Accessibility Best Practices & Resources
What is Accessibility?
According to the data collected by the Accessibility Services at Wentworth Institute of Technology in 2010 – 2013, approximately 12% of students in each incoming class have disclosed a disability (defined as a “condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual or group” (Source: Disability: Definition, Types and Models - Definition of disability including types of disabilities and defining the meaning of the various models.). Of this 12 %, types of disability included mental health issues, including ADHD (44%), learning disabilities (31%), medical disabilities (13%), autism spectrum disorders (9%) and sensory disabilities (3%).
The law mandates that higher education institutions provide accommodations to students with disabilities in most, if not all aspects, by removing barriers to use of facilities, services, and communications. These accommodations may include ramps and elevators, allergen-free food in the cafeteria, time extensions for exams, closed captions and transcripts for recorded lectures, and websites compatible with electronic screen readers. Faculty can improve the accessibility of learning by utilizing several best practices.
Top 10 Accessibility Tips
- Always use a formal semantic structure, such as Heading, Sub Heading 1, Paragraph, etc. In Blackboard, these are listed under Format in the Rich Text Editor Box.
- Use Bulleted or Numbered lists to organize information INSTEAD of tabs or spaces
- Divide large blocks of text into smaller more manageable chunks and avoid complex sentences
- Make sure all videos have accurate captions
- If recording from scratch, such as with a webcam or Panopto, provide captions and transcripts (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information)
- Provide a text description (ALT text) for every non-text element, such as image, chart or graph
- If ALT text is not sufficient, provide a longer description in the surrounding text or in a separate document
- Use good contrast between the text and background colors
- Avoid color as the sole means of highlighting important information
- Use meaningful descriptions such as website name or document title instead of "Click here".
Choose readings that are available in accessible electronic formats
Students with documented print disabilities can often obtain electronic versions from publishers through Accesstext Network (ATN). For more guidance in choosing accessible textbook and materials or finding alternative solutions for students with disabilities, or for consulting about specific cases, please contact Accessibility Services.
Real Connections: Making Distance Learning Accessible to Everyone
Provide handouts as accessible electronic documents
Watch these short videos on how to create accessible documents:
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Overview
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Document Naming
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Headings and Styles
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Lists
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Columns
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Tables
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Languages
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Links
- Creating Accessibility Documents - Alt Text
- Creating an Accessible PDF from a Word Document
- Creating Accessible Excel Spreadsheets
Caption and transcribe videos
Providing subtitles and transcripts with all assigned videos makes the videos accessible to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Faculty may record their own videos or use videos widely available on the Internet. The processes to caption/transcribe will depend on the type of media chosen.
- YouTube videos usually have closed captions (CC) but these could be auto-generated and not accurate (therefore not useful to students who are deaf or hard of hearing). In this case, better quality captions can be added using tools that add a layer with captions to the existing video. Such tools include:
- Self-produced videos uploaded to Panopto may require integration with one of the captioning providers, Panopto or 3play Media.
Blackboard course shells are automatically created every semester for every course. Lectures, handouts, assignments, and resources can be posted and organized for easy access.