About "Accessible Instructional Media"
In addition to advocating innovative instruction and multiple modes of representation, engagement, and expression, UDL encourages the use of “accessible” and “usable” course materials. These are documents saved in electronic formats (e.g., doc, rtf, pdf, html) and formatted to enhance their usability for the largest possible audience.
A single presentation method can prove limiting, for example, when providing a course syllabus. Since a print copy can only be used in one mode (that is to say, it must be seen to be read), it is inaccessible to students who possess visual impairments. The same syllabus, however, saved in an electronic format, can be read aloud by screen reader software and translated into Braille, which can in turn be printed or read at the computer using a refreshable Braille keyboard (available at many campuses). The same electronic version can be posted on the web to help students who have simply misplaced their copy. By offering a syllabus in multiple formats, the instructor makes the information available and accessible to everyone.
Experience with universal design for learning also reveals that when we design for a wide range of abilities and learning styles, content becomes compatible with a wider range of technologies. For example, when we separate the content and structure of a web page from the codes that govern its appearance, we also make our content accessible to PDAs and cell phones. When we create captions for a video, we make it accessible to people watching in a noisy airport or in a quiet computer lab. And because the captions are text, we’ve also made the content of the video available to search engines and archival database systems. Finally, when we add alternative text descriptions to images, we make our pages accessible to speech synthesis software.
Accessible instructional materials (AIM) are specialized formats of course content that can be used by learners who are unable to read or use standard print materials. They include formats such as audio with transcripts, captioned video, large print text, braille, and digital text.
Some people think that graphics are bad for accessibility. The truth is that graphics can be of great benefit to the accessibility of a web page by providing illustrations, icons, animations, or other visual cues that aid comprehension for sighted individuals. Too often we forget that when we design for people with disabilities, we are not designing only for the blind. We must consider disabilities of all types. Graphics can be especially useful to individuals with certain reading disabilities, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, or cognitive disabilities. See more from WebAIM.
With the exception of Braille, e-text formats such as Word, RTF, and HTML can provide a wide range of accommodations. E-text can be highlighted (selected with mouse or key combo) and read aloud by synthetic speech on almost any computer. Continuing research and development is resulting in increasingly high-quality automated voice pronunciation. E-text can be instantly increased in size and preferential color schemes can be applied. In addition, letters, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and sections can be sequentially highlighted as text is read aloud.
Digital talking books (DTBs) is an audio resource of enormous potential. This format supports recorded human audio either as a stand-alone medium or synchronized to on-screen text, extensive navigation, support for additional media (images, charts and graphs, video), and, by design, well-formatted Braille. In addition, students with visual impairments may use screen readers such as JAWS or WindowEyes to have any on-screen text spoken aloud, while students who do not need to have the entire computer interface read aloud may use supported readers like WYNN, Kurzweil, Read & Write, ReadPlease, and others to have text spoken aloud by synthetic speech. The majority of these assistive technologies will auditorize files created in Word, RTF, ASCII, or HTML, yielding a high degree of flexibility.
Not all students are able to gain meaning from standard video presentations due to sensory disabilities, learning differences or lack of proficiency in the English language. Audio descriptions provide access to multimedia for people who are blind or visually impaired by adding narration that describes the visuals, including action, scene changes, graphics and on-screen text. Captions added to multimedia presentations ensure that the audio components of the presentation are accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Captions also provide a powerful search capability, allowing users to search the caption text to locate a specific video, or an exact point in a video.
National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials
The National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials serves as a resource for stakeholders, including state- and district-level educators, parents, publishers, conversion houses, accessible media producers, and others interested in learning more about and implementing AIM.
Visit the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials to learn about the "who, what, why' of AIM, from the basics to classroom and online practice.