There are several simple steps faculty can take to make their course materials accessible and more user-friendly for all learners. Most of these solutions are quick and can be performed using software that you already have installed on your computer!
So, what can you do?
Use the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Office
The Accessibility Checker tool finds accessibility issues in Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Outlook emails, and PowerPoint presentations. The tool quickly generates a report of issues that could make content difficult for people with disabilities to decipher. Accessibility Checker also explains why these issues should be fixed and provides simple steps on how to fix them.
You’ll need to Install Office first!
Here’s how to use Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker for office files:
- More information on making MS Word Documents Accessible
- Accessibility Checker for Windows Guide
- Accessibility Checker for Mac Guide
Enhance Your PDF’s to be Screen Reader Ready
You have probably come across scanned PDF’s that are misaligned, grainy, and overall difficult to read. These PDF’s are even more difficult for learners using assistive technology to read. Sharing these PDF’s with your learners leaves them without access to important course materials and information. However, Adobe Acrobat can help!
- Printable version Enhancing PDF’s to be Screen Reader Ready
- Running the Accessibility Check in Adobe Acrobat Pro/DC
Tips for sharing PDF’s:
- We recommend linking to articles in Library databases as opposed to downloading and posting them as PDF’s on myCourses.
- Scanned PDF’s acquired by your library liaison through Interlibrary Loan are meant to be used for research purposes. Sharing these files with students is a violation of fair use. We encourage you to contact your library liaison for assistance finding accessible alternatives.
- Scanned documents are nearly impossible to make accessible. Whenever possible, make every effort to locate and share the original electronic version of a file.
- It is much easier to make a Word/PowerPoint file accessible than it is to make a PDF accessible. If you have a file in the original Word/PowerPoint format, share that with your students instead.
Add Descriptive Text to Images in myCourses
Imagine not being able to experience meaningful course content such as referenced artwork, maps, or even diagrams. When images do not contain Alt-tags and Image Descriptions, learners who rely on screen readers are unable to utilize these types of course materials. Including Alt-tags and Image Descriptions in myCourses is easy to do! When included, assistive technologies will read aloud the Alt-tags and Image Descriptions to learners using screen readers.
However, ask yourself what the purpose of an image is. Is it to give a page visual appeal? Or to give a sighted user a visual reference of what to expect? Is the image something all users need to consume to understand your content? For decorative images, leave the Alt text field blank. The screen reader will ignore the image in this case. An image is decorative when it doesn’t add to the information on the page.
Make Your Web Links Descriptive
Descriptive hyperlinks provide users with the proper context of where clicking a hyperlink will take them and what type of information they are about to encounter. Screen reader users navigate websites from link to link, by using the tab key; so providing straightforward hyperlink text is important and necessary.
- Printable version Creating Descriptive Hyperlinks in myCourses
- Printable version Creating Descriptive Hyperlinks in Microsoft Word
Video and audio content is considered accessible when closed captions or transcripts are available.
Closed Captions are automatically generated for audio/video content that you create or upload in Kaltura, but they are not perfect. In order for this type of content to be considered fully accessible you should review and update the automatically generated closed captions.
If you are sharing content with your students that you have uploaded to YouTube, those automatically generated captions should also be reviewed and corrected if necessary. Follow the steps in our Editing YouTube Captions tutorial if you have YouTube captions that need correcting.
If you are sharing videos from YouTube with your students that you did not upload, you can check to see if the video has closed captions by clicking the “CC” button on the toolbar along the bottom of the video. You should always watch videos with closed captions enabled to determine if they are accurate. If they are not, click the gear icon on the YouTube player toolbar and check to see if there’s an “English” option under Subtitles/CC settings. If there is an “English” captions option, that means the captions were already verified as accurate. If there are no “English” captions and the automatic captions are not accurate, we recommend looking for a different video.
To caption videos that you did not record yourself, we recommend Amara, a free, do-it-yourself caption editor. You can learn more about how to caption videos in Amara here.
Other helpful resources:
- UMass Dartmouth Syllabus Template (ADA compliant format)