Building an Accessible DOCC

By the Accessibility Committee

“Access” may not be the topic of a Video Dialogue or the subject of weekly reading, but it’s a central concept for DOCC 2013 in particular and the Distributed Open Collaborative Course in general. While the MOOC may eliminate structural barriers of access associated with traditional college courses—tuition, admission, location, evaluation—the DOCC goes much further: eliminating cultural barriers of patriarchal pedagogies, broadening access to suppressed histories, and remaking its learning archive through an open collaborative network. That is to say, the “O” in DOCC is different than the “O” in MOOC: the DOCC is radically open to enable access and invite transformation. Unfortunately, in building this course with an activist ethos on freely available platforms, we’ve unwillingly incorporated new barriers with our new technologies.

Difference between A DOCC and a MOOC

We are currently working hard to make sure that course materials associated with the DOCC 2013 are accessible. Our initiative is beginning with Video Dialogues, transforming audio-visual content into text-only transcripts. Transcripts are crucial to participants who are Deaf or hard of hearing, watch the videos in a silent or a very noisy environment, have slow or intermittent connections, or process information at their own pace. Text transcripts furthermore make video content searchable and open to translation, citation, and other forms of transformation. In addition to creating text transcripts, we are working towards providing closed captions on all videos and optimizing our webpages for users who access them with assistive technology.

Accessible materials are necessary—especially for our participants with disabilities. And disability necessarily makes us re-examine our materials. Folks with disabilities have been as crucial to the history of tech as women have (which Mara Mills has shown compellingly). The very concept of assistive technology helps us rethink our concept of technology. And thinking about accessibility means thinking critically about the barriers and limitations that come with technologies we use. DOCC 2013 should be open to all interested collaborators and to the insights of critical disability studies as we think through historical and future intersections of feminism and technology.

How can you, as a member of this network, help? Provide transcripts for all videos you create, document usability and accessibility issues around the sites, or volunteer to help in the efforts already underway by contacting MassFTN (at)