Making PDF Documents Accessible

graphic of a page with PDF on it red and whiteWhy is a Word document often preferred by some readers over a PDF document? They are more accessible for more people. Not everyone can see well; can use a mouse, can read English well, can remain focused easily when they read, and not everyone uses assistive technology. And not all PDF documents can be read by screen readers. In a slideshare Tammy Stitz explains some of the issues and solutions. She covers some of the technicalities as well as basics such as colour contrast, reading order and Alternative Text (alt-t). Logical structure, use of headings and placement and attributes of hyperlinks. The slideshare goes on to cover a list of things that need to be checked. Finally you can test the document using PDF Accessibility Checker. There is also such a thing as a PDF Association.  

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An accessible campus is part of sustainability

Edifice of a federation stone building with arched entrance with step leading to it.Linking “sustainability” with universal design is not a new idea, especially when thinking about social sustainability. A new book,Towards Green Campus Operations, includes a chapter that moves away from “green” to social sustainability. The argument is that making the campus more universally accessible is a sustainability exercise. The more accessible the campus is, the more likely the students are to enroll and, more importantly, finish their course. This is good for the university and sustains their student intake and retention. The authors also argue that academics need to be educated about this issue too. The chapter, “Educational Institutions and Universal Accessibility: In Search of Sustainability on University Campus”, is available through Springer Link.

Abstract: The paper reports proposals and solutions of the design and implementation for universal accessibility at the university campus, complying with current legislation and community demands. It addresses the challenges of raising academic awareness about the subject and of the accessible route project overcoming the campus large dimensions, urbanized areas and rugged topography. It is the result of a project and an accessible route shared through pedestrian and motorized routes and with its implantation overcoming barriers in the implementation. The theme was conducted with a focus on social sustainability, as it is a requirement to obtain the universal and legitimate right to higher education and the benefits of the university campus as a community educational, environmental and leisure urban equipment. The results of the article demonstrate that universal accessibility, more than a legal requirement for educational institutions, contributes to social sustainability. The spatial adequacies allow the universalization of the possibility of entry and stay of persons with disabilities or reduced mobility in the university campus, expanding their training at an higher level. 

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UD for Learning: An indigenous perspective

Placed in a rural setting a wooden barn type building displays the cultural icons and two totem poles of the Alaskan NativesThe education system in Alaska is an interesting place to research the potential for applying the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) in a culturally diverse and indigenous context. The article by Krista James explores examples of implementation of the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators within a UDL framework. Similarly to Australia, Alaska’s indigenous population has experienced loss of culture and forced assimilation with Western educational systems taking over the education of their children. James concludes that the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators and the UDL framework are not just easy to connect, but many of the standards are already ingrained in the core principles of UDL. You don’t have to be an educator to appreciate this article.

The title of the article is: “Universal Design for Learning as a Structure for Culturally Responsive Practice”, in the Northwest Journal of Teacher Education. 2018. There is a link to a 30 minute video at the end of the article.

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Conference attendance from a user perspective

picture of a large audience watching a presentation.When academics organise a conference on health and wellbeing of people, some of the people being discussed are likely to be in attendance and potentially on the speaking program. But how many academic conference organisers think about this? Not many it seems. Sarah Gordon has written a very readable article about her experience as a conference speaker, attendee and user of the health system. Conferences that have content relating to disability are generally considerate of the “nothing about us without us” approach. But when it comes to conferences on mental health, it seems the users are given little if any consideration. While the focus is on mental health in this paper, the comments can be applied more generally. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is referenced throughout and this makes it a long read. The point is made that conferences are part of the right to life-long learning and education, and the right to give and receive information. The application of universal design principles are discussed as a means to create greater inclusion for conferences. The paper is titled, What makes a ‘good’ conference from a service user perspective? by Sarah Gordon and Kris Gledhill, in the International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law (2017).

Editor’s note: This is one of the few academic papers available as a Word document with free access. 

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Captioning for business presentations

Aerial view of a crowded conference scene where the session has finished and people are standing, sitting and walking about.Geoffrey Clegg is a university lecturer in business communication who is gradually losing his hearing. He is using his experience to educate his students about the diversity of audiences they will encounter in their workplaces. His paper explores the use of text and also provides students with a framework to question their assumptions about ability and disability that will transfer to their workplace practices. The article goes on to look at captioning research. The article is titled, Unheard Complaints: Integrating Captioning Into Business and Professional Communication Presentations from Sage Journals. Or you can request full text from ResearchGate  or download from iDocSlide.Com.

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Inclusive Tourism: free online learning

A graph showing the growth of inclusive tourismHow can you make an hotel, a place of interest, an event, or holiday accessible and inclusive? What’s actually involved and why should anyone bother? The answer to these and many other questions are found in a comprehensive e-learning program – and it’s free! The course was developed by Local Government NSW to help tourism operators make the most of their potential clientele. There are several modules and each has learning content followed by quick questions. You can access the course, the case studies and resources on the Local Government NSW website. 

The course was developed as a result of a collaboration with the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse when it became clear that information about accessible and inclusive tourist destinations and activities was often incomplete. Although this was developed with local council tourist centres in mind, the content is applicable broadly – including shops, cafes, restaurants and novelty places – anywhere for visitors whether they are local, interstate or international.

 

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Introduction to Universal Design

Title of course: introduction to universal design, yellow and orange blurred coloured background with dark blue text.From the Editor: The feedback about this free short online course has been very positive. I know that many subscribers feel they already know a lot about universal design, and this is true. It is also true that this is very basic as the first couple of pages show. But there is a little more to it as you progress. Although it aimed at those who are fairly new to the concept, have a go and when you get to the end you get a certificate of completion. The more you know, the quicker you will be. And we’ve tried to make it fun. This will be the entry course to other units that we will be adding later. Jane Bringolf. 

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Introduction to Universal Design Launched

Title of course: introduction to universal design, yellow and orange blurred coloured background with dark blue text.At the Access Consultants Conference in Brisbane last week, I had the pleasure of announcing CUDA’s first online course: Introduction to Universal Design. This free course is aimed at people who have heard of universal design but not sure what it is or how it can be implemented. Of course, anyone can sign up and go through the steps. You don’t have to do it in one sitting. There is a certificate of completion at the end. Briefly, the topics are the seven principles and eight goals, diversity and stereotyping. It concludes with an overview of how it can be applied in the built environment, to products and to technology. There are captioned videos to watch and quizzes to complete. Depending on your prior knowledge it should take between one to two hours to complete Introduction to Universal DesignWhy not give it a go?

We are happy to receive feedback on the course and suggestions for improvement. Also, we would like to know what topics you would like us to develop for online courses, or there might be a topic you would like to contribute to.

Jane Bringolf, Chair, Centre for Universal Design Australia

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Say it, write it, and post it with universal design

Front cover of the toolkit with three overlapping circles, bright pink, purple and turquoise.The Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach has sections on written, verbal and digital communication. At 134 pages it is comprehensive. Each section has examples, tips, checklists and links to learn more. The intention of the toolkit is for public service planning, training and informing contractors. But of course, it works for anyone who is communicating with the public. The toolkit follows its own advice in presenting this written information in a straightforward way. Lots of graphics illustrate key points, and the information is very specific, such as when to write numbers as digits or as words. While some of the information might not be new to some, it serves as a good reviser of current practice.

Another great resource from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland. Interesting to note that they have chosen colours for the cover and their logo that almost everyone can see – that includes people with colour vision deficiency.

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Learning about dementia and design

logo of Alzheimer's Australia learning program. It is a black owl figure with blue eyesAlzheimer’s Australia has some great learning programs for all aspects of living with, and designing for, dementia. The Virtual Dementia Experience provides a simulated experience that provides insights into what it is like to live with memory loss and cognitive changes. Although it was initially designed for aged care workers, it’s helpful for anyone with a connection to dementia or wanting to better understand the condition for design purposes. Alzheimer’s Australia run sessions across Australia and you can book online.

There are also some practical online modules you can do at your own pace. The first is free to see if it what you are looking for, and the subsequent modules are modestly priced at $25 each. They cover communicating, a person-centered practice, and a problem solving approach. Mostly aimed at allied health professionals, but could be useful for designers wanting to get a real feel for the topic.

More specifically for environments you can download Enabling Environments, and a great app for tablets and smartphones for the Dementia Friendly Home. The Resources tab on the website provides more on these topics.

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