Keeping Your Course Accessible
Digital Accessibility for Teaching- Resources
UMS recommendations for Producing Accessible Materials, Websites and Events, including considerations for Digital video and Audio Accessibility, Document and Web Accessibility checklist, and PDF Testing and Repair.
Digital Accessibility for Teaching – Introductory Guidelines
Whether online, remote, a hybrid class, or face-to-face, it is important to remember that courses need to remain accessible.
Faculty have an important role in producing computer-based instructional materials (Brightspace course, videos, slides and documents) that meet digital accessibility standards. Implementing these standards into the material faculty create could better engage students with impairments and open more educational opportunities.
Accessibility in Instructional Material
The Documents You Write:
When creating Word docs or Google Docs, use the program’s built in formatting tools, non-decorative fonts, descriptive hyperlinks, and image descriptions (Alt Text). Run the Check Accessibility Tool to help identify potential barriers.
The Presentations You Build:
When creating PowerPoints or Google Slides, use pre-designed slides and large-point fonts, along with features used in documents. For videos, provide captions and transcripts. Make content available to students ahead of time.
The Web Media You Use:
When linking to external web content (articles, videos, websites), evaluate whether that content is accessible. For required course materials created by a publisher, discuss accessibility measures with a representative.
Common Features for Faculty
- Use standard, non-decorative fonts, such as Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, Tahoma, Times New Roman, and Verdana.
- Use at least 12-point font.
- For spacing, use document features (tab stops, indents, page breaks) rather than manually entering multiple spaces or line breaks.
- Use real text rather than text within graphics. Text that is part of an image is not accessible.
- Avoid using font appearance (color, font variation, etc.) as the only way to convey meaning, (e.g. All bold items in red are due next week). Colors and visual cues in general are not accessible to all.
- People vary greatly in how they perceive color.
- Be sure to use high color contrast to ensure students can perceive all text or imagery.
- Avoid using color as the only way of coding or describing information.
- Tools such as Color Oracle (free application) and Coblis (free web-based color blindness simulator) allow you to check if the images you are planning to use in your teaching can be understood.
- Use descriptive hyperlinks: when hyperlinking text, the text should describe the content being linked rather than providing the whole link or text like “Click here.”
- Use a word processor’s heading or paragraph styles to make section headings. This automatically creates a document outline used by screen-reading programs, and eases document navigation for all readers. Use these program features rather than manually bolding or enlarging fonts.
- When using a graphic (e.g. picture, graph, table), add a title and description called Alt Text so that a student who cannot see or fully load the content can understand what is being displayed.
Sharing Course Materials and Readings:
- If you are sharing a PDF, make sure it is an accessible PDF. A good way to check is to see if you can select the text of the PDF. If you cannot select the text, it means that your PDF is a plain image that cannot be accessed using a screen reader. If no other version of the document is available, you can use optical character recognition (OCR) technology to convert the image to an accessible document. For example, Claro Cloud OCR Chrome Extension is a Free PDF converter that works in Chrome.
- We recommend that faculty link through the library whenever possible because of accessibility and copyright considerations.
- Utilize the Library’s proxy server to ensure that students from off campus have direct access to licensed resources.
Captions and Transcripts for Audio and Video materials:
- When making an instructional video or audio recording, ensure that your media gets captioned.
- Ensure that essential visuals presented in videos are described orally.
- Provide a text transcript of your audio and video media files.
If you are using Kaltura to deliver content via our LMS, your file will be captioned and a transcript will be generated automatically.
At the bottom of all media delivered through Kaltura, you can find the following toolbar:
From left to right, the toolbar offers a search function, a button to download to transcript, a button to print the transcript, and a drop-down menu to show the transcript below the video.
- If you or your students need real-time captions for online synchronous meetings, you can use Google Slides or PowerPoint to generate them.
Context for Accessibility Guidelines
In discussions of web accessibility guidelines, these three items are often referred to: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG are essentially ways of meeting standards set within Section 508. They are currently in version 2.1, and have standards at three levels: A, AA, and AAA.
Who Stands to Benefit from These Guidelines?
As the World Wide Web (W3) Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative claims, accessibility is “essential for some, beneficial for all.” Digital accessibility guidelines are essential to students with impairments, specifically visual impairments but also students with impairments restricting their ability to interact with a computer screen. These guidelines also help students with learning disabilities and undisclosed disabilities, as they generally provide students with multiple ways of accessing and customizing course content. Beyond these groups, all students tend to benefit from accessible material, as it makes content more organized, concise, and customizable.
This work is adapted from the guide on Digital Accessibility for Faculty from Oakland University licensed under a Creative Commons Licence CC BY-NC. It is attributed to Christina Moore, Dan Arnold, and Nic Bongers and the original version can be found here.