ARC-BC Universal Design
Universal Design for Learning Materials
The Accessible Resource Centre - British Columbia (ARC-BC) produces primary learning materials in digital alternate formats for students with perceptual disabilities under the provisions of Section 32 of the Copyright Act. In the time since ARC-BC's first formal year of operation in 2008-2009, the nature of learning materials in the classroom has changed significantly - moving from a reliance hard copy materials to include an increasing proportion of learning materials in digital formats and online content.
At the same time, the nature of inclusive education has evolved to place greater emphasis on personalized learning and universal supports that recognize and celebrate diversity in the classrooms, schools, and in communities across the province. Central to this evolution are the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Access is a key dimension within the guidelines to support the implementation of a UDL Framework:
- Guideline 1: Provide options for perception. Learning materials should be universally perceptible for all learners through content accessible through multiple modalities or through functionality/markup that can be adjusted by the learner.
- Guideline 4: Provide options for physical action. Learning materials should be navigable for all learners and interact effectively with assistive technology.
- Guideline 7: Provide options for recruiting interest. Learning materials that are engaging for the learner are, in essence, more accessible than those that are not engaging for the learner.
Accessible Educational Materials in the Classroom - Design Principles
There are guiding principles for content creators (e.g., students, teachers, publishers) that, when applied to the development of educational materials, increase the likelihood that the content will be accessible to students with a diverse range of access requirements. These principles are at the core of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and are the basis for promoting content accessibility in the digital environment - whether that is an app, a class website, or a student presentation. By keeping these principles in mind when creating content, educators provide access options for all learners in the classroom.
- Content is Perceivable. Learners should be able to perceive the content through different and adjustable modalities so that students with diverse access requirements can interact with the content in the manner that works best for their learning profiles.
- Content is Operable. Learners should be able to interact with content through a variety of input methods. For many students, this means that all functionality that is operable via the mouse is also operable via the keyboard.
- Content is Understandable. Learners should be able to follow content that is logical, clear, and provides sufficient context/background to new or complex concepts or features. Understandable content uses plain language and avoids the unnecessary use of jargon or complex terminology.
- Content is Robust. Learners should be able to access content using a variety of assistive technology software and hardware solutions. Content is checked for accessibility and user-tested.
Together, these are sometimes identified by their acronym as the P-O-U-R principles. For more strategies and information on how educators can design for accessibility, check out the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials.
When educators design with accessibility in mind, they include functionality that is essential for students with perceptual disabilities to engage meaningfully with learning content. However, when the P-O-U-R principles are applied in the design phase, instructional materials are "born accessible" for all learners. When digital learning materials are born accessible, specialized alternate format materials are not required for only some learners and our approach to providing access to content is more consistent with inclusive practice and Universal Design for Learning.
Applying P-O-U-R Principles to Create Accessible Digital Learning Materials
There are a number of helpful online resources to support the creation of digital accessible learning materials for all students. Some are listed in the table at the bottom of this page.
ARC-BC has created instructional videos for creating digital accessible learning materials across a number of common formats and programs. Recognizing that the P-O-U-R principles should apply to both the process of creating digital accessible learning materials as well as the product, there are two videos per format:
- Mouse operability - information designed to match the experience of a content creator relying on the computer mouse and "pointing and clicking."
- Keyboard operability - information designed to match the experience of a content creator relying on the keyboard.
[Videos go here]
- Adding effective image descriptions as Alternate Text to images in documents, web pages, etc. as a text-based alternative.
- Ensuring sufficient colour contrast between visual targets and their background for users with low vision.
- Adding structure to tables in Microsoft Word to ensure that rows and columns are distinguishable for the non-visual user.
- Adding level headings to Word documents to ensure a predictable, navigable structure for all users.
- Ensuring that hyperlinks are descriptive so that they make sense when accessed out of context.
- All content is keyboard operable.
- Ensuring that the proofing language of the document is set.
- Ensuring content is written in plain language.
- Ensuring that uncommon or technical terminology is defined in a glossary of terms.
- Ensuring that content undergoes accessibility testing across a variety of platforms.
- Ensure that documents have been checked for accessibility