Creating Accessible Course Materials – Course materials are expected to be in compliance, or an alternative option provided upon the students request. Students with disabilities must have an equally effective and equivalent educational opportunity as those students without disabilities. Students experiencing difficulty accessing course materials because of a disability are expected to contact the course instructor so that a solution can be found that provides all students equal access to course materials and technology.
Files (Word, PowerPoint, Excel and PDFs)
Most of the content that is created directly within Canvas is considered accessible. However, materials (Syllabi, Presentations, Assignments, etc.) created in external tools, such as Microsoft Office Files and Adobe PDFs, should be verified for accessibility. The following resources can get you started in making your files accessible.
Because Canvas is already accessible, create your assignment description and instructions in the rich content editor within Canvas to ensure accessibility. Uploading a Word document will require further intervention to verify accessibility.
Video And Audio
Select captioned media whenever possible or provide an equivalent transcript. See Andrew Kasian in the CTL if you have videos that require closed captioning.
External Links & Tools
Be selective in your external tools to make sure they meet accessibility requirements. Although you are not responsible for a product’s accessibility standards, you are responsible for picking the product for instruction. Vet software, web tools, and resources for accessibility before incorporating them into assignments, content delivery, etc. Provide alternatives for any products selected that are not accessible.
Prezi is not accessible so if you are going to use it, provide an accessible PowerPoint.
Be descriptive in providing links. Describe the link content rather than using “click here”, verbs, or other phrases that describe too much about the mechanics of arriving at the link. Use names that describe the link like “Syllabus” or “YouTube” in the link text. This is much more clear to individuals with visual impairments.
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Check Web 2.0 Tools for Accessibility
By default Canvas will include the image file name as the alt text for screen readers. This is NOT a sufficient replacement for a well defined alternate text for the image. You may edit the alt attribute by selecting the image and clicking the “Embed image” tool from the toolbar above the content area and replacing the text in the “Alt text” field. In addition, you may edit the alt attribute directly by entering the HTML Editor scrolling to the desired image and modifying the code to include the alt attribute. The following shows a few example names that will be accessible to screen readers.
Extraneous information such as color is only necessary if it is pertinent to the explanation of the image. Charts and graphs should be described with a caption outside of the alt attribute of the image.
There are two different tables used in making course materials: data and layout tables. It is important to consider accessibility when creating tables so that screen readers and other accessibility software can make sense out of the material.
Here are some quick guides:
- Keep it simple! Do not create unnecessary rows and columns as screen readers will read every column and row whether they are being used for content or not. This can be very confusing. It’s best to AVOID layout tables!
- Make sure that data is tabular by putting information in a logical order in the table. Screen readers will ignore the table and move from left-to-right on a page. So what makes sense to a visual reader in a table may not make sense read out loud by a screen reader.
- Use row and column headings.
Here is a model of how a screen reader will interpret text/images in a table.
|1 – Week
|2 – Assignments
|4 – Due Date
|5 – Week 1
|6 – Planning for a successful semester
|10 – Must complete a goal statement
|12 – January 5
A screen reader will interpret the content from left to right like this:
“Week Assignments Due Date Week 1 Planning for a Successful Semester Planner Image Must Complete a Goal Statement January 5”
Consider the usability of your table from left-to-right to make the content readable for all learners.
Formatting and Design Semantics
Semantics refer to the related meaning associated with text or design elements, i.e. what an element looks like conveys meaning. Semantics are important for accessibility because they convey meaning to all readers and provide consistency in design. In essence, semantics ensure that a piece of text that looks like a heading is in fact a heading regardless of if a person can see the element or not! Here are some tips.
- Use Headings and Styles to convey importance. Headings convey meaning because they are hierarchical and give structure to a document. For example: H1 headers are the most important header on the page, H2 is a subheading of H1. You should always use headers in a logical order. Use the built in headers in Word, PowerPoint and Canvas to save yourself time.
- Styles convey meaning such as “emphasis”, “intense emphasis”, “strong”, “quote” and more. These meanings are conveyed to the visual reader through visual cues and to the screen reader from semantically coded cues. Use the built in styles in Word, PowerPoint and Canvas to save yourself time.
- Use standard accessible fonts. In Canvas use the default fonts provided. Do not copy and paste non-system fonts into the Canvas content editor as they most likely will not display properly on another computer that does not have the non-system font installed and may not be accessible. Limit the number of fonts you use and avoid small font sizes for design and accessibility reasons. Do not use the appearance of the font (color, shape, font variation, placement) to convey meaning. Recommendation: Use Verdana, one of the most popular fonts designed for web viewing. It is simple and the characters are not easily confused for one another. Other Considerations: Use of bold, underline and italics should be limited and consistent with web style guidelines.Learn more about Resources for Web Style.
- Do not embed text in graphics or images. If you use text in graphics/images make sure that you provide alternative text for users. Screen readers will not be able to read text in images.Example:
This text is embedded in the image. A screen reader would not be able to read the text. Provide an alternative text or caption so that screen readers can read the image text to students with visual impairments.
- Use of Contrast. Text is easier to read when there is a high degree of contrast between the text and the background. Black text on a white background is the standard for both print and the web, however, this may not be the ideal for all users.
Good Black on White Good White on Black Bad Maroon on Black Bad Green on Red
To ensure equal access, all required course materials provided in web links are expected to meet AA Standard of Compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. All internal and external course links (both inside and outside of Canvas) should be evaluated by the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool.
All MCC internal web site errors that can’t be easily repaired at the staff level should be sent to Nathaniel Keen. All faculty website errors should go to the CTL.
It is important to recognize that there is no way to foresee every need that may arise in a class, but being proactive will make your teaching experience much more rewarding as you work with people with disabilities. Try to find tools and supplements that are accessible to all students. If you would like help in determining if a tool or application is accessible please contact Jeff Anderson, Patricia Herrera, or Megan Garvy from the CTL.
- Mesa Community College Course Accessibility Checklist
- Mesa Community College Disability Resource Services – Faculty & Staff Resources
- Mesa Community College Accessible Syllabus Template
- Mesa Community College UDOIT Guide
- Sloan Foundation – “Ten Practices for Developing Accessible Material“