ACCESS 101: Creating Accessible Online Classes
Introduction to Accessibility
First we would like to thank Ellen Cutler, Assistive Technology Specialist at Santa Monica College, for graciously giving permission for us to use some of the content from the Accessibility training and resources that she has developed for faculty using eCollege. Over time, we will continue to modify and add to this course to meet the needs of faculty teaching in our district.
This section will inform you about making your online content accessible to everyone including people with disabilities. A building is accessible when everyone can enter the building and navigate through it independently. Similarly, a web site is accessible when everyone can access the information on the web site as well as easily navigate within and amongst its pages. As Tim Berner-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web said:
"The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."
Accessibility in Online classes will help you understand why accessibility is important and how to achieve it. Additionally, we hope it will inspire you to make accessible design a habit, as automatic as saving your documents. Incorporating accessible design standards as you create your courses using eCollege or WebAccess is much more efficient than retrofitting the course content for accessibility after it has been created.
With over 54 million people in the United States with disabilities, the odds are you will have a student with disabilities in one of your classes. If your course has been designed following these standards, you will not have to experience the additional stress of suddenly having to make the content accessible.
An excellent resource is Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAim). There are specific links to WebAim's website for additional resources within this course to help you with more specifics.
Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines January 2011 (CA Community Colleges Chancellor's Office)
Why accessible content is important.
The importance of accessible web design can be summarized into four points.
- Accessible design is good design.
Accessible web design is based on the concept of universal design, the design of products and environments to be used by all people to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Examples of universal design include curb cuts, captions, and carry-on luggage with handles, straps, and wheels.
Think of accessible web design and accessible content in on-line classes as "electronic curb cuts."
- Applying accessible design practices and standards results in improved web design for everyone.
Following these standards results in well-organized pages with consistent layout.
- Implementing accessible web design provides equal access and equal opportunity.
Disability is a relative concept. If a web page is designed so someone listening to the page has full access to it, the blind person who accesses the page is not disabled while listening to the page.
- It is the law.
Accessible design includes complying with state and federal web accessibility design standards. These legally-mandated standards, specifically Section 508 standards, were developed to ensure that our web pages are accessible to everyone including people with disabilities.
Statement - Correct or Incorrect?
It is the responsibility of Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) to ensure the web is accessible or to help students with disabilities access the content in their college courses.
Incorrect: The faculty and staff of DSPS are not the web accessibility police!
It is the responsibility of the college to make sure all their webpages/online courses are accessible. It is the students' responsibility to make sure they know how to use their particular assistive technology to access web pages. DSPS can help train the students in using those technologies.
DSPS' role is to increase awareness at all levels (faculty, staff and administrators) about the importance of accessibility for individuals with disabilities, the why, and the how. It is up to faculty and others who are creating the content to ensure that the material included in the on-line courses that are offered at the college are accessible.
Examples of Types of Content:
Images - need alternate text (known as descriptive text in eCollege)
Audio (can be an audio podcast) - needs a transcript
Video or Video Podcasts - need captioning
Adobe pdf - needs to be text not a picture of text
Microsoft PowerPoint slides - needs to be formatted for accessibility
WebAccess strives to ensure that the shell is accessible.
WebAccess (Moodle) ensures the shell of the Course Management System is accessible. When you develop your course content and add it to the shell, it is up to the instructor to make sure the content you add or create is in an accessible format.
When you select the Help button and go to Adding Course Content - Microsoft or Text/Multimedia Tools, eCollege gives the following notice/disclaimer:
Unfortunately, WebAccess does not magically make the faculty-added content accessible. The above statement is essentially their disclaimer.
Introduction to Accessibility from WebAim
Keeping Accessibility in Mind, is a webpage with videos developed by WebAim. You'll find the videos when you scroll down the Introduction to Accessibility page. This article provides information on people with disabilities who are achieving professional success in unexpected careers. For example, among these distinguished professionals is Eric Brun-Sanglard, an interior designer, who just happens to be blind.
Eric Brun-Sanglard, an interior designer who is blind
"Things are only impossible until they’re done."
CSU From Where I Sit videos (by permission from California State University) is a powerful video series featuring eight CSU students with disabilities who share their experiences in the college classroom.
Some Accessibility Basic
Electronic Media and Accessibility
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License from @One's course Creating Accessible Online Courses.
Creating Accessible Documents
Image courtesy of Laurie Vasquez
Documents created in MS Word are inherently quite accessible and there are some steps that you can take to ensure that the documents you create will not only be accessible in Word but also be accessible when saved into other formats (Web pages, PDF documents, Braille documents).
The basic tips to keep in mind include the following:
- Use styles
- Use tabs, not spaces to move words
- Use the column format, not tabs to create a columnar effect
- Add alt tags to describe pictures
Microsoft PowerPoint™ has become a standard format for creating and presenting visuals (e.g., slideshows) for presentations, including those used in educational contexts such as distance learning courses. A variety of approaches are used for delivering PowerPoint content online, each of which has strengths and weaknesses concerning accessibility.
The most basic approach is to provide the original PowerPoint files for students to download. Access to these files requires that users have either the PowerPoint application or the PowerPoint browser plug-in, which shows PowerPoint pages directly in the browser. If all slides contain simple, standard content such as a heading and bulleted list, these are readily accessible to PowerPoint users with disabilities, including those using assistive technologies such as screen readers. However, as content increases in complexity (e.g., graphics, animations, tables and charts) accessibility decreases. (From How Do I Make My PowerPoint Presentation Accessible, AccessIT, University of Washington - Read the whole article)
- Use the slide design layouts provided.
- Include alt tags for graphics.
- Consider font size and color.
- Use simple transitions. Avoid automatic ones.
- Include a transcript for embedded audio.
- Make sure embedded video is captioned.
Refer to the following article for details: WebAim: PowerPoint Accessibility Article
Videos & Captioning
For online classes, you can apply for funding to have the videos you use in your online class captioned. This also covers preparation of a transcript. Call to get started.
Sample Syllabus Statement
Add a statement to your syllabus inviting students to discuss their needs and accommodation strategies with you.
If you have a documented disability and need accommodations for this class, please see me as soon as possible or contact the Disability Resource Center on campus. The DRC is located in Bldg. XX Room XXX. phone: XXX-XXXX.
Students requiring accommodations for a certified disability that may affect class performance are requested to schedule an appointment with me during the first week of the semester. You can also meet with a staff member at the Disability Resource Center so that appropriate arrangements can be made. The Center is located in Bldg. XX Room XXX. phone: XXX-XXXX.