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Minimise eye-strain with the BeeLine Reader alternative format

EliotHoving31 March 2020

The BeeLine Reader alternative format is now available on UCL Moodle for students and staff.

You and your students have almost certainly felt eye-strain from too many hours reading online, or confusion at staring at a wall of internet text and not knowing where to begin.

The BeeLine Reader provides an innovative solution. It works by adding a colour-gradient to text which allows the eye to focus and move along one line to the next. It designed to make reading online quicker and easier on the eyes. Here’s an example.

With the BeeLine Format:

Beeling alternative format. Font colour of text has a colour gradient to help with reading.

Without: 

Text before Beeline format. Font colour is black.

Example Text: Aerogel by Dr Zoe Laughlin licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

I personally found that it took a while to get used to the BeeLine colours, but thereafter I was able to identify key headings and sentences much more effectively.

You can try out the BeeLine Reader on your UCL Moodle course now. Simply locate a Word or PDF document, click the Ally download icon net to the file name and select BeeLine Reader. Ally will convert the document to an HTML file for you to read in your browser with the BeeLine colour gradient.

Due to COVID-19, students are likely to be reading more content online now that they don’t have access to UCL printing services. BeeLine Reader and Ally’s other alternative formats can greatly assist all students, especially those with specific needs, to effectively engage with digital content whilst supporting their health and wellbeing, so please recommend Ally’s alternative formats to your students. You can learn more about Blackboard Ally by reading the staff guide or promote it to students using the student guide.

Teaching continuity: Accessibility and remote working for staff

SamanthaAhern27 March 2020

As most of us will not be working remotely, online collaboration tools and meetings will becoming an increasing part of our working pattern.

How do we ensure that all colleagues are able to participant in online meetings and collaborate effectively with others?

With regards to the documents and content we create and share with each other, these should follow the Accessibility Fundamentals guidance. The same as if you were creating documents and content to share with students.

But what about virtual meetings?

If you have colleagues with hearing or visual impariments there are a few things to consider:

  • Have you checked in advance if anyone needs communication support?
  • Make sure you say your name before speaking.
  • Use a meeting agenda to give a clear reference point for everyone to follow.
  • Make sure only one person is talking at a time.
  • Speak clearly, not too slowly, and use normal lip movements, facial expressions and gestures.
  • Have video enabled for those currently speaking and look directly at your webcam.
    • Use good lighting to help everybody see each other clearly, which is important for lipreading.
    • If you are using a headset with a microphone, please be mindful of the position of the microphone. Avoid covering your mouth.

A range of video calling services offer auto-captioning  or transcription services, however these cannot be guaranteed to be accurate:

References:

  • https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/how-we-help/businesses-and-employers/employer-hub/supporting-employees-with-hearing-loss/communicating-with-staff-who-are-deaf-or-have-hearing-loss/

MS Teams live captions are here!

SamanthaAhern27 March 2020

We are pleased to announce that automatic captioning for MS Teams meetings is now available.

However, it is only available to those using the Desktop App version of Microsoft Teams and captions are only available in English US at present.

The automatic captions need to be enabled at an individual user level during the Teams meeting and are not saved, they are not available in a recording of the meeting.

Note: Captions cannot be activated or recorded when starting a call from a chat.

To clarify, you can and should be able to activate captions when you schedule a meeting that is associated to a calendar or someone creates a meeting associated to a calendar and invites you. Thus, in order to guarantee that you provide the accessibility (captions) to your colleagues, give preference to scheduling a meeting instead of starting just a call from a chat.
Teams Meeting control panel.

Meeting control panel

To turn on the automatic captioning whilst is a MS Teams meeting, click on the three dots in the meeting control panel.

Select Turn on Live Captions (preview, English US only). Live captions should now appear.

To turn of the live captions, click on the three dots and select Turn off Live Captions.

As the live captions are automatically generated there will be some inaccuracies. However, you can help improve the accuracy by:

  • Speaking clearly, slowly, and directly into the mic. As your distance from the mic increases, captions may become less accurate.
  • Avoiding locations with background noise.
  • Avoiding having multiple people speaking at the same time.

Things to note:

  • If someone is speaking with an accent, captions may be less accurate.
  • Obscenities will be starred out.
  • Teams may use a meeting’s subject, invitation, participant names, and attachments to improve caption accuracy.

More information about and how to use MS Teams is available in the UCL Teams Support Centre  including more information about live captions, in addition colleagues from the Digital Accessibility Hub have produced a Teams Accessibility Guide – Teams_AccessibilityToolsGuide_v3

References

https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/use-live-captions-in-a-teams-meeting-4be2d304-f675-4b57-8347-cbd000a21260

 

Accessibility and teaching continuity

SamanthaAhern13 March 2020

With the need to move teaching online digital accessibility becomes ever more important. Your Moodle course may become the primary means of both being taught and accessing material, and there are therefore multiple considerations that will impact upon how you design your course and its content.

  • Are you aware of any reasonable adjustments students have in place? These will need to be continue to met even if the student isn’t currently on campus;
  • What tools and technologies are available to your students? Some may be accessing a course from an area with poor internet connectivity and thus unable to access material such as video;
  • Where are your students? They may be in different time zones, so you may want to consider use of asynchronous activities using forums, blogs, or wikis.

Developing additional material

Simple steps to make your content more accessible for everyone can be found on the Accessibility Fundamentals page. For more targeted guidance for specific kinds of content review the following sections.

Adding new or amending existing documents

Video and audio, such as pre-recorded lectures

Online seminars or group study sessions

Further support

Full guidance can be found on the UCL Creating accessible content webpages. Face-to-face Digital Accessibility drop-in sessions have been suspended, however we hope to offer remote sessions.

Inspiration – Great News – It has been saved!

Michele CFarmer29 January 2020

I have heard that Inspiration mind mapping software has been bought by another company and will be continued.

New Accessibility Tool lets you customise Moodle

EliotHoving20 January 2020

A new Moodle plugin, the Accessibility Tool, will be available on Wednesday 22nd January 2020 for staff and students.

The tool allows students and staff to customise the appearance of the Moodle platform through changing Moodle’s colour scheme, font style, readability and text size. The tool can help reduce eye strain and improve concentration. Changes made using the tool only apply to the user, and only apply to the Moodle platform, not documents uploaded or stored on Moodle.

Green on Black Colour Scheme:

Moodle platform where 'Green text on a black background' colour scheme has been selected via the Accessibility Tool.

White on Grey Colour Scheme:

Moodle platform where 'White text on a grey background' colour scheme has been selected via the Accessibility Tool.

Text Size – default

Default Text size on Moodle.

Text Size – Massive text size

Massive text size, which is larger than the Default text size.

How to edit your accessibility preferences?

To customise your preferences, simply:

  1. Log onto Moodle
  2. Click on your name on the top right of Moodle to open up the user menu.
  3. Select Accessibility Tool.

Moodle's user menu contains the Accessibility tool option where you can customise Moodle's appearance to suit your needs.

The release of the Accessibility Tool follows on from Digital Education’s efforts to improve the accessibility of Moodle content through training and support and releasing Blackboard Ally. See the Creating accessible content webpage for more detail.

Students and staff can be directed towards this blog post to learn about the Accessibility Tool, or alternatively to the updated Staff guide or Student guide.

If you have any questions please contact Digital Education at digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.