Accessibility challenges aren’t just challenges faced by persons with disabilities, but can be faced by students with and without disabilities. So to ensure that you are on the best track for accessibility, IDT has identified 10 such issues and has broken them down into a two part blog post, providing some solutions and resources to aid in addressing these common challenges. Part 1 addresses six challenges and some solutions and resources to explore.
1. Unclear navigation or inconsistent course designs. This is not just a challenge faced by learners with disabilities, but by all learners. Common problems with inconsistent labels such as interchanging words like “modules” and “units”, or “assessments,” “tests,” and “exams.” Dates listed in multiple places may seem like a good way for students to have access to due dates no matter where they look in the course, but inconsistent dates may cause confusion for learners.
- Solution: To help ensure clarity and consistency, have someone else review the course and keep phrases uniform. Or create a graphic organizer to better grasp the layout of the course.
2. Audio content without a transcript or text alternative. All individuals learn differently. For some audio content is difficult to follow and retain, but the same information in written form is much easier to learn. For other individuals, such as those with a hearing impairment, a lack of transcript or text alternative means that they are unable to access the information, making learning difficult if not impossible. In either case, a transcript or text alternative is essential for the individual’s ability to successfully obtain and access the information.
- Solution: There are multiple solutions to this challenge. If the audio is instructor-created, consider typing up a transcript before producing audio content. If the content has already been created, consider using a transcription service such as Rev. For those who may be seeking additional solutions, stay tuned. MRC is in the process of acquiring a new tool that will be available in the New Year and may provide an alternative solution from those listed above.
3. Unclear or not meaningful links. An example of an unclear or not meaningful link is, “click here” as the text to describe the links on the page. When scanning the page, “click here” does not have any meaning if it is not in context. For an individual with a visual impairment or disability, where is “here” located? Additionally, links that are written as “raw” URLs, such as “https://www.wichita.edu/thisis/”, may not be read by assistive technology in a way that makes sense to the user. Making the link “self-describing and meaningful” helps screen readers and others identify what the link really means. Wichita State University Homepage is much clearer and descriptive. This method also helps individuals who find the “raw” URL overwhelming to look at and try to decipher. If the link breaks, how will they understand what the intended website is meant to be. Consider the example previously noted. “https://www.wichita.edu/thisis/” doesn’t indicate if the person is trying to be linked to the Wichita State University Homepage, to the city’s website, to Wichita Fall’s website, or another website.
- Solution: Avoid these unclear and non-meaningful links by using descriptive language, such as “Wichita State University Homepage”. Also consider checking out the blog, Four Things You Can Do Today to Support Accessible Design by Dr. Carolyn Speer.
4. Images with no alternative text. Once again, this can create a very real challenge for individuals with visual impairments who are unable to see the images and understand the information they convey. Additionally, individuals without disabilities may also find the image confusing and not access the information if not alt text or description of the image is provided. Alternative text should also be descriptive to ensure that the proper information is being conveyed. Consider an the image of a painting. Without context, it may be impossible to understand why the image is being used. What is the image’s purpose in this context? If the painting is an example of a post-impressionist’s work and the stylistic traits associated with it, how will the individual understand the significance being conveyed if they are unfamiliar with the work and artist and no alternative text exists?
- Solution: Not sure how to add alternative text or alt tags to your images? Check out these simple solutions. How-to Create Alt Tags for Images in Blackboard is a short tutorial video that demonstrates how to add alt tags to images in Blackboard or for how to add alt text to images in PowerPoints and Instructor-created PDFs, review the Blog post: Including Alt Tags for Accessibility.
5. Colors used for instructional purposes. Individuals who have colorblindness or visual impairments may not be able to identify or distinguish text that uses color to convey meaning, information, or emphasis. Additionally, for individuals that utilize assistive technology, color used to convey emphasis, importance or references to objects do not come across. For example, consider this statement, “Click the red circle to move to the next slide. Click the green circle to go back one slide” For individuals with visual impairments or colorblindness, this statement may be highly confusing and frustrating. Also consider the colors that you are using and how highlighting or poorly contrasted backgrounds and foregrounds may hurt the eyes. A bright, lime green text against a white background may strain eyes and be unreadable to some individuals. This doesn’t mean that color can never be used, just that it should be used with accessibility in mind.
- Solution: Making sure that color is not the sole means to convey information and that the contrast is appropriate can allow for colors without violating accessibility. For more information review the following posts: Accessibility Check: Color Contrast by Torie Wynn and Considering Color Blindness in the Online Classroom by Michael Cole.
6. Videos without captioning. This is a frequently seen problem, as many videos can now be found through sources like YouTube, Vimeo, FilmsOnDemand…etc. However, these do not always have captions and those that do may not always be accurate. Instructor-created videos may have similar problems if the tool is not capable of allowing captions or if the tool’s auto-generated captions are inaccurate. YouTube is a well-known video website that allows for auto-generated captions, however these captions are notorious for wrong captions. Captions are necessary for individuals with hearing impairments, but also for individuals who comprehend and retain information best through reading.
- Solution: For instructor-created videos through YouTube adding and editing captions can be fairly simple. Check out the How to Add Automatic Closed Captioning in a YouTube Video and How to Edit Closed Captioning in YouTube tutorial videos more step by step instructions. For videos that are not instructor-created, consider using a captioning tool such as Amara.