Promoting and enhancing Audio Description practice within Higher Education

Handouts Media

Presented at 3:30pm in Penrose 2 on Wednesday, November 8, 2023.



  • Ann Fredricksen, Coordinator of Accessible Media Services, University of Illinois
  • Bob Dignan, ASSOC DIR INSTRN MEDIA RSRSC, University of Illinois

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Teaching within Higher Ed continues to increase their reliance on image-rich content to enhance learning content and course experiences. Institutions need new and innovative ways to deliver content in accessible formats to meet federal and state regulations and to design material by Universal Design for Learning standards. When adding audio descriptions to STEM content, disability service offices need to be accessibility experts as well as knowledgeable in all subject matter.


Disability Service Offices nationwide look for ways to reduce costs and still provide an educational experience with as few barriers as possible. As technology advances, instructors are learning new practices and how to use emerging technologies to connect with and increase the quality and engagement of their students. However, new technologies continue to produce barriers for students with disabilities. Video content might not be a new technology, and it still creates barriers for students with sensory disabilities. Many professors discount that students with visual disabilities can’t “see here” and thus are missing all of the presented visual information. At the University of Illinois, there is currently a push by Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES), the campus disability service office, to increase Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices by creating free online resources focused on improving the accessibility of courses offered on campus. In the past, DRES has promoted free to low-cost ways of incorporating closed captioning into media, and we are now looking at equivalent alternatives to include audio descriptions in all course content. This session shares how the University of Illinois is leveraging our vast experience in creating online course content, best practices for reaching instructors who have minimal spare time to devote to learning new teaching methods, and our expertise in creating accessible course content to increase audio descriptions within the classrooms across campus.


  1. Tips for promoting audio description teaching practices to instructors and campus.
  2. Outsourcing audio description can be financially and mentally challenging to disability service offices.
  3. Higher Ed institutions have all the skills and knowledge required to strategically create AD in house.

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Administrative/Campus Policy, Alternate Format, Uncategorized, Universal Design for Learning

Speaker Bio(s)

Ann Fredricksen

Ann Fredricksen has her BA in Physics from Carthage College and has her MS/LIS degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She has been working for Disability Resources and Educational Services in the Accessible Media Services Office since 2008. She now serves as the Coordinator of Accessible Media Services, which provides accessible learning material for courses being taught within the University’s system. In 2020 she was Awarded the Lorine Y. Cowan Award for Excellence in Access and Accommodations from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Ann has been focusing her career on media accessibility and not only is she the captioning expert on campus but is also responsible for responding to inquiries and information about audio description. She has created a captioning training course to serve as a resource for the University of Illinois’ faculty and staff on how to meet accessibility standards with free to low-cost software already available to this population.

Bob Dignan

Bob Dignan has worked in educational media production for over 15 years and serves as the Associate Director for Instructional Media Resources in the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He and his team produce courses, MOOCs, live event streaming, VR experiences, medical and scientific animations and Open Educational Resources all atop of foundations in copyright, cataloging, archiving, universal design for learning and media accessibility. The Center collaborates with instructors and researchers across a diverse campus, covering wide ranging content from computer science to sick cows. Since 2012, Bob has participated in multiple audio description efforts on campus including the writing and production of descriptions for several Chancellor communications sent to all faculty, staff, students and alumni. He also hosts a podcast, “Teach Talk Listen Learn” all about teaching and learning with visiting faculty and instructors from the University of Illinois.