According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1:4 adults in the United States have a disability, while 12.8% have a cognition disability and 4.8% have a visual disability. The inability to change contrast ratios, font sizes, font type, prohibit autoplay on videos, and focus content (e.g. blur all lines other than the one being read) can leave thousands of users behind in the digital environment when products fail to meet access and functional needs. In the world of open educational resources (OER), inaccessible resources directly contradict the intent of OER because the vision of open is one where no one is excluded from accessing or contributing to the intellectual commons 

Recognizing the importance of ensuring that OER is open to all, the Michelson 20MM Foundation has awarded a 2023 OER Spark Grant to the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME). For several years, ISKME has worked with CAST (formerly known as the Center for Applied Special Technology) in support of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs’ Accessibility Center. Based on that work, and inspired by CAST’s Universal Design For Learning (UDL) principles, ISKME will create a six-module course for California Community College (CCC) faculty members that will explore how to make OER accessible via the UDL guidelines. 

Two to three CCC campuses will serve as pilot institutions for the course. Distinct from accessibility compliance training, the pilot will dive into how to evaluate and remediate existing OER content based on UDL guidelines. Each pilot institution will provide feedback, which will inform the final product. Additionally, the modules will be available with CC BY licenses, further ensuring their accessibility and ability to be scaled throughout other states. 

“As a student, I needed accessibility resources, and, because of the support I was given by educators and my family, dyslexia did not keep me from graduating college and starting my career, ” Cailyn Nagle, OER Program Manager shared. “Every student deserves educational materials that support who they are as a full person, including students with disabilities. We are honored to support ISKME’s efforts to serve all college students through OER.”

ISKME is uniquely positioned to spearhead OER accessibility since they have demonstrated a commitment to access and functional needs since 2012. They’ve created the STEM OER Accessibility Framework, worked with CAST to build the capacity of states and school districts to improve access, built supports in OER Commons, and expanded Open Author to include an accessibility checker using EPUB3 format, the most braille-ready format. Most recently, ISKME helped over 140 faculty and staff members globally learn how to improve accessibility. 

Following the initial pilot, which will serve approximately 30 faculty members, ISKME anticipates that the six-module course will benefit another 100+ faculty members and their students. Ultimately, the plan is for these modules to be integrated into the CCC Chancellor’s Office’s statewide professional development offerings for Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) degree initiatives.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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