Closeup of a person using a laptop to view Accessibility 101

Providing Accessible Online Course Materials

Friday, March 13, 2020

Designing or converting course files for online delivery raises some important questions around accessibility. These tips can help you get started with your online course development or migration. Send feedback or questions to ITAccessibility.uiowa.edu

Online Documents and Media

  • Do NOT digitally share scanned, image-only, or other flat-file documents. These documents are not screen readable, and do not permit searching, bookmarks, select/copy/paste, or other features that benefit all learners.
  • Use headings, bookmarks, page titles, table of contents, and other techniques to organize documents for easier searching, scanning, and reading.
  • Include descriptive ALT text with images that present content, and indicate images that are purely decorative. If you use complex images like charts or infographics, provide links to full descriptions of those images.
  • When you create hyperlinks, use meaningful text that describes the purpose and destination of the link.
  • Use color carefully. Check your foreground and background color combinations for sufficient contrast; do not use color as the only means of differentiating or understanding content.
  • Caption your course videos whenever possible. If you pre-record lectures or other sessions, consider starting with a script and making this available as well.
  • Break up long videos into shorter, well-titled segments. This benefits all learners by making it easier to focus on a specific topic or section of a session or lecture.

Tools and Applications

  • If you deliver your course in ICON, use UDOIT to check the accessibility of content created in Canvas.
  • If you use conferencing applications like Zoom or Skype for real-time sessions, consider which of the platform’s features are usable by everyone. Tools like whiteboard may present access issues for some participants.
  • Some OER authoring tools may reformat embedded content in a way that is not accessible. Keep accessible versions of course materials available for timely distribution.
  • Word, PowerPoint, Acrobat Pro, and other applications also have onboard accessibility checkers. Use these to identify and address accessibility issues.
  • If your course materials link to external websites or other resources, understand that these may have accessibility issues and consider alternative ways to share important information.

Getting Started

Here are some steps that online instructors can take to support success for all students, regardless of technology.

  • Passwords, addresses, DUO, file sharing and other processes may look different, depending on your location. Take the time to get to know your technology. Set up and test connections, double-check access to online accounts, make sure your students can access your shared resources.
  • Review your content to determine whether you need to adapt or repurpose documents or other information and what formats might be better suited for online delivery.
  • Share online materials and communications in a dependable location, and make sure your students have access as appropriate. Include instructions for use, and links to any accessibility resources.
  • Minimize the number of online tools a student must access to participate in your course. Avoid unnecessary redundancy (e.g., don’t use YouTube and Vimeo for posting videos)
  • For a variety of reasons, students may be unable to work entirely online. Consider building assignments, projects, formative assessments, or other activities that allow students to learn offline. Be aware that these must also be accessible.
  • Some students may need extra time to read or process information. Provide digital handouts or other materials in an accessible format so that students can review the content prior to a discussion or real-time session.
  • Let your students know that they are welcome to reach out to you to discuss individual needs regarding access and accommodations.
  • Contact Student Disability Services for guidance on providing accommodations to registered students.