There are clear accessibility standards for online content delivery. Face-to-face instruction does not have the same level of completed standards and guidelines for accessibility. Nonetheless, face-to-face classes must be as accessible as online classes. What follows is a series of recommendations to help you create an accessible face-to-face class. Even if you follow all of these suggestions, your course may still require accommodations to make it accessible for particular students. Delivering an accessible class will help decrease the need for accommodations and possibly make them easier to deliver, saving everyone time in the long run and serving all students better.
- Syllabus: Create your course syllabus as early as is feasible and make it available to your students before the first day of class. Depending upon where you teach, you may be able to use your college’s learning management system (such as Blackboard) to email the syllabus to all your students, or you may be able to link your syllabus to the class’s system record through the college’s student information system (such as Banner). Giving students advance notice about course expectations and materials allows those students who need more time to begin reading course materials, and it also allows students who might request accommodations enough time to work with the college’s disability services support office.
In-Class Lecture Accessibility
- Class Notes or Outlines: Consider providing an outline of class lectures to all students in advance of the class meeting. Useful outlines will, at a minimum, highlight the testable topics planned for that class period. Any testable material covered in class that was not planned and outlined can be reinforced in a follow-up email or digital announcement using your college’s learning management system’s tools.
- Writing on a Board: When you write on a whiteboard or chalkboard, consider visibility. Use high-contrast marker colors such as black, red, and dark blue, and avoid using dry markers. If you have a chalkboard, use high-contrast chalk colors such as white or yellow. To ensure your text size is consistent with ADA standards, match your text size to the size of your classroom. As a rule of thumb, no text should be smaller than two inches high, and for every 10 feet of occupied classroom beyond 20 feet deep, increase the size of your text by one inch. For example, in a classroom that is 20 feet deep, write in two-inch-high letters. For a classroom that is 40 feet deep, write in four-inch-high letters, and so on.
- Using PowerPoints: PowerPoints should be created using high contrast color schemes, sans serif fonts (such as Arial), and should have a font size of no smaller than 18 point. Because the final projected size of PowerPoint text is determined by the dynamic relationship between screen size, projector distance and resolution, and font size, you will have to judge your PowerPoints in the classroom and be prepared to adjust font size if necessary.
- As You Lecture: Whether you lecture using a board or a PowerPoint for illustration, make sure to verbally cover any material given visually. While you are not encouraged to read your PowerPoints, you should ensure than any testable material they contain is presented verbally in some way. If you present images of any kind (photographs, artwork, graphs, diagrams) provide a complete verbal description of the image. Do not assume the visual image can “speak for itself.” If you are lecturing in a classroom that is large enough to contain a microphone, use the microphone.
In-Class Media Accessibility
- Transcripts: If they are available, provide transcripts for any videos or films you plan to show in class. If a transcript is not available, create a summary that includes mention of all testable items. Provide this written material in advance of showing the video so students have the opportunity to study it before they come to class.
- Captions: Preview captions used in in-class video to ensure accuracy and to assess size of caption text. If the captions are not accurate, don’t enable them when you show the video. If the captions are too small to comport with the 1″ per 10′ standard discussed above, alert students at the start of class so those who plan to read the captions can choose to sit close to the screen.
- Digital Testing: Consider creating digital versions of your tests and quizzes using your college’s learning management system. Digital tests are easier than paper-and-pen tests to make accessible, and they can be individualized and timed to more easily control cheating.
- Digital Documents: Provide the course syllabus and any other course documents such as handouts, articles, assignment sheets, etc., online in PDF format using your college’s learning management system. Not only will this give students easy access to these materials, but the materials themselves can be made accessible through proper tagging.
- Announcements and Email: Reach out to your class using the email function in your college’s learning management system. When you need to augment your digital course notes because the dynamic classroom environment presented new and important information, follow up using the learning management system’s announcements feature and enable its “send as an email” option.
The standards for face-to-face class accessibility are evolving and codifying through practice and legal action. To ensure that you are always providing the most accessible course you can, make sure to evaluate your delivery methods and decisions on a regular basis.