By Barry Dahl – November 15, 2016
The final post of 12 in the series of posts about improving the accessibility of online courses.
In previous posts we examined many of the accessibility tips for making online course content using HTML pages, Microsoft® Word documents, and Microsoft® PowerPoint® documents. In this final installment, we’ll look at a few final suggestions for making a positive impact on the accessibility of online courses.
1. Try out Assistive Technology for yourself
A screen reader is a computer program that produces an auditory version of the text that is available on a webpage, or a computer-generated document. Commonly used screen readers are JAWS®, NVDA, Window-Eyes, and VoiceOver. You are able to try most of these programs for free, and I suggest you do so in order to get a feel for that user experience. There is a bit of a learning curve when getting started with a screen reader, but as you stumble through your first couple of times using a reader, you’ll likely develop some empathy for students who must rely on such technology for their access to learning.
2. Know when to use PDF as your document file type
PDF can be a good choice for document file type, if:
- The document appearance is critical and must look exactly the same across various different computing platforms.
- The document needs to be encrypted, will include things such as a watermark or a digital signature.
- You want to make it more difficult for the viewer to edit the document.
Keep in mind however, that for delivering content on a web page, such as in an online course, a properly made HTML page will be the most accessible file format.
3. Learn about making PDF documents accessible to students using Assistive Technology
If you’ve decided that an accessible PDF is the way you need to go, then you need to know how to properly create the document.
There are two ways to create an accessible PDF, either a) converting a source file, like a PowerPoint®or a Word document to a PDF or b) scanning a hard copy of a document to PDF.
To learn more about accessible PDFdocuments, visit the Web Accessibility MOOC for Online Educators public content site.
4. Go another step beyond captioning, use described videos
Captioned videos are a good first step toward accessibility of video content for online courses, however, the captions tend to capture the words spoken in the video, which can sometimes be confusing without understanding the context within which they are being spoken.
Described video, descriptive video, and audio description are three terms that all mean the same thing, a voiceover description of the primary visual elements in a video. Some examples of things that could be described on a video include setting the scene, costumes, actions, expressions, scene changes, and the like. These descriptions would be beneficial to viewers with low or no vision, as long as they can hear the audio descriptions.
There are many factors to consider when making described videos, and the full extent of knowledge extends beyond this series of accessibility tips for online courses. However, one free and simple service to consider is the website YouDescribe.org, where you can add audio descriptions to YouTube™videos. Embedded below is an example of a described video from that site.
5. Test your webpages using only your keyboard
Open one of your course content pages in a new window. Using only your keyboard (hands off the mouse!), can you access all the features and operate all the buttons or links using keys on the keyboard?
If it is a simple webpage with text and images, I’ll guess that your answer is yes. However, if you have embedded videos, an audio player, or action buttons there’s a chance that you’ll find the keyboard-only access is not sufficient. If that is the case, you may need to change that content, or get some technical help to make the content more accessible.
Keyboard users typically use the Tab key to navigate through the various components of a webpage. The other most commonly used keys are Enter, Spacebar, and the Arrow keys.
You can learn more about Keyboard Accessibility at WebAIM.
6. Be familiar with the applicable laws, and some of the lawsuits against educational institutions
There is a great deal of information available on the Internet about the accessibility laws, and resulting lawsuits that have impacted educational institutions. It is in the interests of all educators to become familiar with the legal expectations and ramifications related to accessible educational offerings.
The University of Washington offers an excellent summary of the Laws, Policies, and Standards related to accessible technology in education; including a sampling of Resolution Agreements and Lawsuits from recent legal actions and a list of Legal Cases by Issue.
This brings to a close the twelve-part series of posts about making online courses more accessible to all students.
Microsoft and PowerPoint are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
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Accessibility Posts - October-November 2016
- Setting the Stage for Improving Accessibility of Online Courses
- What is a VPAT and Where Can You Find Them?
- What Value Can You Find in a VPAT?
- Alt Text for Web Page Images
- When Simple Alt Text is Insufficient
- Finding Captioned Videos for Your Online Courses
- Creating Captions for Your Online Course Videos
- Four Easy Wins to Make Your HTML Content Pages More Accessible
- Three More Ways to Improve Accessibility in your Brightspace Courses
- Creating Accessible Course Content in Microsoft Word
- Creating Accessible Course Content in Microsoft PowerPoint
- Six More Tips for Making Online Courses Accessible
Totally irrelevant cat photo - Public Domain, by Pixabay user Alexas_Photos