Getting Started with Accessibility
Instructors may be unfamiliar with the challenges posed by inaccessible web content and are just beginning to consider accessibility when adjusting materials for online instruction. We have compiled a number of how-to pages with step-by-step guides for making particular types of content accessible.
We have built this page with a goal to aid in removing the barriers of learning for any student and to ensure that an iLearn course is accessible to potential instructors, and students with a range of abilities and disabilities. We begin ensuring that course materials, notes, and other information resources are engaging, flexible, and accessible for all students. Here are some tips:
Accessible Course Overview:
Sheryl Burgstahler, the director of Accessible Technology Services within UW-IT and affiliate professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington, shared this wealth of information in January 2017 Educause Article, "ADA Compliance for Online Course Design."
With references to in-depth resources for some of the topics — that can help online instructors make their courses accessible to a broad audience: "20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course." Although the tips do not cover every potential accessibility issue, they provide a good start.
Washington University has shared tips and tricks for course web pages, documents, images, and videos:
- Use clear, consistent layouts and organization schemes for presenting content.
- Structure headings (using style features built into the learning management system, Word, PowerPoint, PDFs, etc.) and use built-in designs/layouts (e.g., for PPT slides).
- Use descriptive wording for hyperlink text (e.g., "DO-IT Knowledge Base" rather than "click here").
- Minimize the use of PDFs, especially when presented as an image; make sure the text is accessible by testing to see if you can copy and paste it. Always offer a text-based alternative as well.
- Provide concise alternative-text descriptions of content presented within images.
- Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered pages with plain backgrounds.
- Use color combinations that are high contrast and can be read by those who are colorblind.
- Make sure all content and navigation is accessible using the keyboard alone.
- Caption or transcribe video and audio content.
Benefits of Accessible Design for Individuals without Disabilities
Students in a class can vary by gender, race, ethnicity, culture, marital status, age, communication skills, learning abilities, interests, physical abilities, social skills, sensory abilities, values, learning preferences, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, and other factors. Many of these individuals might never request a disability-related accommodation but will nevertheless benefit from accessible design. For example, many English language learners benefit from captions on videos so that they can see the spelling of new vocabulary. Other students learning new vocabulary in a technical class can benefit from these captions as well. And everyone benefits from course content that is presented in a logical, consistent manner.