The world of education is changing rapidly with the advent of online, hybrid, and flipped courses. Moving a course online or adding online features to a traditional course gives instructors the opportunity to create a class that is not only dynamic but accessible to a variety of students – including those who work full-time, study from a distance, and have disabilities. Though a degree of access can be achieved through accommodations, it is best practice to design an accessible course from the onset.
There are several things that you can do to ensure all students have access to course materials in an accessible format. Accessible content can be used by a variety of users, including users with disabilities who may be using assistive technologies, such as screen readers, screen magnification and text-to-speech software, and users who are using tablets and e-readers or who are working from a remote location with a slower Internet connection.
Below are elements to consider as you design your course content. As you are creating your course content, it is best to think about accessibility right at the beginning to eliminate the need for retrofitting in the future.
Quick Tips for accessible course materials:
- Make sure you can access all of your content with just a keyboard
- Choose instructional tools that support accessibility
- Create Accessible Websites and Documents
- Word and PowerPoint
- Use headings correctly to organize the structure of your content
- Include Descriptive Information for Images (alt tags)
- Hyperlinks: Give your links unique and descriptive names - Avoid "Click Here"
- Ensure good color contrast
- Use and Create Accessible PDF Documents
- Use or create captioned multimedia content
Guidelines for accessible course materials
Textbooks and E-Books
Accessibility of course materials often begins with course readings. Below are some suggestions for ensuring accessible reading materials.
- Ask the publisher if an accessible electronic version of the text is available
- Buy Accessible: What to look for in E-Books
- Check with vendors about accessibility of pre-packaged/third-party software used for homework solutions, assignments, assessments, etc.
- OER - Open Education Resources and Accessibility. Additionally, UA has an OER group - contact Cheryl Cullier with the UA Library for more information
- iBooks Author - When creating an iBook, remember to use alternative text (alt tags) to describe figures. View an example of an accessible iBook
Microsoft Office Documents
Word and PowerPoint
- Use Headings to create structure in your document
- Use bulleted and numbered lists
- Add alternate text to images
- Create accessible PowerPoints presentations
- If you post PDF versions of your PowerPoint, consider posting the PowerPoint file as well
- This allows students to choose their viewing and printing preferences
- Students using assistive technologies can access the text
- Post accessible PDF documents to course Websites or Learning Management System (D2L, BlackBoard, etc.)
- Ensure an electronic version of the article is accessible for assistive technologies and mobile devices
- If an article you've selected is inaccessible, try to re-download articles from the journal or Website – many are now an accessible format. Work with UA Library staff to get access to more sources
- Create accessible PDF documents to ensure content is accessible with assistive technologies and mobile devices
- Select only captioned videos
- Search for online video material by including the word "captioned" in your search
- When possible request streamed video through the UA Library. The Library is interested in owning academic materials that faculty members and other course instructors use and when video is streamed through the Library captioning is provided when available.
- Know how to turn closed captions (CC) on using the technology available in the classroom
- If you are creating your own videos it is a good practice to work from a script. Captions can be added quickly and easily if a script is available, and a transcript may be an accessible option if there is little visual information conveyed in the video.
- Follow the UA's Commitment to Captioning
- Ensure that your course website is accessible
- Format your website in a way that is easy to understand
- Use the built in features of your LMS system (D2L, Blackboard, etc.)
Testing your content for accessibility
There are many techniques for testing the accessibility of your content. For example, Adobe Acrobat Professional and Microsoft Office both include accessibility checkers as part of their program. View more about testing for accessibility