The goal of Web accessibility is for all users to be able to receive, use, and manipulate content and functionality, regardless of ability or technology. Online content must be designed, and correctly formatted, to be easily accessed. Since most instructional materials are now digital and delivered to students via the Web, instructors are responsible for creating learning materials that meet students’ Web accessibility needs.
It is ODU’s responsibility to provide instruction (and instructional materials) that is both accessible and understandable to all students. Web accessibility address the needs of students with learning or cognitive disabilities, not just physical disabilities.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for diverse students, based on cognitive science. The goal of UDL is to provide all students equal opportunities to learn. UDL has three components: 1. Multiple Means of Representation. 2. Multiple Means of Action and Expression. 3. Multiple Means of Engagement.
Word, PPT, and PDFs need formatting and designing for accessibility. The process is much like making webpage content accessible: Structure text headings so they can be used by screen readers, add ALT text to images, use build-in layout options (not tables) , and write for the Web. Also, don’t scan PDFs as graphics.
Improving ease of access starts with moving content from external files onto webpages. Webpages are intended to display links, images, multimedia and interactivity; attachment files are not. “PDF is great for printing…Reserve it for this purpose and convert any information that needs to be browsed or read on the screen into real web pages.” – Jakob Nielsen, Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design
Students (and instructors) view text and content differently on a computer screen than on a printed page. To make your text comprehensible, revise it for how students read online: Write clearly and simply, be concise, reduce text, write short sentences and paragraphs, and add structure to headings and lists.
Students disengage from text-heavy content and even graphics or videos that do not draw the eye. Effective visual design improves readability and addresses the accessibility needs of students with learning or cognitive disabilities—it makes content easier to understand.
Alternative or descriptive text is read aloud by screen readers, or it can caption an image to provide context or explanation. ALT text assists learners who have cognitive disabilities, not just those with blindness.
You can easily post or create accessible text and images using Blackboard’s content editor and settings. Moving instructional content from attachments (PDF, Word, etc.) onto Blackboard pages also makes them easier to access.
Designing your instructional materials for diverse learners makes them more accessible.