, sensory, and psychological disabilities, as well as with faculty and staff to facilitate appropriate delivery of accommodations across campus. Previously, she worked as Director of the Disability Support Services office at American University in Washington, D.C. She also worked as a social worker for five years after obtaining her Bachelors degree in Social Work from the Pennsylvania State University. She received her Masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Arkansas in 2001.
Cynthia is a USM adjunct faculty member and consultant who applies her expertise in technology, universal design, and accessibility to improve teaching and learning in K-12 and higher education. Currently, her projects include Transforming Teaching through Collaborative Teacher Education, a USM SEHD grant funded by the U.S. DOE's Office of Special Education Programs; the Maine AIM Program, a U.S. DOE-funded initiative to provide training and technical assistance on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) for Maine educators; and the MLTI-Teacher Preparation Collaborative, a Maine DOE-funded partnership between the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) and seven of Maine's teacher preparation programs. Through the Maine DOE, Cynthia has developed numerous online resources on strategies for making curriculum and digital learning objects accessible across the widest range of student variability. She has spoken nationally on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Response to Intervention (RTI), and AIM. In 2008, Cynthia was named Person in Education by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt).
USM’s Obligation to Our Students with Disabilities: The Role of Collaboration Between Faculty and the Disability Services Center
As Part One, this session sets the context of the Accessibility Series: Achievement of accessible digital learning experiences requires collaboration. USM’s Disability Services Center welcomes the opportunity to work with faculty to increase knowledge and awareness of the online experiences of your students with disabilities. In addition to exploring individual student experiences through case studies, participants will understand the legal obligations that underlie USM’s policies and procedures.
- Event recording part I
- Event Recording Part II
- PPT presentation
- USM Disability Services Center
- Accessibility & Usability at Penn State
- Settlement Between Penn State and National Federation of the Blind
Part Two of the Accessibility Series addresses the question: What can be done to ensure that all students, including those with disabilities, are included in the promise of high quality online education at USM? A first step is to make unique considerations when preparing an online course that is accessible for the widest possible number of learners. These considerations are based on the varied ways that students interact with the online delivery of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The design of every online course is different, but there are some broad commonalities that we can examine.
Part Three of the Accessibility Series introduces a common and significant barrier between students with disabilities and academic success. The readings included in your syllabi are carefully chosen to align with your course objectives and meaningfully support students’ understanding of the subject and discipline. The formats of some readings, however, present barriers to students who have disabilities that interfere with learning from text. For this reason, certain students will not have the same opportunity as others to benefit from your course materials. In this session, strategies for ensuring that your course readings are accessible to all students will be examined.
In Part Four of the Accessibility Series, issues that students with disabilities experience with Blackboard are introduced. Features of Blackboard that maximize participation of students with disabilities will be demonstrated, including use of text color, font, and size; organization and design of content areas; adaptive release of content; test accommodations; image descriptions, and visual feedback. Participants will leave this session energized to make their Blackboard sites not only more accessible for students with disabilities, but more interactive and engaging for all learners.