by Randy Rebman

Teachers have an vast array of multimedia and hypermedia options that they can integrate into their courses and host on their Canvas sites. However, with the use of these tools there comes issues of user accessibility. Creating content that is not accessible can create an additional learning barrier for our international students. In this post, I’ll share some points to help teachers improve the accessibility of their course content design and delivery by drawing heavily on the resources from Portland Community College (PCC) and web accessibility guidelines.

Defining Accessibility

PCC uses the following definition of accessibility on their page for accessibility instructional support:

“Accessible” means 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 effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability.

How to Improve Accessibility?

PCC outlines recommendations below that are recognized as best practices in accessibility as they follow the web accessibility guidelines WCAG 2.0 AA. You can also download the PDF version of PCC’s Web Accessibility guidelines.

  • Use properly formatted headings to structure the page.
  • Format lists as lists.
  • Write meaningful link text.
  • Create tables with column and/or row headers
  • Maintain a proper reading order in documents, web pages and slides.
  • Use sufficient color contrast.
  • Don’t use color alone to convey meaning.
  • Ensure that any action that uses a mouse, can also be completed by keyboard alone.
  • Provide alternative text descriptions for images.
  • Design clear and consistent navigation.
  • Eliminate or limit blinking / flashing content to 3 seconds.
  • Don’t require inaccessible applications be used.
  • Optional materials must include a balance of accessible options.
  • Write math and science equations accessibly.
  • Include the Accommodations Statement in your syllabus and link to accessibility or assistive technology user information for software or web applications that are required in the course.

PCC also offers a number of tutorials for instructors to use in order to improve accessibility of course content. They include tutorials on using Google Docs, Microsoft Office Suite Applications, PDFs, audio and video and more.

Start Small

At first glance accessibility guidelines can seem daunting. My advice to fellow instructors is to start with a specific type of hypermedia or multimedia that you frequently use in your courses. Do you often create PowerPoint Presentations and upload them on Canvas for your students? Then start by reviewing Microsoft’s step-by-step instructions on making your PowerPoint presentations accessible. By making these small changes in our content, we can gradually move toward lessening barriers in our content that we use in our courses and put on our Canvas sites. Improving accessibility will not only improve the learning process for learners, but it also demonstrates that as an instructor and on a program-wide level, you/we are committed to quality in your instructional materials.

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