Teaching the Teacher

Creating Accessible Documents – A Guide for Faculty

Part of my job involves converting documents for students with print disabilities from inaccessible to accessible. It is one of those tasks that could easily be avoided if faculty members understood the need and had the skills to create them in the first place. It is a pet peeve of mine to see this mistake occurring year after year with such a simple remedy available.

For this infographic, I will concentrate on how to create accessible Microsoft Word documents. These documents are the easiest to format and most instructors use Word to write their papers. Since the people I want to reach are university professors and instructors, I need to be careful not to talk down to them. At the same time, in my experience, many of them do not even know how to use basic Microsoft built-in functions when creating their documents. I will have to walk the tightrope of teaching basic skills without being patronizing.

Since the various colleges use different methods of teaching, I cannot expect to reach all faculty members nor would it be appropriate to try. At some point, perhaps I could create an infographic on creating accessible html documents, pdf's, and Excel spreadsheets. I don’t want to water down the message by trying to include everyone.

So, my goal is to teach faculty who use Word regularly to create class material how to design that material to be accessible for students with print disabilities.

One of my considerations will be to make give faculty a reason to pause and learn the material. They are notoriously strapped for time and will not be approachable unless they see a clear benefit. I hope to give them this by showing how it will help make their classes friendlier to more students and therefore increase student retention. I will do this with data visualizations showing the high percentage of students affected by inaccessible handouts. Also, I will define print disabilities since many may not have heard of this term.

I’m planning to try Easelly Inforgraphics to create this tool. Here is my first draft on paper.