The following suggestions are recommended in meeting the Americans with Disability Act (1990) for distance education.
“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:
- Describe images and hyperlinks with an alternative text.
- Use san serif fonts for online text.
- Check and repair all portable document formats (PDFs) for accessibility.
- Caption all video and transcribe audio.
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, it’s not a requirement when adding photos.
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 are some examples:
- Good Practice Spring Hill College Online
- Bad Practice https://secure.ecollege.com/shc/index.learn?action=welcome
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 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 media lesson because the words and images from the video aren’t in sync to enhance meaning. See the list of free captioning services below. A transcript would suffice for an audio file or narrated PowerPoint. I recommend providing the transcription in the note’s section of the PowerPoint.
- 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/
- Amara.org for captioning any video on the Internet: http://www.amara.org/en/
- CaptionTube for captioning YouTube videos: http://captiontube.appspot.com/
- Subtitle Workshop for captioning any video: http://sourceforge.net/projects/subworkshop/
Sandra Annette Rogers, Instructional Designer