I recently put together a teaching session on making digital technology accessibe in teaching. The session was part of UCA’s PGCert in Creative Education, which I lead, and so I should know what I’m talking about.
I’ve used Prezi for the last few years because I believe it to be a ‘better’ tool than Powerpoint, and I’ve been using it on the PGCert. It looks nice. You can change the colours easily. And the fonts are lovely.
But given the focus of the session on accessibility, I thought I’d better check out how accessible Prezi is. it turns out that it isn’t very accessible at all – you can’t add ‘alt text’ to images, the transcript feature is buggy, and you can’t use a screenreader to read the text.
Imagine my professional shame. I had no choice but to stand up in front of the PGCert participants, explain what we all should be doing as educators, and then ‘fess up’. Guilty of my own ignorance and implicit assumptions.
The only option was to turn the experience into a learning opportunity, in which I asked the participants ‘but have you noticed?’ Allthough the answer was ‘no’, this isn’t the point. The point is that it’s all too easy to adopt a do-as-I-say culture to accessibility and technology, and assume that the problem doesn’t apply to us.
Making incremental changes to how we design and plan for learning can make a huge difference in improving access. I’m still going to use Prezi, but from now on I’ll be creating my presentations in Powerpoint following the excellent JISC guidelines on accessible presentations. I’ll also be using heading styles and paragraph spacing in all of my Word documents.
The only thing that prevents me from doing this is habit. And the whole point about being a reflective educator is to identify and challenge our underlying beliefs and assumptions about learning, and adapt our habits and ways of working in response.
I was well and truly ‘busted’. I hope you learn from my experience.