Learning materials must be accessible to those using screen readers and other assistive technologies. This means graphics must have alternative text, navigation must be planned, fonts should be easy to read, and contrast and colour should be used with care. Follow the simple rules below to ensure you meet these requirements.
"Accessibility is all about the ability to access. In other words, how easy is it for people with different needs to access your services or materials?" (JISC TechDis, 2014). This includes, but is not limited to, people with disabilities.
Making accessible content is not difficult and benefits everyone. It is also a legal requirement that reasonable measures are taken to provide accessible content in anticipation to those with disabilities (JISC TechDis). By following the rules below you can start making reasonable adjustments to the teaching and learning materials you provide to students before a specific need arises.
UCL provides guidance for the development of accessible learning materials via the E-Learning Baseline. The following recommendations explains in further detail how to make teaching resources accessible. Following these straightforward recommendations when developing your content will ensure that the majority of your students (including those with disabilities) can reach and understand your materials:
Note: The majority of these recommendations are to keep in mind while creating content, rather than requiring additional work post-hoc.
Have you ever tried to read yellow text on a white background from the back of a lecture theatre, or in a room where there is a lot of light on the screen? It is very difficult to read. By making sure you use colours for your text that have a high contrast to the background it will be easier to read from a distance and also helps those with visual impairments.
PowerPoints and projected materials
As well as adhering to the above rules, you should make sure you are providing files that are accessible to students.
If your document is a PDF, make sure that the content can be read by screen readers and is appropriately tagged e.g. as a heading, image, table, etc.
Depending on the method you use, saving a document as PDF sometimes converts text to images. An easy way to determine whether the text in a PDF is still text, is to select, copy and paste the text from the PDF into a text editor like Notepad or Word. If you can't do this, it is likely the PDF conversion process has changed the text into an image, which is not accessible to screen readers. Saving documents directly from Microsoft Word, rather than printing to PDF, should create accessible PDFs for you.
With sufficient care, PDFs can be read by a range of technologies and on different devices, such as smart phones, tablets and computers.
Make sure that the videos that you provide on Moodle / in class are accessible. This could be done in a number of ways:
Upload video transcripts or notes (where these already exist):
Often when you produce videos you will write a script, or notes to outline what you will cover. These can be very useful for students, especially those with disabilities. If you have this text it is good practice to upload a copy alongside your video. This may be in Moodle, or within YouTube or Vimeo.
Subtitling/transcript provision has also been shown to benefit students with English as an additional language or who have specific learning difficulties. Also consider how video is generally watched online these days, especially on mobile devices: videos overwhelmingly are subtitled. Students expect this and are more likely to watch your video if it has subtitles, because they’ll be able to watch it anywhere, whether or not they have headphones. The bottom line is: subtitling benefits everyone.
A written transcript should be available for any audio resources you share with your students.
Many podcasts do offer transcripts already – check. If not, ask the owner if they can.
If you are providing your own audio file, there are many easy ways to create a transcript from this: e.g. Go-Transcribe, Voicebase, or here is a list of other transcription software including some that are free.
A recent study at UCL has found that some students find links opening in new windows annoying.
It is also an accessibility issue as everyone, (but especially those with visual impairments and inexperienced web users), sometimes rely on using the back button.
Students who want links to open in new windows can right-click or Ctrl+click to do this, but blind and non-technical people are less likely to know how to open the link in the same window.
The only time you should open links in a new window is:
This article makes a good case for opening links in the same window, with reference to usability expert Jakob Nielson's research: https://managewp.com/should-you-open-links-in-new-windows.
When linking text, don't use 'Click here', instead describe what will happen when someone clicks on the link (W3C 2016):
Therefore, when it is read out loud with a screen reader a visually impaired person knows where the link will take them. Often, a blind user will navigate a page using the headings and links, so understanding the link's purpose without having the refer to the surrounding text is useful. This helps everyone understand what the link is for and can help people who are scanning text quickly to more easily identify a link they wish to access.
The UCL Accessibility website contains a video demonstrating how a blind person would listen to a website with ALT image tags.
Some screen-readers will only pause when they encounter a full-stop, question mark or semi-colon. Therefore, if you don't add these to the end of each bullet point, visually impaired students may hear each point read out in quick succession, without any pause indicating the end of each point.
4.5% of the UK population are colour blind (Colour Blind Awareness). If you use colour to help people understand something (e.g. green to indiciate something is correct), you also need to provide another way for people who are colour-blind to understand this distinction.
E.g. using a green tick allows everyone to see something is correct.
People using screen readers rely on headings to navigate web pages. If you jump from a heading 2 (the name of your Moodle course for example) to a heading 1, or a heading 4 in the content, those using screen readers will not understand the correct heirachy of the page.
In the (default) Atto text editor that means using the large, medium, small headings in the correct order, starting with large. If you are using TinyMCE text editor you need to use headings 3-5 and avoid levels 1-2, which are already used for the page and section titles.
Tables should only ever be used to display tabular data. They should not be used to control where items appear on your page. There are other, accessible ways, to lay out elements on your page.
For example, if you need an image to appear alongside some text on a web page, you should change its alignment instead.
If you use the default Atto editor in Moodle, you can specify whether the table headings are at the top of the columns, in the first row, or both. If you need to check this you can click on the table and then click the table icon and choose Edit table from the drop down list. Your headings will also appear in bold automatically within the table to help distinguish them from the data.
If you use any external digital tools you should check them for usability and accessibility using www.web2access.org.uk.
How accessible is the online tool you want to use? Use this JISC TechDis endorsed tool to check online tools you wish to use with students. For example, find out:
As well as demonstrating to your students good accessibility practice by providing them with accessible learning materials, you may also like to teach them how to consider accessibility when creating their own documents.
Students learn about accessibility and how they can create documents, presentations and other work that adheres to accessibility guidelines.
This could be done in several ways:
Provide links to accessibility guidance (such as this wiki page) in your Moodle course
Highlight and provide feedback when you see a student has broken one of the 6 accessibility rules in the E-Learning Baseline (above).
A. Under the Act, there is a responsibility to make anticipatory adjustments. This means that institutions should consider what adjustments future disabled students may need, and make them in advance.
A. The short answer is "No", you can still apply good design to web pages which are also accessible. Most measures taken will make web pages more accessible will help everyone. It’s similar to using ‘plain English’ techniques – everyone benefits!
These are some useful information on accessibility.
W3C (2010) Quality Assurance Tips: Care With Font Size http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/font-size. Accessed 6 October 2015.