The following suggestions are offered to faculty for designing online courses:
Accessible Content and Design
The sites listed help with accessible content and design.
Pictures and Images: Students with blindness or visual impairment use screen readers to access information online. Pictures and other images should have alternative text or "alt tags" that describes the image using semantic meanings. Computers and screen readers cannot analyze images; hence the need for alternative text. Techniques for alternative text can be found at http://webaim.org/techniques/alttext/.
Videos: Unless videos are captioned on websites, current and prospective students may feel courses are inaccessible. Captions are helpful for students with deafness or hearing impairments and those who have auditory processing disorders. These students need to read for understanding. Techniques for captioning videos can be found at http://webaim.org/techniques/captions/. In addition, MAGpie (Media Access Generator) is a free tool to make captions and audio descriptions for multimedia that is accessible to individuals with sensory disabilities such as blindness and deafness. See the following site for details: http://ncam.wgbh.org/invent_build/web_multimedia/tools-guidelines/magpie.
Tables/Lists: Tables and lists are difficult to read using screen readers. To learn how to make them accessible, go to http://webaim.org/techniques/tables/.
Forms: Forms available to all students must be accessible to those who use screen readers and should be able to be completed using only a keyboard. Go to http://webaim.org/techniques/forms/ to learn how to create accessible forms.
Color: Aspects of color should be accessible to those with low vision and/or color blindness. Check the accessibility of color at http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/. Vischeck is a website that will show how images and webpages will be seen by someone who has color blindness. http://www.vischeck.com/vischeck/
Video Access for the Visually Impaired: Try to use videos with good verbal descriptions in them. Consider offering students information about the Audio Description Project for course requirements that include expectations for students to watch TV shows as a part of the course. This can be difficult for someone with a visual impairment. This site illustrates how one can access audio descriptions of TV programs. http://www.acb.org/adp/tv.html
Online and Distance Learning Programs
Please keep in mind that publisher products that institutions use should be accessible to screen readers and/or have captions if video content is included.
- MyMathLab - http://www.mymathlab.com/accessibility
- MyEconLab - http://myeconlab.pearsoncmg.com/mel_assets/support/accessibility.html
More information about How Can Faculty Address the Issues Facing Students with Disabilities in Online Courses
Research conducted by the University of Conneticut's UDI Online Project (2010) offers information about the issues students with disabilities face in online courses and strategies that can help. A review of relevant research is summarized and issues, strategies and modifcation suggestions aer offered in their Technical Brief: Students with Disabilities and Online Learning can be viewed on their website at: http://www.udi.uconn.edu/index.php?q=content/technical-brief-students-disabilities-and-online-learning.
Content loaded to websites must be accessible and therefore creating accessible PDF's is often necessary for student access.
Create an accessible document using Microsoft Word, Power Point, Excel and check it with the embedded accessibility checker before saving as a PDF. Avoid scanning documents and uploading just a picture of the document that cannot be read by screen readers. Start with a clean document (no highlighting, underlining or marking), use original material, if possible, and not copies of books or articles. Use an OCR (optical recognition reader) like Adobe Acrobat Pro because it has an accessibility checker in it that will check the document for images, reading order, etc. Training for creating accessible documents can be found at http://tv.adobe.com/watch/accessibility-adobe/creating-an-accessible-pdf-file/. Check documents by opening file/info and then check for issues. The service will show how to correct errors.
When purchasing content from publishers, ask for a captioned version.
YouTube Videos have a caption component that simply needs to be clicked to turn on captioning (cc). Remind students of this feature. CaptionTube is a site that explains how to caption videos prior to uploading to You Tube. http://captiontube.appspot.com/help/#what
Learning Management Systems
Things to keep in mind:
- Learning management systems chosen for online courses must be accessible by a student's accessible technology.
- Accessibility of course materials is required.
- Colleges and universities that contract with vendors must ensure the services are accessible and must check the product to be sure students can gain access.
- Alternative access should be provided to students for insurmountable issues and should be as close as possible to the access provided to students without disabilities (ease of use and services provided).
- Students are expected to have access when faculty put up their tools for instruction. More about he accessiblity of learning management systems can be found at http://projectone.cannect.org/online-education/lms-accessibility.php.
Additional information about popular learning management systems:
The following is a series of Lessons to assist faculty in providing academic accommodations for students with disabilities. The lessons were created by the DO-IT Progam at the University of Washington. The DO-IT Program employs the use of Universal Design so that all students can benefit. The information in these lessons will help faculty understand the specific accommodations provided for students with disabilities in their courses. Alternative accommodations and suggestions are also offered that may be useful when teaching students with disabilities.
Lesson 1: Introduction - http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Presentations/Distance/Lessons/aaswd01.html
Lesson 2: Accommodations - Rights and Responsibilities: http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Presentations/Distance/Lessons/aaswd02.html
Lesson 3: Universal Design - http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Presentations/Distance/Lessons/aaswd03.html
Lesson 6: Mobility - http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Presentations/Distance/Lessons/aaswd06.html
Lesson 8: Learning - http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Presentations/Distance/Lessons/aaswd08.html
Lesson 9: Psychiatric - http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Presentations/Distance/Lessons/aaswd09.html
Lesson 10: Adaptive Technology - http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Presentations/Distance/Lessons/aaswd10.html
Lesson 11: Distance Learning - http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Presentations/Distance/Lessons/aaswd11.html