4 Things You Can Do to Make Your Online Course More Accessible

The following suggestions are recommended in meeting the Americans with Disability Act (1990).

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability …shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance… (Section 504, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 794). ” Follow these basic guidelines for compliance and to improve learning for all:

  1. Describe images and hyperlinks with alternative text.
  2. Use San Serif fonts for online text.
  3. Check and repair all portable document formats (PDFs) for accessibility.
  4. Caption all audio and video.

Images. Alternative (alt) text helps people that use assistive technology (e.g., screen readers) as their learning accommodation.  For example, screen readers like Microsoft’s (MS) JAWS (Job Access with Speech) read the description aloud to the user with vision impairment.  Make sure you concisely provide alt text for each image in your online course. This includes images on a course page within a PowerPoint or Word document. For some learning management systems (LMS), it’s not a requirement when adding photos.  For example, Schoology does not.  We’ve contacted the developers to add the requirement as the image is added to the LMS instead of as an additional task afterward.

Hyperlinks. When you add links to your course, think about simplifying information by providing the specific name of the Website instead of a confusing Web address, also known as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator).  Take into account that the assistive technology will read aloud the long URL if you do not give it a name. Imagine listening to an entire URL reading: “h-t-t-p-semicolon-forward slash-forward slash-secure-period-ecollege-period-com-forward slash-shc”.    This would cause extra cognitive load on the listener. Here’s a good and bad example:

The exact name of the Website will aid all learners in understanding where the link will take them.

Fonts.  Sans-serif fonts are recommended for online text to provide accessibility. Sans-serif fonts don’t have the “hats and shoes” on certain letters that serif fonts include.   This is because serif fonts may waiver and become difficult to read on low bandwidth or poor Internet connections.  Schoology provides Arial as the default font, which is sans-serif.  For a complete list of typefaces, see Wikipedia.

PDFs.  Are your PDFs readable? Conduct a word search within the Find box of aPDF for a word you see in the document. Type Ctrl+F if you don’t see a Find box.  If you receive the message, “No matches were found,” then the document is a scanned image, which cannot be read by persons who use assistive technology.  Use Adobe Acrobat Pro XI to repair “unreadable” PDFs.  It has an accessibility checker that you can run to repair the document.

Ensure your MS Word documents are accessible before you save them as a PDF.  MS Word versions 2010 and later have accessibility checkers that will highlight any issues your document has. Within MS Word, select File > Info> Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.  Fix issues like missing alt text for images.  See Adobe Accessibility Quick Reference Card for information on earlier versions of MS Word that you may have at home.

Captions.  Caption all media.  Closed captioning is the preferred format (instead of open captions), so the user can turn it on or off according to their needs.  If you don’t have your media captioned, at the very least, provide a script until you caption the video or audio file.  However, transcripts don’t provide equal access to the lesson because the words and images from the video aren’t in sync to enhance meaning.  See list of free captioning services below.

  1. Captioning Key is funded by the National Association of the Deaf and The Described and Captioned and Media Program. It provides a PDF document on specific quality assurance guidelines for closed-captioning. http://www.dcmp.org/captioningkey/
  2. Amara.org for captioning any video on the Internet: http://www.amara.org/en/
  3. CaptionTube for captioning YouTube videos: http://captiontube.appspot.com/
  4. Subtitle Workshop for captioning any video: http://sourceforge.net/projects/subworkshop/


Sandra Annette Rogers, Instructional Designer

My Schedule for SITE 2014 in Jacksonville, FL

Photo of Sandra Annette Rogers
Find me at the conference and say hello!

Four of my proposals were accepted for presentation at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference in Jacksonville, FL.  I’d love to connect with any of my readers who are also going to SITE. This will be my first time to attend SITE.  I’ll be attending all the presentations on gaming.

Here’s my current schedule for the conference: (All times are Eastern Standard Time.)

1. Poster Session: The Electronic Village Online, An Open-source, International Collaboration for Professional Development,  March 19, 2014 at 5:30-7:00 P.M.

2. Roundtable: How to Make Your Online Course More Accessible, March 20, 2014 at 11:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.

3.Brief Paper: Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games for Language Learning, March 20, 2014 at 3:20-3:40 P.M.

4. Brief Paper: Effective Online Communication in Higher Education, March 21, 2014 at 11:55 A.M to 12:15 P.M.

I hope to see you there!

P.S. Here’s my Padlet wall with all my activities: http://padlet.com/wall/SITE2014

iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch Apps for Special Education by Eric Sailers

iPhone, iPad and iPod touch Apps for (Special) Education

Adapative Technology Tools

Are you familiar with adaptive technology? Do you have students with physical disabilities? Here’s a list of adaptive tech tools and resources for you to use:

1. Section 508 Checklist: http://webaim.org/standards/508/checklist
Standards for Website content to meet the needs of persons with disabilities based on the U.S. Rehabilitation Act.

2. iSpeech: http://www.ispeech.org/
Converts text-to-speech (TTS) or speech-to-text (STT) for free. You can control the speed of the voice delivery. It catalogs the number of recordings in its library.

3. US Government: http://www.disability.gov/technology/accessible_technology
Provides webinars and updates on the latest technology available or the lack thereof in various situations.

4. Boston College & Boston University: www.cameramouse.org
Assists individuals with limited movement to use their head to direct the mouse cursor. FREE!

5. The Principles of Universal Design (UD), North Carolina State University:  Universal Design poster
These principles will help you create activities and an environment accessible for all learners.

6. Internet Explorer (IE): IE is generally the browser that’s widely used by persons with disabilities because it offers special features to meet their needs.

7. Microsoft Windows: See Accessibility Tools

8. YouTube Channel: They offer an auto-caption feature that can benefits not only deaf users, but also people who watch videos in really noisy places, like airport terminals. The tool will be able to translate captions into your choice of 50 languages. For now, however, auto-captioning works only with videos in English.

9. Apple claims to create its products with accessibility in mind as standard features http://www.apple.com/accessibility/

10. Captioning Key is funded by the National Association of the Deaf and The Described and Captioned and Media Program. It provides a PDF document on specific quality assurance guidelines for closed-captioning.

Additionally, I’d like to share one of the most thought-provoking videos that I’ve ever seen on rethinking the concept and words associated with persons with disabilities. The “Opportunity of Adversity” by Aimee Mullins: http://cnn.com/video/?/video/living/2010/03/08/ted.aimee.mullins.ted

Please share your resources for adaptive technology with me, and I’ll post them on this blog and my PLE.

Sandra Rogers