Digital Accessibility on a general level could also be described as 'common sense', but it is common sense, with a particular eye to putting yourself in your student's shoes. Sometimes, it is hard to see things from someone else's perspective, and it can be very useful to ask someone who is not familiar with our work to look it over and highlight things that do not make sense or that could be presented better. Below are some general guidelines, which would all really help with digital accessibility.
1. Colour choice
- Do not use white as a background colour (sorry it is here, but the web software won't allow me to change it!)
- Use good contrasts. This means avoiding colours where people may have colour-blindness issues (blue/yellow or red/green) and using dark colours on a light background and light colours on a dark background
- Try the WebAIM Color Contrast Check to experiment with colours. Click on the block of colour for the foreground and the background and then look for four 'passes' - this will tell you that you have made a good choice.
2. Appropriate headings and sub-headings
Compare these two images of word documents. Which would you rather see if you were a student?
The first is largely unformatted, text size 11 and has black text on a white background.
The second has a coloured background, uses Headings to break the page into sections and has a header which clearly shows the relevant Module Number.
Clear layout and labelling are essential to good accessibility.
There is more information on this in the section on Microsoft Word.
When creating hyperlinks, avoid using 'click here' or the full URL, and use text which shows what the link is:
Not good: Visit BBC News. Click here.
Not good: Visit BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news
Accessible: Visit BBC News
This is because of the way that screen-readers read links. It is also easier for others to read and follow the links.
4. File names and properties
Think carefully about filenames you use, and possibly consider a departmental standard convention for filenames.
Not good: doc, answers, Lab, Gambia - these are all very 'generic' and could be easily confused by students
Accessible: SPX1002_week1_additional lecture notes, DFU1330_section3_assignment brief, SPX1001_week1_ppt_intro to science
It is important to think about:
- where students will save the file - they should be encouraged from week 1 to have a structured filing system
- how they can sort their files - ideally they should be able to sort by name and the files appear in the correct order
In Microsoft Office files, when you go to File, you will see Properties on the right-hand side. You can add a title (it is a good idea to make this the same as the filename). Then you can add this as a footer on the document. Go to the footer> Insert > QuickParts>Document Property>Title - and the name of the file will be added to your footer. This means that if it is printed at any stage, someone can still find the original digital document. Adding the author can be done in a similar way and can also be useful in case anyone has any questions about the content.
5. Accessibility and images, charts and diagrams
We have all heard the phrase that a picture tells a thousand words, but some people cannot see the picture and would not understand what it is illustrating. The same applies to charts and diagrams, so it is really important that we enhance pictures, charts and diagrams with text. This can be done in two ways:
a) Adding ALT Text - this is text that is read out for anyone using a screenreader. It does not need to be detailed:
- An image: eg Map of Africa, highlighting location of Uganda in central area
- A chart: Growth of female employment in Westernized countries over the last centure
- A diagram: Mayer's theory of multimedia showing different inputs and the way information is processed in the brain
b) Adding some description after the image, chart or diagram, explaining what it shows - this is text that can be much more detailed and descriptive. Even when a user can see these visual cues, it is a great enhancement for many users. Learning to understand charts and diagrams is a skill in itself and having some explanation of them in words can help a user to understand what they are seeing.
Accessibility is not just about presentation. The content also needs to be 'readable'. There are 3 things to think about here:
a) The level of your language. This can be tested with Word, using the Flesch-Kincaid readability score. How to get a readability score in Word.
|100.00-90.00||5th grade||Very easy to read. Easily understood by an average 11-year-old student.|
|90.0–80.0||6th grade||Easy to read. Conversational English for consumers.|
|80.0–70.0||7th grade||Fairly easy to read.|
|70.0–60.0||8th & 9th grade||Plain English. Easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students.|
|60.0–50.0||10th to 12th grade||Fairly difficult to read.|
|50.0–30.0||College||Difficult to read.|
|30.0–0.0||College graduate||Very difficult to read. Best understood by university graduates|
b) Acronyms - everyone uses them, and they are great for speed and efficiency, but they can be alienating to newcomers or those who are studying new material. The first time you use an acronym in a document, explain it in brackets afterwards. eg UoH (University of Huddersfield)
c) Vocabulary - this relates to both the items above, but does your document need a short glossary at the end? New terminology may need to be explained and a glossary can help.
7. Audio and video files
You should provide transcripts or closed captions for audio or video files, so that hearing-impaired students can access them.