Watch the video recording of this Office Hours session, or keep reading for a full transcript. For those interested in reading the conversation that took place among participants and the resources shared, the chat transcript is also available below.

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Audio Transcript

Office Hours: Evaluating OER for Accessibility 


  • Elena Azadbakht (Health Sciences Librarian and Assistant Professor, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries)
  • elle dimopoulos (Assistive Technology Specialist, College of Marin)
  • Jeff Galant (Program Director, Affordable Learning Georgia)
  • Tiffani Tijerina (Affordable Learning Georgia Program Manager )
  • Apurva Ashok (Director of Open Education, The Rebus Foundation)
  • Karen Lauritsen (Publishing Director, Open Education Network)

Apurva: Hello everybody, welcome to another Office Hours. My name is Apurva Ashok, I’m from the Rebus Community and I’m really excited to welcome you all to a summer session of Office Hours. I know we took June off, but we’re back. We’re excited to chat about a really interesting topic today. But before diving into all the details about what we’ll be discussing and who our excellent speakers are, I do want to turn it over to Karen to tell you a little bit about the OEN and who’s joining from the OEN today. 

Karen: Thank you, Apurva. Hello everybody, I’m Karen Lauritsen with the Open Education Network. I’m joined today by our community manager, Barb Thees, and our new digital content strategist, Tonia Johnson, and many of you who are OEN members. For those of you who are not yet a member of our community, we are a group of professionals who are advancing higher education through open education.

And, as Apurva said, we’re all delighted that you can join us for this July session, we are going to talk about evaluating OER for accessibility today. And we are joined by three guests. Although I will say that almost invariably, all of you as attendees also have much to bring to the conversation so we invite all of you and your expertise to the conversation as well. If this is your first Office Hours, I’ll just introduce you briefly to the format. 

Our three guests will talk for maybe about five minutes with their experience evaluating OER for accessibility, and then Apurva and I will look to all of you to drive the conversation with your questions, your comments, your stories from the field. And so we really look forward to hearing from me shortly. So without further ado, I will introduce you to our three speakers and then turn things over to them. 

We are joined today by Tiffani Tijerina, Affordable Learning Georgia Program Manager. Also Elena Azadbakht, Health Sciences Librarian and Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries. And elle dimopoulos, Assistive Technology Specialist at the College of Marin, so our three guests are going to talk about evaluating OER we’ve spent previous sessions talking about creating accessible OER. 

And so now we’re going to talk about it after it’s been created and potential remediation strategies and so on. So Tiffani, I will hand things to you to kick us off.

Tiffani: Thank you, so, hi everyone, I’m like she said my name is Tiffani Tijerina, and I am the Program Manager for Affordable Learning Georgia, which is the University System of Georgia’s affordability initiative. Over the past year and a half since joining Affordable Learning Georgia, one of the primary functions of my job has been to lead our accessibility efforts.

And so, since then we’ve created training tutorials for making things accessible. We’ve added new requirements to our grant programs. And we’ve started a migration of all of our materials to Manifold which is a more accessible platform and an opportunity to create even more accessibility. And we’ve added a new emphasis on providing support for the creation of accessible OER.

And so I’m going to put this link in the chat, unless Jeff beats me to it because that’s what he does. But more recently, we have actually released a new evaluation rubric for evaluating the accessibility of OER whether you created it or are adopting it. And you can also find that on the accessibility page. The OER accessibility evaluation rubric is available as an online form, and also a fill in and printable Word document, and it looks at three different areas of accessibility: open access, digital access, and pedagogical access.

So in the open access section, you’re looking at access and usability at the very basic level of openness, so we’re looking at things like downloadability, printability, responsive design, login requirements, things like that, convertibility. Then in the digital access section, that’s where we’re looking at the more traditional concepts of accessibility so there’s sort of a summarized set of standards there based on WCAG 2.0 Web Accessibility design guidelines.

And then, finally, in the pedagogical access section, you’re challenged to consider accessibility at the pedagogical level, so in that section and it’s a little bit shorter of a section. But we’re looking at the availability of self assessment activities, so activities that students can use before they submit graded assignments that would encourage them to basically practice ahead of time and to assess themselves. 

And then also the encouragement of universal design practices, which a lot of the time we think of universal design for learning in more of a like how the students access the materials way, but in the rubric where we’re also encouraging you to look at how students are engaging with and applying those materials. And I think that step, making that step from just how they access it to also how they engage with and apply it is a really important part of making OER fully accessible. 

So that’s what we have been doing at ALG with accessibility. The rubric is really new, it’s only been used by a few people so far. But I know it’s making the rounds. I’ve had a few people get in touch with me to ask questions about it so it’s just really exciting, a new resource to use. So, I will end there I don’t know how long it took.

Karen: Thank you Tiffani. It’s great to hear about the new rubric and look forward to hearing more during the discussion. Elena, over to you.

Elena: Hi everyone, happy to be here. I’m a Health Sciences Librarian, and so primarily how I intersect with OERs and accessibility is mostly I help instructors, if they’re wanting to create something or find something they can use in their class to make the situation more affordable. And then also if you want to add something to our collections and promote it directly to students we have to make sure of course it’s accessible. 

And at my institution, we were slapped with a huge lawsuit so everyone’s really, really on board, in a way that maybe wouldn’t have happened otherwise, about making things accessible, and my coworker who’s not here. She’s on vacation so I’m representing us both is really big in working with OERs and accessibility. And she kind of brought me into a project where we got grant funding from the Association of College and Research Libraries. 

We wanted to get a better idea of what sort of issues people are having with open textbooks and accessibility. So we got a grant, we hired a student assistant, and we found a random sample of about 355 open textbooks in various formats so EPUBs, PDFs, HTML files, and some Word documents, and we created a rubric based on WCAG 2.1. Not everything on there, mostly we stuck to AA things, and some elements from the AAA category. 

And basically we had our students, we did part of this ourselves for each of our books we took the first 20 pages or first chapter and we assessed it using a variety of tools to see if they met those categories. And there are about 14 or 15 categories. 15 altogether but some didn’t apply to every format. And on average, each book failed in about seven of those categories about 50-50%. 

And some of the things that the books struggled with where things just like having alt text for images tables was a big problem correctly formatting that. So, it kind of give us an idea of the sorts of things the authors were struggling with in terms of making their books accessible. And we did learn a little bit about the formats there wasn’t a huge variation PDFs definitely have the most problems, for sure.

EPUBs were a little bit easier to deal with. And what was interesting is we ended up using way more tools than we thought we were going to need to do this. We have a whole list of them and I can share that later with you. We’re going to be publishing the results of our study in Insights, which is a UK-based open access journal. And we’re going to link out to our data if you want to see it and our rubric and all the tools that we used. 

But we really didn’t know too much about EPUBs and how to assess them so we really learned a lot from that. And when use Ace, by Daisy and Calibre which is actually an EPUB editor, because we just couldn’t do stuff with some of the regular tools that we had. And then in certain cases to kind of emphasize how something that we learned was that automatic checking tools obviously aren’t enough. 

Certain things where we thought would be really straightforward to figure out if it was considered accessible we couldn’t. And so, we ended up having to just use a lot of like Mac VoiceOver for example just to read part of the book out, test and see what actually happened live because it was unclear from the tools we were using whether or not the little bits of the books we saw were accessible. 

So, it’s a very interesting project, a little disheartening to find out that very few books actually hit a lot of the very basic standards set up by WCAG but I think ultimately what we learned is that, we tried to focus on things that was set by the platforms, but that features that the authors had control over, but it was kind of really unclear who had control over certain things. 

Is it something that the platform should be, the publisher should be looking at? Is this something the authors are in charge of? And then all of these authors are obviously people at academic institutions who don’t have a lot of resources and support. So we were hoping to learn like where’s the best place to direct instructors? How can we as a library for example we often support these kinds of things, how can we kind of build more support, if we don’t have a lot of money to do that? 

And what areas are authors really struggling with? And it seems like just basic support is necessary, but where does that come in? Can we use a checklist before we help someone publish? Or how do we set that up? So we’re still kind of talking about that. So if you have a process for that, that’d be great to hear about. 

But yeah, I think it was a very exciting project, and I’m hoping to learn more about some of the tools like I said that we ended up using since they were very new to me at the time. But if you have any questions about that I’d be happy to answer what I can about that.

Karen: Thanks so much, Elena, it’s fun to hear how this very specific study that you embarked on led to these broad questions that we all wrestle with in OER publishing, so thank you. elle, over to you.

elle: Hello. I work for the College of Marin, of the current projects that we’re working on is the Cal ECHO (Equitable Change in Hispanic Serving Institutions Open Educational Resources) Grant. So part of that process involves the creation, as I’m a co-author and designer of an A to Z, antiracist discipline survey textbook basically or a reader, in a sense. And part of that project relies on teaming up students, either through service learning placements, or through federal work study through the grant, that connect us with our authors, whether they be faculty or subject matter experts.

And really thinking about having that student voice come through in our OER. And part of that training process is creating materials that actually not only set up a rubric for basic accessibility testing but really including that as part of a larger examination of what access really means. Including antiracist pedagogy and methodology, we’re looking at access as far as not only us coming from a programming perspective and background like I do.

Looking at the technical ins and outs using some of the great tools that have already been mentioned, but also looking at how students interact and engage, and how you can scale those efforts up. I think that’s one of the things that I was missing in a lot of our OER creation and remediation. How easy is it to edit, and then format shift that? Because it’s one thing to look at a piece of OER and evaluate it for content, but how easy is it to format shift it or to edit it, or to remix it? 

That’s one of the biggest strengths of OER is that remix-ability. So, the easier it is to remix that to make different versions of that. Say you want a live HTML textbook with H5P. If you want to turn that into an ebook. Great. You want to make an audio book of that. Awesome. You want to integrate that into a Canvas cartridge, perfect. But how easy is that process? And we can develop those trainings, not only for content creators, but also our co-creators like our students. 

And we’ve built out some self training courses that align those goals. So I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of trying to read, or even creatively edit a 300 page InDesign or a PDF file. It’s no day at the dentist, but it’s certainly not a walk in the park either. So thinking about those types of approaches, I think it’s also good and we try to stress this in our trainings. 

Not only with again content creators, but our co-creators like students or designers, accessibility subject matter experts is testing. I think we sometimes we skip that audience and user testing apart, and sometimes it’s really easy to tell students and our faculty and content creators, “Hey, try to turn off your monitor and see if you can navigate that textbook with NVDA or a Mac VoiceOver. Or use screen curtain if you have a tablet or an iPhone.”

Thinking about those things, or just put your mouse aside, see if you can navigate it with just a keyboard, that’ll give you a really good indication, that’s very easy to train for and really provide a visceral feedback. Than say, trying to train every faculty member, every student on the exact nature of WCAG and exactly how pans work in Adobe Acrobat. So that’s some of the things that we’ve been working on here. 

And I can post some of the resources, we’re going to be publishing our work as CC BY both of our trainings, and the OER textbook we mentioned. And part of that process includes our work print and our rubric of how we got to that point. So it’ll include all that really nice fieldwork and descriptions of how we went along and went through that process so hopefully it can be replicated. That’s all I got for now, I’d love to hear folks’ questions and comments.

Karen: Thank you, elle, thanks in advance for sharing some of those resources with us. I can immediately see what you mean about the strengths of more fundamental sort of thought or actual experiments of okay, try this without a mouse versus, why don’t I direct you to the WCAG so you can review all of the requirements? So thank you, Tiffany and Elena also, so we’ve heard from our three guests now. 

And so now we’d like to hear from all of you attendees about what you’re working on or questions you may have for the guests. Todd, I see your hand there, feel free to unmute.

Todd: Yes, thank you very much. I am wondering most of my experience with the accessibility for digital resources is not with OER, but with databases that we pay for. And I have yet to come across a database that is 100% compliant with the 2.0 AA standards which is what we’ve been applying. I’m curious to know whether you have been using a 100% standard. 

And if you have some OER that does not say meet all the criteria of the 2.0 AA standards? Do you just not use it? Are you willing to accept something slightly less than 100%? What has your own standard been with regard to that?

Apurva: That’s a great question, Todd. I’m going to invite any of our three guests to jump in and share their experiences first.

Elena: Well, I can say, working at the library, the databases have been a big issue for us and I say it’s not resolved yet. I think the general rule here has been we try for anything that we officially promote, we try to make sure it’s as compliant as we can get it. But I know individual faculty what they’ll do is they’ll find something that’s mostly good, and they’ll just link out to it. So it’s not like embedded in the Canvas course so we don’t catch it or whatever and they just kind of fly under the radar that way, we do know that happens.

elle: Yeah, and I can kind of jump in and add to that. As someone with a programming background, I really relate to that question, if you’re thinking about SQL databases or ERMs, or any of those types of things, we often don’t think about the tools that we use to create that kind of content or to manage our databases or to manage our students, or our case loads or whatever we’re doing on a day to day to increase student success or whatever your goals are.

I would say that looking at it from a strictly 100% checklist mentality might not be a very effective strategy. I would say you would get more traction if you look at it from there’s nothing that’s going to be 100% accessible to everyone. But the beauty of OER is that it’s again, it’s changeable it’s remixable. So the more open it is, the more easily editable it is, the more you can format shift it, the more you can change and edit how that interface works.

Customizing an interface for a digital asset management system for example, making those different types of user configurations and interfaces possible. Then you can say, “Oh well that the PDF might not be accessible for me or that interface came not be accessible but it’s also available in EPUB. It’s also available as a live HTML book.” So thinking about that I think is a more effective learning strategy than really trying to adhere to a 100% standard for everyone. I know that’s a great goal but I think that’s a perspective, not a finish line. 

Tiffani: I’m like sitting here nodding at everything elle is saying, because that’s a similar approach to how we look at the OER too is like how do we make this particular one as accessible as it can be? And if that means providing it in multiple formats, then that’s what we’re going to do. It’s not always possible to make it 100% accessible at least in our capacity. 

It may be possible with additional help that we don’t have yet, or that we have not had the chance to explore yet. But in our capacity as two people that run this OER repository, we basically do as accessible as we can, and provide as many formats as we can. And when we get requests for something specific, then we do the best we can to actually provide that as well.

Apurva: Thank you so much, Tiffani. I really latched on to what elle said earlier about this not being a finish line. I think even if you do get to that 100% standard or point, part of thinking about incorporating accessibility into your workflow means being ready to change and adapt because user needs might change. Student needs might change, someone might come to you with something that had never been discussed before and that you might need to think about accommodating. 

So, looking for whether it’s tools or designing your content in a way that is easy for it to either be modified or adapted based on what those needs might be I think will be important. And, Todd, hopefully that helps, I’m going to invite others who might have other suggestions for Todd to drop them into the chat as well or any questions. I might also add, Todd, it’s also worth thinking about in terms of software in particular, the organization that might be creating the software. 

There are a lot of organizations especially that maybe are more focused on creating open source software that might be prioritizing changes to their tools to improve accessibility. So, that might also be a factor when you’re considering what databases or software to use in addition to just looking out for how compliant they might be to existing standards. What is their responsiveness and willingness to make changes on the fly?

And I’m seeing a lot of conversation in the chat so I’m going to pause and let anyone else who has a question drop in. Jeff, was that you with another question?

Jeff: No, no, no. You were saying there’s a lot of chat and sorry I just had a block of chat.

Apurva: Don’t worry about it as Karen said this is really the time where we turn things over to you all to share your experiences, to ask your questions, and to continue this conversation. Maybe while folks are thinking about questions or comments, they might have I’ll pose one two or three guests, which is, I might take us back to even something simpler. 

If you’re thinking about searching for OER in repositories which is the route a lot of people go through, what are some quick tips or strategies you might suggest people keep in mind as part of that search workflow or discovery workflow? Elena, I know you spoke a little bit about looking for OER as part of your big study. What did you discover about that process that either could have been improved or was already working quite well? 

Elena: I think familiarizing yourself with the different search tools and platforms out there, getting familiar with platforms that you like and might go back to. Sometimes I work with faculty who are interested in finding something, if I can find OERs that have been reviewed by someone else in their discipline or reviewed by other faculty members that can be helpful too. But that’s not always something that’s available in different platforms.

Apurva: Thank you, that’s helpful to keep in mind. Tiffani, when you were putting together that rubric was there anything that you had geared specifically during the discovery phase? I’m thinking a lot of those open access criteria around formats available does it meet these particular technological considerations? Might be helpful to look at first before doing the deep dive into the pedagogy section, is that right?

Tiffani: Sure yeah I mean, so that first section of the rubric you want to be looking at whether students have to have a login because that creates a barrier to access. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be inaccessible, but it does create that extra barrier. And then there’s also just the availability of the different formats. Are they present, or is it possible to convert to different formats? And honestly, I think just the simple ability to download the thing is super helpful too. 

Karen: Related to that, Tiffani, I know this is very early days with your rubric but I’m wondering if you have enough information to say which of the three areas the open access, digital access, and pedagogical access, which of those three is either the best. Sorry I’m having trouble thinking of a less hierarchical term. And which sort of is open for the most improvement or development.

Tiffani: Are you referring to within the rubric itself or like the OER that are being evaluated?

Karen: The OER that are being evaluated like you can already perhaps see a trend that they’re strong when it comes to digital access. But open access they’re leaving something to be desired. Or do you think that’s even a fair evaluation in using the rubric? Perhaps not. 

Tiffani: It really hasn’t been used enough to be able to tell. There’s really only I think five or six people that have submitted the form because we just released it a week or two ago. And so yeah, I’m not 100% sure on that honestly. If I had to take a guess, I would assume that the pedagogy section will probably be on the lower end just because there are quite a lot of OER out there that just simply don’t have activities and things embedded into them. 

And so, that leaves room for that piece of improvement. And then behind that would probably be the open access piece: the downloadability, the printability and things like that. But that’s purely just based on me sort of thinking through how I expect it to look, and not necessarily how it actually looks. 

Karen: Sure. Thank you. You know, speaking of Jeff’s comments in the chat, I wonder if any of you can speak to collaborations across departments when it comes to evaluating OER, if indeed that’s happening. Each of you best I can tell us in a slightly different position at your institution. And so I’m just curious if you feel like you have partners in this. If it does come to an adoption of an OER that doesn’t quite meet standards, are there collaborators that you’ve been working with on these various projects?

Tiffani: So I’m at a system level, so we have hands in all of our institutions. And so there’s definitely collaboration there, just purely working with teams at each institution. But when there’s a resource that needs to be made accessible, whether it’s for a particular student or just in general, it depends. I mean sometimes the institution has a particular office that they’re directed to, and that office will help them or their instructional designers will help.

But then we also have an office or a center for, oh gosh, Jeff, I’m sorry you’re going have to remind me the… There you go CIDI.

Jeff: It’s Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation, but it really functions as the system wide server of disability services offices throughout all of the campuses. Not only that but they also are contracted out to do a lot of external work. They are often the ones that provide accessibility assistance to major textbook publishers, so we learned a lot from them. We haven’t been in an active partnership lately.

Most because Tiffani has been taking on this really cool faculty accessibility training and setting standards that meets our initiatives, goals, a lot more than just taking this entirely different center and saying, “Hey could do all our work for us?” 

Tiffani: Right, yeah and the Center for Inclusive Design Innovation, from what I have understood with various faculty, when they work with them, their projects tend to be very much on a case by case basis. When a student needs something specific that’s when they’re called in. And so they’re a super helpful resource on that and then beyond that, just looking at making things in general more accessible it tends to be more the institution’s offices, or like faculty training, things like that. 

Apurva: Could any of you speak a bit more to the types of training you offer? I know elle said that the thing that you’d like to stress in your training with both content creators as well as students is testing. What do the trainings typically look like? And are there big challenges that you’ve seen in running them multiple times, common questions that folks have maybe around own tools or something else?

elle: Sure. Thinking about Karen’s question about collaboration I want to stress that not only do we have a lot of cross-departmental and going across the aisle so to speak to different shareholders and stakeholders in our college campus just directly here at the College of Marin. But we also have some very excellent collaborators through the California Community College System.

Our consortium for CC Echo, College of the Canyons, and other folks namely and they’ve developed some great trainings that’ll be available through the grant. We also have a lot of really interesting, as I said, projects in the works for co-creation. So part of that training, really thinking about co-creation. The first hurdle usually what I hear from content creators is, well, you know, I don’t want a student to evaluate the content for subject matter expertise. 

Because I’m the subject matter expert. I’m like, “Well actually, the student is there to lend their voice, to really think about and give you that insight about how they access it.” That’s the person that gives you the, well if I’m going to download it on my phone and read it, because this is how I access content, maybe I don’t have great Wi Fi. Maybe I live in a place where I have to go to a public library and use their Wi Fi. 

How are those things really impacting the workflow that you won’t necessarily think about? And it’s a lot easier to include that kind of user interface, user experience concepts into the trainings and think about the visceral day to day how we’re interfacing with that content. And to add to one of our other comments today, how can we then use our creativity to extend that? 

If it’s easily editable and easily extendable and can scale up, then you can start adding those activities because there’s a lot of great OER out there that has great content, but may not have the antiracist piece, or the H5P piece, or any of these interactives. So, that’s one of the things that I stressed. The easier it is for you to edit and include those contents and really hone in on that meaning making and making it your own.

It’s by its very nature, going to be more accessible. So, I think also conversely, that side of the student training piece, that is an easier ask for faculty to be like well actually if they’re really just giving their voice and giving their perspectives and really putting that training piece together, and then, I, as the content creator and the faculty, are actually evaluating it for content. 

That’s an easier ask than say, “Hey, your student is going to go out and pull some OERs for you and you know filter it down.” You can obviously do that. But I think that the co-working process is easier when you assign those roles and you integrate that process going forward. And I think it’ll make the rest of your – I know some instructional designers are on here – it’ll make the rest of your course design more accessible. 

Because you’re thinking about how users or students, in this case, step through your course, how are they engaging with it. You know what’s their workflow. What kind of technology are they using or are they used to. So thinking about those types of items I think is great. So really honing in on that training piece where you can more easily focus less on the content creation, or the subject matter expertise piece. 

Obviously leave that to the faculty or whoever is the author, but it’s easier to make those separate trainings for the students to have that co-work voice.  Another thing I think getting to the second part of your question, I do a lot of flex workshops like I know some of us all do. And one of the things I’m excited about coming up in the Fall is a flex workshop I have entitled maybe too cheekily PDFs and you or subtitle PDFs, what are they good for?

So, another was a conversation on some of the list serves that were more library specific asking about, how are we, if you’re in that discipline in that field as librarians, really thinking about the accessibility of our PDFs our journals? And what do we want to do about that? And the first question I always ask to that is the same I ask to faculty who want to default to PDFs for everything. 

Why? Why are we using PDFs? I mean I have no problem with using PDFs, if you can explain to me why you’re using it. Is there some benefit you’re getting out of it? Because if there is great, tell me. I want to learn, I’m here to learn with you. But if there isn’t and it’s just quote unquote the default, well there are lots of other formats that are open, lots of other tools that are open. You mentioned Calibre and some other Daisy tools that those are open and free to use Acrobat Professional, you have to have a license for that. 

And so, again, thinking about those open versus closed formats. OER, as in free as in speech. So just a few things for folks to riff on. I’ll leave it there and let other people join in. 

Apurva: Thank you, elle, that sounds like a really fantastic training and I know in the chat folks that asking if you have links to some of these workshops. Can they follow up? And I also appreciate how you not only flagged the technical accessibility pieces that we ought to be thinking about but really focusing on why these matter, thinking about the student experience so I really love the emphasis on those points.

Speaking of tools, I know I’m curious about this and, Elena, you have mentioned Ace, by Daisy and Calibre. Could you describe some of the tools that you’ve used? I know others mentioned NVDA or VoiceOver, Screen [Karten], for someone who might never have heard of these tools before. What are they? And for someone who is brand new to them, how might they slowly incorporate these into their evaluation workflows? 

Elena: I actually have a list of some of the stuff that we use pulled up. So Calibre is one I mentioned that we use to evaluate EPUBs. And if you know some HTML, it’s fairly easy to pick up. I mean there is a bit of a learning curve. Basically, what it is is a free tool that people can use to edit and modify EPUBs. You can download the file and go in, you can use it to change the EPUBs that you have to if you’re modifying a work out there. 

And then Ace, by Daisy is just like a free checking tool, read through any EPUBs that you’ve downloaded and are using. Of course we ended up having to use Adobe Acrobat Pro for PDFs. We use the color contrast analyzer, which is a free little tool it’s fairly easy to use, you drag and drop the tool into the background and foreground colors of anything you’re looking at. 

Side improve is what we use here for websites, HTML so that’s what we use, and then yeah the screen readers NDVA and VoiceOver both used, depending on what kind of machine we’re using. 

Apurva: Thank you so much for that overview. Tiffani, was there anything else that you wanted to add to the list of tools? Maybe ones that folks might be using, as they’re working through your rubric? 

Tiffani: So a lot of the resource creation that comes out of ALG is done just with a standard Microsoft Word. So we do give them a resource on how to use the Accessibility Checker there. And also with the same thing for the Adobe one. We give them is it WebAIM or an online HTML checker as well. But yeah, so like Jeff said in the chat it’s mostly because it works well with Manifold to use the Word documents.

But we are seeing a little bit more of an increased of people creating in HTML because that also works with Manifold and provides for more opportunities for engagement within Manifold, because you can sort of embed things in there and just like have more stuff going on. So most of the tools are pretty standard stuff, we don’t really see as many tools that you don’t hear about as often, I guess. There you go. WAVE is what I was trying to think of for the HTML web checker. 

Karen: Tiffani, you may have mentioned this, and I apologize if so, but are your authors working in Manifold? Are they sort of directly logging in and creating content in that way? Or are they creating it elsewhere and then your project team brings it into Manifold for them? How’s that going? 

Tiffani: Both right now, so we do have some teams that are excited to learn how to use this new platform. And so those teams, we’ll have them create an account, we’ll give them access to their project, and then we’ll teach them how to use it. But for the most part it is people creating accessible Word documents or accessible HTML packages, and we just adjust it for them.

And so, Jeff put a link in the chat here. We created a basic template for people creating in Word for Manifold, just something to start them out at least on creating an accessible document. We’re planning on also adding to that. So this one’s a single document template, so for shorter books basically. But we also want to create templates for bigger books that involve multiple documents and also for HTML. Eventually we’ll probably also do EPUB, but I have less experience with EPUB.

Karen: And so it looks like clicking on the link that Jeff dropped in it looks like the template focuses a bit on hierarchy and heading levels. Are there other things nested in there that that cue your content creators? For example, we touched on how tables are often a problem, and how creating alt tags for images is often a problem. Is there a way that you can cue your content creators in this template or is that kind of a separate instructional piece?

Tiffani: So we do in that template talk about images and adding alternative text. We also talk about videos and captioning, creating accessible descriptive links, things like page breaks. I guess we could also talk about things that they shouldn’t necessarily spend too much time on because Manifold will scrap what they did. So spending too much time on fonts and colors and things isn’t going to matter because Manifold is going to overwrite that.

We actually do have a section in there on fancy formatting for tables and basically saying like don’t do it. Because Manifold is going to recreate it into a super simple basic table and it’s probably going to mess up what your table is supposed to be showing. And so we just encourage them to stick to very basic, you know no merging cells and things like that. Stick to standard, like a heading, or a header row, maybe a header column if you need it and keep it basic. 

Karen: Very cool. Thank you. elle or Elena, is there anything you’d like to add related to this? We’re about 10 minutes from the hour so this is when we typically start wrapping up so if there are questions that you’ve been holding onto or comments that you wanted to make now is a great time to jump in.

Tiffani: I wanted to add too, when we were talking about the training piece and the approach to training, one thing that we have tried to focus on is in our tutorials that we’ve created on how to make things accessible, we really focus on making sure that they’re directed to a faculty audience. And so they’re not expecting the faculty member to be the perfect accessible expert.

They’re written for someone who wants to make their stuff accessible and doesn’t really want to know too much more about it. Because a lot of the time too much information is what discourages people from actually pursuing accessibility. It’s like throw too much information at them, throw too much stuff at them, then suddenly they’re overwhelmed and they just don’t want to do it anymore. 

Karen: I think we can all relate to that feeling, not just in an accessibility context. 

elle: You mentioned alt tags and alt text and I’m just thinking back to our exercise and our webinar, Karen, that we did. The OEN generously invited me to do a workshop on alt tags and accessibility. And it was really a great experience and some of the takeaways I know both myself and our audience had were that the automated tools, especially some of the AI tools that are going to be built into Microsoft Word and some of these other content management systems, they’re a great start. 

But they can’t really accurately describe what the content is doing within the scope of the document. So, if you have a picture of a cat, you can describe that three ways depending on if it’s a biology textbook, a veterinary textbook, a history of, Italian art textbook. It’s really about not necessarily describing what the content image is but more about what its instructional material is doing. 

And that I think leads into that whole idea of fancy tables. People want to use tables for layout sometimes because it looks nicer, it looks cleaner. But what is that table really doing? What’s the informational content and quality of that table? So if I can make it simpler, if I can make it more concise, just like I know a lot of us have English backgrounds here. A lot of us say, “Hey, if you can make your writing more concise, that’s going to be more clear.” 

Why say in 50 words what you can say in 10 words? So that’s really harkening back to also that accessibility point of try to make it simple, don’t get into the weeds of metadata standards. The best camera you have is the camera in your pocket. The best accessibility tool you have are the tools that are built in to whatever platform you’re using. 

Apurva: Agreed and as Anne also echoes in the chat it’s important to teach towards those practices in the creation process because when you come down to checking, it’s much more difficult and overwhelming to fix. And I think, Elena, you flagged how in your research you were going back to some of those workflows and saying, “Okay, what needs to be changed when? Who can be responsible for doing some of this work to avoid the unnecessary remediation later on in the process?”

Elena: Yeah, it seems like a lot of issues we saw were things that if someone was thinking about it as they were making something and had a plan for it, it would not be as difficult to deal with than when you’re getting to it at the end where you’re trying to modify it yourself or you’re checking on it. And you have to learn a different program and take the EPUB apart and redo different things. 

So if there’s a way you could encourage people, content creators to build that into their workflow or find ways, or thinking about ways to get them when they’re at that stage and how to do that, how to present ourselves during that stage.

Apurva: Definitely, and Karen, I see you’re jumping in with a form so I might give you a minute or two to explain what the form is and how we can continue this conversation maybe in evaluating and building accessibility into our workflows in the future.

Karen: Absolutely. To Elena’s comment you know we’ve often talked about planning for accessibility, having a mindset when you go into content creation and that’s certainly preferable to looking backwards with a checklist and taking a remediation approach. But of course, things are created in so many different ways and we want to explore all those different ways with you.

But we need your help, so let us know what you’d like to talk about and upcoming Office Hours sessions, people you may want to hear from, upcoming papers or rubrics, things that you know are happening in the open education space and you think would be great to explore together in Office Hours. We appreciate your eyes and ears and your suggestions so that what I hope is a concise form, using only the number of words required has been dropped into the chat.

And I would like to on behalf of Apurva and the OEN team, thank our guests Tiffani, elle and Elena for joining us today and all of you for attending right here in the middle of summer. We appreciate your questions and your comments and helpful links in the chat. And with that I will say farewell and turn things over to Apurva.

Apurva: Thank you so much, Karen. I’ll also echo my thanks to all of our guests and also all of you attendees for contributing your questions, your reflections, your thoughts, resources and other things in the conversation. It’s always a pleasure to, co-host Office Hours with the Open Education Network. And we look forward to seeing you all next month to tackle another topic and maybe to continue this conversation on accessibility in the future. Thank you everybody, take care.


Chat Transcript

00:13:17 Esperanza Zenon (RPCC) Faculty): Greetings from Louisiana
00:13:54 Barb Thees, she/her: Open Education Network:
00:14:50 Tonia Johnson: Hi Everyone! Great to be here for my first Office Hours!
00:15:07 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers): Welcome, Tonia! 🙂
00:15:54 Jeff Gallant:
00:16:07 Jeff Gallant:
00:16:18 Jeff Gallant:
00:16:30 Tiffani Tijerina (she/her):
00:16:32 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers): Thank you, Jeff!
00:19:38 Jeff Gallant: The printable rubric is probably the best way to preview it here:
00:21:38 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers): What kinds of tools did you use, Elena?
00:28:05 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers): It’s not fun at all.
00:35:44 Karen Lauritsen: We invite you to share your comments and questions in the chat, or to unmute if you prefer.
00:36:11 Jeff Gallant: Yes, with OER creation we’re looking at accessible materials, not necessarily accessible *web* materials at WCAG standards. Much like with our accessibility organization in the USG, we operate on a spectrum of accessibility, from baseline readability to whatever else the resource itself needs.
00:37:23 Jeff Gallant: Plenty of the WCAG 2.1 standards are helpful for us! It’s just on-the-whole not something you’d want to require from faculty creators. Of course, this is the perspective of an initiative *inside* a library organization – other folks are in charge of library vendor resource accessibility.
00:37:45 Jeff Gallant: (that’s just me, sorry!)
00:38:24 elle dimopoulos she/her/they: It also limits creativity. If you meet 100% accessibility then the thinking is “ok, were done”. The ADA and Wcag is the floor not the ceiling
00:43:14 Judith Thomas: This platform, currently under development, is intended to help with the discovery and sharing of accessible materials: Its usefulness in – and integration into – the OER space is still being explored – but there’s lots of potential.
00:44:42 Jeff Gallant: CIDI (formerly AMAC) at
00:52:19 Deidre Tyler: Do you have some links to your workshops?
00:53:37 Elena Azadbakht (she/her): Ace by Daisy and Calibre
00:55:40 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers):
00:55:49 elle dimopoulos she/her/they: Thorium epub reader is also great as it has a built in text to speech tool. Easy to train any content creator on for UX/UI
00:56:38 Karen Lauritsen:
00:56:44 Jeff Gallant: This is partially because it works with Manifold and partially because it’s where faculty instructors tend to reside the most.
00:56:47 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers): I think it’s important to use the accessibility evaluation features in-built in those tools — they are a great place to start.
00:57:24 Josie Gray (she/her): WAVE ( is helpful for identifying common issues in web-based resources (heading levels, whether something has image descriptions or not, table structure, etc.). Works well if you are publishing in Pressbooks. Can also be installed as a browser extension
00:57:34 Jeff Gallant: Wave is a good one!
00:58:32 Jeff Gallant:
01:00:08 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers): I love the addition of the template in addition to the guide – easy for creators to plug and play their content.
01:01:08 Jeff Gallant: It’s also included in our Document Design tutorial on the accessibility page: 01:03:29 Jeff Gallant: Here’s our accessibility training from our most recent round of grants – we have an asynchronous set of training modules thanks to Tiffani:
01:04:08 Deidre Tyler: Thanks
01:05:10 Anne Sticksel [she/her]: It is important to teach toward accessible practices for the creation process, by the time you’re at the checking process, it is much more difficult overwhelming to fix! 01:06:48 Karen Lauritsen: Let us know what you want to talk about in coming OH sessions! Who do you want to hear from? Tell us in this easy breezy (concise!) form:
01:07:08 elle dimopoulos she/her/they: access and accessibility should be at the start of the design cycle not the end. Great point, Elena
01:08:21 Josie Gray (she/her): Thanks to all of the guests and organizers!
01:08:23 Julia Remsik Larsen (she/her): Thank you, everyone! This has been so great
01:08:25 Anne Sticksel [she/her]: I really appreciated everyone sharing their experiences, approaches, and resources. Thank you all!
01:08:33 Deidre Tyler: Thanks
01:08:48 nancy: Thanks so much! This was so interesting
01:08:49 Jeff Gallant: Thanks everyone! Elena and Elle, it was awesome to hear your perspectives on accessibility work in different contexts than ours.