Accessibility can refer either to the design of products and experiences for those who experience disability (such as issues related to vision, hearing, neurodiversity, mobility, learning, etc.) or the actual ability to access and benefit from a product or experience (Wikipedia contributors, 2018).
Some common concerns related to accessibility that we observe in instructional materials include:
- Videos that aren't adequately captioned, meaning auto-captioning is not accurate or visuals are not also captioned.
- Missing alternative text (alt image text) for images in Blackboard, on slides, or in documents so they cannot be interpreted by screen readers.
- Failure to use built-in style options for titles, headings, lists (both bulleted and numbered), and tables in Blackboard, on slides, or in documents so they cannot be interpreted by screen readers.
- Failure to use templates in slides or documents, which impacts reading order for screen readers.
- Poor contrast between text and background colors or images, which is problematic for visual concerns like color blindness.
- Use of non-standard file formats that are inaccessible without conversion or additional software purchase.
Accessibility concerns are issues both philosophically, if you value inclusive education, and legally under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (LaGrow, 2017). Accessibility is not the same thing as a request for accommodation (received by Student Disability Services). Accessibility is also not synonymous with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an instructional design model promoting the creation of diverse and engaging learning experiences for all learners, though that is a related concept.
- For quick tips on creating accessible materials, check our Digital Content Accessibility Checklist.
- For quick tips on how to use YouTube's auto-captioning and make corrections as necessary, review this article.
- Preview the accessibility checker built into Microsoft software like Word and PowerPoint.
- Contact Student Disability Services for
advice on accessibility features built into devices and software like web browsers or to learn more about disability accommodation policies.
- To learn more about accessibility in higher education and related rights and requirements, check out the Higher Education Accessibility Online Resource Center from the National Federation of the Blind.
LaGrow, M. (2017). The section 508 refresh and what it means for higher education. Educause Review. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/12/the-section-508-refresh-and-what-it-means-for-higher-education
Wikipedia contributors. (2018, July 30). Accessibility. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Accessibility&oldid=852626028