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When you design with accessibility in mind you will also improve the experience of users who may be accessing information from multiple types of devices. More and more often students are accessing their courses through tablets and smart phones. Good design (accessible design) will not limit who can successfully navigate content based on their device of choice.
Common Content Creation/Sharing Methods
There are several common technologies and methods of creating content that pose challenges for students with disabilities if not designed with accessibility in mind.
Microsoft Word has many ways to help ensure documents are accessible. Accessible Microsoft Word documents can be more easily converted to accessible PDFs. Microsoft Word accessibility involves several components that ensure the document is readable by a screen reader (for those with vision disabilities) and usable by someone who must navigate through the document with use of a keyboard (physical disability).
PDF (Portable Document Format) files are very popular for their ability to be read by multiple devices. However, it is vital they be of sufficient quality to be accessible to all students.
Some common considerations include:
- Make sure the PDF is text-based, not simply images of text. This will allow for text-to-speech for students who need it and will make it possible to enlarge text without it becoming unreadable.
- PDF must be "tagged PDF" to be accessible.
- Documents should be structured with headings marking each content section.
- Photos and non-decorative graphics must include an alternative text description.
- Like HTML, tables must be properly marked up with header rows and/or columns.
- Before scanning a document yourself (which will create inaccessible, image-based PDF), check if the document already exists in a library database, such as EBSCO or Elsevier. View the other articles under Accessibility for more information.
Similar to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint can also be made accessible through some design best practices. Accessible PowerPoints will ensure that all students have an equivalent experience with the presentation, regardless of ability.
Video can be used to create lectures, share demonstrations, capture navigation on a computer, etc. When done well, it can be quite effective! In order for video content to be accessible it requires attention to:
- Video quality
- Video length
- Narration of demonstrations
Images can be effective in setting the tone of a lesson, sharing information, providing context, providing examples, etc. For a person with low vision or blindness, the meaning of the image may be lost without the addition of alternate text. Alternate text is read by a screen reader to give someone with a vision disability the information portrayed by the image. Determining the appropriate alternate text requires consideration of the purpose of the image in relation to the content.
Course Content and Role of Disability Services
The Office for Disability Services Alternative Media Services unit handles accommodation of registered students with print disabilities at Ohio State. Often articles and textbooks can be found through library search or acquired from the publisher in electronic format, as e-books or PDF. Sometimes these electronic texts are accessible for the student. More often, the texts need to be converted to an accessible electronic format or the original format must be remediated to be accessible.