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 Office 365
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.
Here’s how to use Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker for office files:
Enhance Your PDF’s to be Screen Reader Ready
When scanning documents or pages from a book to create PDF’s, the scanned text is not always readable by assistive technology. Scanned content may appear misaligned, grainy, or difficult to read. Also, not all PDF files have enabled text highlighting. This prevents screen readers from recognizing the content of the PDF entirely. This can leave learners without access to important course materials and information. However, Adobe Acrobat can fix that!
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.
Add Captions to Your Lecture Recordings
Did you know adding captions to lecture recordings helps students beyond those with hearing impairments? Studies show that students who benefit from closed captions also include ESL students, students who watch videos in noisy or quiet places, and students who just need the help of captions to focus.
It is important to note that while captioning your own lecture recordings can be quite simple, providing a transcript for borrowed recorded lecture materials is also recommended.
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.