Making Your Online Courses More Accessible
For the month of April we’ll be looking at how to making your online courses more accessible. To get started we thought we’d share with you some of the accessibility features available in Blackboard.
Blackboard strives to provide an accessible platform by ensuring compatibility with screen readers, making it easy to navigate with a keyboard, including flexible interfaces to reduce distraction and notification tools to stay on track.
In addition to using an accessible platform like Blackboard, instructors are encouraged to design accessible content. Blackboard provides the following Top 5 things you need to know about designing accessible content:
- If you are adding images to your content you must define alternative (alt) text for them. Alt text should be simple and succinct and describe exactly what the image is. Example alt=”photograph of a Cell Dividing”. If the image is a diagram that conveys more complicated information a long description or textual format of the material is required.
- If you are adding video or other multi-media content to your course, you must include descriptive captions for the content to ensure users with hearing impairments are able to consume it. For more information, see Best Practice: Captioning Video Content.
- One of the top complaints heard from students with visual impairments is the inability to consume attached files. Format any attached documents with appropriate headings to ensure they can be properly consumed by screen readers. Use the “Formatting and Style” options available in Microsoft Office, Adobe or other word processing tools when creating your documents to define appropriate headings and lists.
- Attached PDF files need to be properly tagged to ensure their structure can be read by screen readers. Simple methods for “print” or “save” to PDF create a single image of the file. While the document will look like it is properly structured the screen reader will not be able to interact with or read any of the material. For details about making accessible PDF documents, see Meet PDF Accessibility Standards on Adobe Acrobat website.
- Ensure that you provide your students with clear expectations, instructions and directions for all assignments and tests. Students with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities can have trouble focusing on even simple tasks. Clear directions and understandable expectations can help them focus, making them much more likely to succeed.
Understanding Universal Design for Learning is part of a semester-long Learning Shorts series on Accessibility and Universal Design in conjunction with the Department of Educational Leadership, the Disability Resource Center, and Scholarly Technology and Resources (STaR).