AccessAbility: Digital Champion Experience – Mariana Sousa Aguiar

During the last 6 weeks I worked as a Digital Champion for the University. For those who do not know, this role meant that during these 6 weeks I tested the functions of Ally a tool in Course Resources (BlackBoard) and the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft OfficeThe goal of this job was to see how long it would take to make all the files present in specific modules 100% accessible by using the tools mention above. 


The tools are very easy to use. You only have to click on the accessibility checker on your Microsoft programme and this tool will show you what you need to correct to make your document more accessible. The same thing works for Ally, with the difference that, since it is a BlackBoard tool you have to make the changes in the actual document and then upload back to Course Resources. What makes the use of these tools even easier is that both of them give you the information you need to do to fix all the problems, step by step.   


I have to admit that it takes time to get used to using these tools. They are different and you need to check both of them to make sure that a document is 100% accessible. For example, Ally is very good to catch problems related to the color contrast of a document while the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker in PowerPoint can point out the order content is read on a slide 


I have to say that I was a little slow using this tool during the first 2 hours. I remember that I started by correcting only 2 documents for 2 hours. However, around week 4, I was correcting around 5 documents over 2 hours. Of course, the time that it takes to correct a document depends on the length and the type of the document – I did take longer to fix PowerPoint documents than WordThe thing is that all the problems that I had to fix were very common among the different documents. Most of them were either text heading, table heading, color contrast, alt text to describe graphs and images and descriptions of websites. After I spent some time fixing the same problems in different documents, I actually started to use my intuition to correct different problems at the same time since it started to become easier to identify the problems, which made this process a lot faster. 


What I learnt from this experience is that is very easy to make a document accessible, and you can make do it without even realising.  If you want to start to make documents more accessible, my tip for you is to use the tools that Microsoft has to offer – like using the heading style in Word or the layouts of PowerPoint, and using neutral colors and obvious color contrasts, like only black or dark blue with white and not using very bright colors – by doing this at least half of the job is done.