Accessibility 2021-08-11T13:18:40+00:00


What is “Accessibility,” and how do we achieve it? The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education defines accessibility as meaning “when a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally integrated and equally effective manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use.” In this way we must ensure that the content provided in online classes is available to all learners. Whether that is by adding alternate text to images, or closed captions to videos, there are quick and effective ways to create accessible content for your courses. This page addresses common accessibility issues within course resources and how to ensure that online courses are accessible for all learners.

Further reading is available in the Additional Resource section at the bottom of the page. You can also ask us more about accessibility using the Contact Us form.

Accessible Documents

Documents come in multiple file types from multiple programs.  Commonly used programs such as Word, PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat all have ways to ensure that the documents you create are accessible for all learners. Here we will show you some basic ways to ensure that you are distributing accessible documents.

Alternate Text for Images in Documents

Images within documents that present valuable information should have alternate text. This ensures that students using screen readers can read a description of the image and benefit from the content. Alternate text should be a short statement no longer than one or two sentences that describes what is pictured and why it is valuable. WebAIM’s alternative text page includes valuable information about why to use alternate text, as well as practical tips for writing useful alternate text. Below are instructions for creating alternate text within various document programs.

Alternate Text in Word/Office – Microsoft Support

Alternate Text in Acrobat

Heading Styles

Using heading styles in Word will create a visual structure within documents and change the formatting of the text to identify the role of the information within the document for students using navigation tools or screen readers. Additionally, you can easily change the formats of the heading styles to match the document style you prefer and add an interactive table of contents to further aid document navigation. For more information, see this series of videos from Microsoft Support on Word Styles. Keep an eye on the monthly workshop schedule for a live workshop on this topic as well.

Descriptive Links in Documents

Descriptive links are hyperlinks added to text that serves as a description for the link location. Pasting the full URL into a document is an accessibility issue, as the address will be read letter by letter by a screen reader. Additionally, screen readers can isolate all hyperlinks in a document to help students easily navigate to resources. Using descriptive language will help all students recognize the purpose and destination of links.

To make a link accessible in Office, follow the steps below:

  1. Write out a description of where the link will go.
  2. Highlight/select the descriptive text.
  3. Right click and choose the Link option in the menu.
  4. Paste the link in the Address space.

Ensure that the text you are hyperlinking is not “click here” but rather something that identifies the destination of the link.

Accessible Videos

Videos that you create or share in your courses and on your web pages should all be accessible. The most common accessibility feature related to videos is closed captioning. Ensure that videos have accurate closed captioning, and information is presented clearly. For videos you have created, Stream through Office365 has automatic closed captioning for videos that can be easily edited for accuracy.

Variety in Delivery

Ensure that the valuable content is presented both visually and audibly in videos. While students with hearing impairments can benefit from closed captions, students with visual impairments may rely on the audio of the video to understand the information. If you find that a third-party video is not accessible, either find a more accessible version of that video, or provide an alternative resource alongside the video, such as a written transcript that reiterates the valuable information.

Accessible Courses

There are a few accessibility elements specifically related to course design to consider. First, use consistent labeling for sections or materials within your modules. For example, if you label your chapter resources as “Chapter 1 – Read” make sure that it is the same for all chapters. Including the type of resource in the title (e.g. article, video, audio file) prevents confusion as well. Some instructors go as far as to list how long videos are in the title on Moodle to ensure that students know how long they should devote to that resource. For example, “Review of Chapter 1 – Video (15:30).”

Links and Formatting

Use descriptive links on the Moodle course page as well as within all documents. Descriptive, or verbose links will be more easily read by a screen reader and will give students a better idea of what can be found on the site before they click.

To make a link accessible on a Moodle page, follow the steps below:

  1. Write out a description of where the link will go.
  2. Highlight/select the descriptive text.
  3. Click the Insert/Edit Link icon in the Toolbar.
  4. Paste the link in the Link URL space. Click Insert.
  5. While the text is still selected, choose the Underline formatting, and change the color of the text to blue.

Note: Moodle does not automatically change the appearance of hyperlinked text. To ensure that all students recognize that a link is present, follow these instructions all the way to step five.

Image Alternate Text in Moodle

Include alternate text for images on your course pages. Alternate text should be a short statement no longer than one or two sentences. On a webpage, the alternate text will not only allow screen readers to read the image but will also show if a student cannot load the image for various reasons including slow internet connection.

When adding an image to Moodle, be sure to enter the alternate text in the space marked Image Description during the upload process.

Accessibility Statements

Lastly, are you letting students know about the accessibility options within all software that you are using? For a course to be considered accessible, the Accessibility Statements of all required sites and programs need to be listed in the course. Common examples include Microsoft Office, Pearson MyMathLab, and McGraw Hill. If a website or software does not have an accessibility statement, consider whether all students will be able to use that resource to complete assignments.

Additional Resources

WebAIM: a website devoted to resources focusing on web accessibility.

Designing for Accessibility

Stream Closed Captioning

QM Accessibility and Usability Resource Site You will need to log into your QM account to access this course. NSU is a QM-subscribing institution, so all faculty have access to QM resources and can create an account for free.