Creating content that is accessible to all students.
Because of the diverse needs of your students, course content must follow certain formatting guidelines to be accessible to everyone. Although students can request reasonable accommodations from the University’s Accessibility Office, the instructor’s role is to design and share content that is accessible, equitable and inclusive. It is challenging to anticipate all the learner variabilities that might be present in your classroom, but there are several accessibility practices you can include in your course that will support all students.
Below are course elements you should review for accessibility. Take small and purposeful steps to improve existing content while applying these best practices to new content. If you already have course content, review one or two elements for their levels of accessibility. Choose ones that will have the most significant impact on your students. If you are developing a new course or new content, you can easily apply the accessibility elements below as you build your course. While there are many accessibility elements, it is vital to review and consider each to ensure that you have a high-quality accessible course.
Accessibility features and functions will differ depending on your
For UB faculty using UB Learns, the Blackboard Link below will help you access the guides and tutorials needed to build an accessible course.
Course organization and navigation helps students learn when it has a systemic structure that is explicit and consistent, regardless of the course delivery mode. If you are teaching an online course, please see our Exemplar Courses page for examples. Below are best practices to keep in mind when building or revising your course.
The readability of text affects how well students can understand content, especially for students using assistive technologies. For example, refrain from using bolding, highlighting, or underlining as these features are not differentiated by screen readers. Instead, use the formatting features within the software to identify headings or important information. This is a subtle adjustment that is easy to do and has an enormous impact.
Use text that can easily be read by all students and pre-formatted styles which can help simplify and improve readability.
Accessibility refers not only to finding content (e.g., layout and navigation, see above) but being able to read and navigate within content. Regardless of the content you are using (e.g., charts, documents, images, graphics, tables) each must be accessible. Take time to review the categories below and then build or review your content accordingly.
Include the organization, design and layout principles above. In addition, consider reasonable accommodations such as a flexible window of time to access assessments and extended time to take assessments. Additionally, you can reduce your students’ affective filter by integrating the test option features instead of a proctoring tool (e.g., Respondus) into your online course.
Each document type and program has different accessibility features designed to help you create accessible documents. Use these resources below to help you build or revise your documents.
Make your images, graphics and hyperlinks more accessible to assistive technologies. Include alternative text (alt text) to label and describe the image and write descriptive hyperlinks. Describe the image and hyperlink to the extent that is required for understanding.
When designing a presentation, it is best practice to have a predefined accessible layout. No matter the presentation tool you use, there are accessible templates available, but you can also design your own. When building or revising your presentation, make sure to follow the design and layout and image principles above. Additionally, when narrating slides, it is important to pay close attention to your speech’s articulation, cadence and pace. Add captions and a transcription to further increase the accessibility of multimedia. See the resources below for support.
Assistive technologies, particularly screen readers, have a difficult time interpreting tables. It is best practice to limit the use of tables, and instead, display text in a linear format that includes titles and headers. If a table is the most appropriate way to present information, it is important to identify the table’s header, rows and columns, as well as provide an alternative text describing the purpose of the table.
When creating accessible videos, pay attention to your speech’s articulation, cadence and pace. Adopt a practice of chunking videos into shorter digestible pieces for your students to easily process and understand the content. Additionally, include captions and a transcript. Please see our video content page for detailed information.
Alternative formats of documents improve accessibility because different types work better with assistive devices, and because many students may have access to devices with limited features. In UB Learns alternative formats are created automatically by Ally. For example, you may upload a PDF of a reading and Ally will create an electronic publication (ePub) version, allowing students to read the file on any device, including smartphones and tablets.
When posting content online, convert your documents into PDFs and then check for accessibility (see below). This is because PDFs can be opened on all devices without automatically downloading. On the other hand, documents in Word or Google must be downloaded for students to access them and are not always easily accessible and readable on mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets).
When reviewing content for accessibility use the accessibility checker in the program that you have created the content in. Then, if appropriate, turn the content into a PDF and check it for accessibility again. If you are teaching an online course, the last step should be uploading the document into UB Learns and using Ally to run a final accessibility check. Make revisions, as necessary.
The following steps will help you improve accessibility in your course. If you are building new content consider the above strategies, and steps below, when you build content on the Content Development page.
When you have finished reviewing your content’s accessibility, the next step is to build content.