Defining “Accessibility” for Louisiana Tech Faculty

The word “accessibility” is one that’s tossed around frequently in higher education, yet few people understand how to implement the concept.

Dr. Bell addresses a group of Louisiana Tech faculty

At last week’s Faculty Technology Showcase, Dr. Edward Bell—who directs the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech—explained the most common methods and technologies employed at the university level by students who are blind or visually impaired. He also covered what non-visual access looks like, how it works, and the challenges associated with adapting educational materials for instructors.

“The biggest obstacle we face are PDFs,” Dr. Bell said. “They can be made accessible, but you can’t assume that it will be usable until you have a blind person test it.”

Too often, the inaccessible PDFs exist as Word documents, and professors just post the PDFs out of habit. Even for those who are well-versed in the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the outreach event helped put people at ease.

“The big takeaway is simple,” Dr. Bell said. “Don’t be scared. Be nice, be respectful, and ask your students what they need. Most of all, know that we at the Institute are here as a resource to help you ensure everyone can use your materials, take your exams, and learn.”

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Corbb O'Connor
Corbb, a blind entrepreneur, coordinates the outreach and marketing efforts for the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University as an independent consultant.

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