Condensing Accessibility Information for Faculty

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An issue I and others have been working on is figuring out how to explain accessibility. What is it? What do instructors have to do? Can it be under 15 min? No problem...

The Obvious Challenges

Obviously this is a challenge for several reasons. One is that most existing material is targeted for Webmasters. This is somewhat helpful for the instructors who have brushed up on their HTML, but not so great for those who primarily work with Word, PowerPoint (or maybe GoogleDocs and Blogs).

The other vexing problem is that accessibility implementation looks different on every tool. We can say "Use semantic headings", but in HTML that means use H1, H2, H3, while in Word and ANGEL, it means use Heading 1, Heading 2 Styles.

Same Questions, Different Paths

What I finally did realize was that though the tools were different, the issues are the same. So, the trick to figuring accessibility for any new tool is to answer a core set of questions, such as the one below.

Accessibility Questions to Answer

Accessibility implementation techniques vary from tool to tool, but they all revolve around these basic questions.

  1. Is the software usable to someone on a screen reader by default?
  2. If I include an image or animation, can I add an “ALT tag” or otherwise describe the image?
  3. Are key landmarks (section headers, table rows, form fields) labeled for screenreaders?
  4. If I include a video, is it captioned? Can it be captioned in this platform?
  5. If I include an audio file, is there a text transcription?
  6. Is the default text legible in terms of color/brightness contrast, font and size?
  7. If I can change the fonts/colors, is the result legible?
  8. If I include a link, does the link tell you exactly where it's going?
    Hint: Here “is not a clear destination.
  9. Is the product interface simple enough to be understood by all users?
  10. Do I have a Plan B in place for a student who may need accommodation on a complex technology?

This is accessibility boiled down to a few simple questions (which is the underlying principle of WCAG 2.0). What instructors and webmasters have to follow up with are the implementation techniques for each tool, and that is where the research complexity comes in.

For instructors though, these questions and links to some key tools may provide a route to quick answers.


The guidelines are a good start. If they could be expanded to include the following, it could become a practical guide for faculty:

Why it is important
How to test it
How to fix it
Good and bad examples

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