Accommodations in a Digital Learning Environment
Your accommodations may look different in a digital environment compared to what you’re used to in a face to face environment. Some adjustments to accommodations may be necessary in order to adapt to the different demands of online class and exam-writing environments.
If you have concerns about access and accommodations with your online courses, please be in touch with your DALS faculty member. We can discuss existing accommodations and any other accommodations that may be necessary in a digital environment.
- If digital classes are new for you, consider scheduling some time to log into your Blackboard site with a DALS faculty prior to the beginning of your class. This way, if there are access or accommodation issues, your faculty can help you find what these are and come up with a solution without you having to worry about missing any course information.
- Not all assistive technologies are compatible with digital learning platforms. As an example, some scanned documents are not readable with screen reading software.
- If your accommodations includes having a notetaker, please contact your DALS faculty as soon as possible to plan for this.
- If you are a student who requires captioning, BlueJeans has a closed caption feature that is easy to access (coming Fall 2020). For more information: https://support.bluejeans.com/s/article/Closed-Captioning-for-Meetings-User-Guide
- Some specific suggestions if you have a hearing impairment:
- Use an external speaker. Instead of the speaker on your computer, use an external speaker that is hardwired or connected via Bluetooth – ideally with its own power supply and amplifier, which will boost and enrich sound quality.
- Wear headphones. Headphones that completely cup the ears can also help block external noises, especially if they have noise cancelling capabilities. If possible, wear a good pair of headphones directly over your hearing aids or cochlear implant.
- Many personal devices (i.e. hearing aids or cochlear implants) often have additional accessibility options that can make a difference. Some personal hearing devices make it possible to “directly” connect to a computer with a hardwired cable. You then simply adjust the volume control on the computer and/or your personal device. Place your FM/DM system microphone next to the computer speaker or use a direct audio cable to connect the FM/DM microphone transmitter to your computer.
Enhancing Readability in a Digital Environment
Use fonts that are designed for computer monitors. Sans serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, and Tahoma are more legible than serif fonts such as Times New Roman. Avoid decorative fonts or those with thin strokes. For emphasis, use bold or a heavy font rather than italics or upper-case letters. However, if you assignments that are to be presented in an official format such as APA, MLA, or Chicago style then follow those specific terms.
Learn how to adjust text size for easy readability. Some times font size may appear to be different on the onscreen environment. With Blackboard courses Learners may be able to adjust the size of font on the home page and on the navigational link. Software, such as Magnifier for Windows (built-in) may be helpful.
Accessing your reading software successfully will depend on the types of platform the instructors are using. It will be important to try this out early once your course is open to see if it works. Screen readers can help users navigate programs and websites, not just reading the text aloud. Here are a couple free options for students to try out.
- NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) (free, Windows) https://www.nvaccess.org/download/
- VoiceOver on MAC(free) https://www.apple.com/accessibility/mac/vision/
- VoiceOver on iOS (free, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) https://www.apple.com/ca/accessibility/iphone/vision/
- WindowEyes (available free of charge for users with a validated Microsoft Office version 2010 or later) http://www.gwmicro.com/
- Natural Reader https://www.naturalreaders.com/
- Kurzweil 3000 software is free for students during the Covid-19 pandemic. https://www.kurzweiledu.com/products/k3000-standalone.html
- Texthelp Read and Write also has free trial version. https://www.texthelp.com/en-us/products/read-write/read-write-for-education/
- JAWS is the most common screen reader https://support.freedomscientific.com/Downloads/JAWS
Speech to Text Software
Effective use of speech recognition technology shifts the focus from the physical act of writing to that of expression of thoughts and knowledge. This software allows students to dictate their ideas and thoughts and have them translated into words on the computer. Some examples of speech to text products include:
- Dragon Professional or Dragon Anywhere – https://www.nuance.com/dragon.html
- Otter – Google docs voice typing https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aisense.otter&hl=en_CA
- Braina Pro – https://www.brainasoft.com/braina/speech-to-text.html
- Speechnotes – https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/speechnotes-speech-to-tex/opekipbefdbacebgkjjdgoiofdbhocok?hl=en
- e-Speaking – https://e-speaking.com/download.htm
- Voice Finger – https://voicefinger.cozendey.com/
- Apple dictation – https://support.apple.com/en-ca/HT210539
- Windows 10 Speech recognition – https://support.microsoft.com/en-ca/help/4027176/windows-10-use-voice-recognition
If your course has a live class lecture and you require assistance in note taking, audio recording the lecture may be an option. Please discuss this with your DALS faculty member so they can add this to your accommodation letter and walk you through the audio recording agreement. Blackboard and BlueJeans have audio recording features. In some cases the instructors will be required to set this up beforehand so please have those discussions early with your DALS member.
Personal Learning Environment Accommodations
One of the joys about online learning is that it can be done anywhere there is Internet access. Many students want and need well-organized dedicated learning space with limited distractions. Take the time to set up a designated learning space that honors who you are as a learner. Remember to take frequent break and to get up and move around, as you need.