Program 8: Wrap-Up and Instructor Perspective


Jim Stachowiak: Now it’s time to wrap up this video series.

We’ve talked about a lot of important information about creating accessible electronic documents.

We set the stage by talking about the importance of accessible electronic text.

We looked a little bit further into the issues surrounding accessibility by talking to students with disabilities and a student disability service provider who works with inaccessible documentation every day.

And then finally we walked you through the steps to create accessible PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoint slides.

The one group that we have not yet talked to is the group we are charging with creating accessible documentation, instructors. Today we’re joined by Dr. Noel Estrada-Hernandez from the University of Iowa College of Education’s Rehabilitation Counseling Department to help get an instructor’s perspective on creating accessible documentation.

Noel, welcome and thank you for joining us to talk about this important topic.

Noel Estrada-Hernandez: Glad to be here, Jim.

J: Noel, we surveyed faculty on campus, asking them if they knew about the potential inaccessibility of electronic text that they were putting online and many of them said they did not.

Prior to participating in Universal Access training, were you aware that electronic text that you were putting online may be inaccessible?

N: You know, Jim, that’s a really great question.

One of the great things about working on a campus like this is that you have a great deal of access to technology and I’m sure many of the faculty are thinking the way I used to think.

That is if you take a standard and just scan it, put it through the computer, send it through email, put it on your online course site that it was going to be fully accessible.

When, really, it’s not. You’re making text available for the students, but not fully accessible for everybody and that’s the main issue with this access deal.

I’m trying to make a conscious effort of making things more, trying to be more aware of these accessibility issues in my classroom, but I used to think that if you just put it through the computer that they were going to be fully accessible.

J: What were your initial impressions when you found out that text that you were putting online was potentially inaccessible?

N: Well Jim, my initial reaction was frustration because I couldn’t understand why if I took a text and put it through the computer, scanned it, make it available for my students, why I was receiving notes from some of my other students saying, well my screen reader can’t read this back to me, I cannot enlarge the font size of this, I cannot make a large print out of my article, and I was not aware that, you know, there were things I was not doing and that’s why they were not able to manipulate the text.

J: Have you started to make sure that your electronic text is accessible?

N: Yes, I’m making a conscious effort to make sure that every material that I put on my class website, including PowerPoints, articles, book chapters, handouts for the classes, that they are all accessible for students.

J: When we talk to faculty about creating accessible text, many of them think it’s a very time consuming process. Have you found that creating accessible text us easy?

N: Well, it certainly takes, for a faculty that is not used to this just to develop certain skills. Just certain things you need to do, certain things you need to be aware of.

So at the beginning it might take just a little time, just to get, you know, in the rhythm of things, but once you do it, it’s just five or six steps that you have to do and you’ll have a fully accessible document.

So, once you’ve done it once, you’ve already developed the skill.

So you will be able to do it over and over again and you should be fine.

J: On average, how much extra time does it take you to create an accessible electronic document?

N: Well, you know, as a faculty you are in charge of creating your own classroom materials.

So, once you know these six or seven steps that you have to do to create your fully accessible materials, it will not take time at all.

J: What’s the most difficult aspect of creating accessible electronic text?

N: I will say, you know, um, one of the most difficult aspects of, uh, creating a fully accessible text would be if you don’t do things on time.

For example, I had several journal articles that I wanted to give my students for class and I had them scanned and , you know, I distributed electronically my material thinking they’re accessible and no, they’re not.

So, I needed to go back and try to make them accessible, but then I have to deal with the fact that, you know, the quality of the document scan wasn’t good.

So, that’s something for faculty to think about.

Um, just make sure that your start document is clean and you can start running through your accessibilities the very first time, so you don’t have to go back and start playing with this again.

J: Even though you create most of your own accessible electronic text, is there anything that you need to work with with student Disability Services in creating accessible text?

N: I do and I think for faculty having a resource like Student Disability Services, you know, close by is a good thing.

For example, I teach a research class, but its not a heavy number based class, but there’s still a lot of book chapters and articles that have graphs or tables in which, for example, I use SDS for having, um, the alternative text on the graphic descriptions and things like that.

J: Finally, Noel, do you have any advice for other instructors on creating accessible electronic text?

N: I will say that faculty members should become more aware of what Universal Design is, what accessible materials are.

Also, we need to think about the benefit that we are giving students with disabilities by having fully accessible documents.

And not only students with disabilities, but also students who may have English as a second language, or students that for any reason they need to have access to your materials in different formats.

So, I think, breaking away from the tradition of only hard copies or, you know, just giving basic electronic materials to the student and making sure that things are fully accessible, it will be a big step forward in pushing good quality education.

J: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Noel.

That’s great advice and an excellent way to wrap up this video series.

Thank you for watching, we hope these videos have shown you that creating accessible electronic text is an important and manageable task and we hope that we provided you with the inspiration needed to follow through on this and give the students with disabilities in your class text that the can manage and help succeed in your class.

For more information on Universal Design for Learning and creating accessible electronic text, please visit the Universal Access Project website at

Creating Accessible Documents