When something is accessible, it means that 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 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 (Definition from Legal Cases by Issue, Accessible Technology)
There are many sources of information about accessible design for online learning. Here are 20 tips to get you started for your online course:
1) Use clear, consistent layouts and organizations schemes for presenting content.
2) Structure headings (using style features built into Blackboard, Word, Powerpoint) and use built-in designs/layouts.
3) Use descriptive wording for hyperlink text rather than “click here”.
4) Avoid PDFs presented as images (e.g., make sure the text is accessible, that you can copy and paste it); if used, create a text-based alternative.
5) Provide concise text descriptions of the content presented with images.
6) Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered pages with plain backgrounds.
7) Use color combinations that are high contrast and can be read by those who are colorblind.
8) Make sure all content and navigation are accessible using the keyboard alone.
9) Caption or transcribe video and audio content.
With respect to instructional methods…
10) Assume students have a wide range of technology skills and provide options for gaining the technology skills needed for course participation.
11) Present content in multiple ways (e.g., in a combination of text, video, audio, and/or image format).
12) Address a wide range of language skills as you write content (e.g., spell acronyms, define terms, avoid or define jargon).
13) Make instructions and expectations clear for activities, projects, and assigned reading.
14) Make examples and assignments relative to learners with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds.
15) Offer outlines and other scaffolding tools to help students learn.
16) Provide adequate opportunities to practice.
17) Allow adequate time for activities, projects, and tests (e.g., give details of project assignments in the course outline so that students can start working on them early).
18) Provide feedback on project parts and offer corrective opportunities.
19) Provide options for communicating and collaborating that are accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities.
20) Provide options for demonstrating learning (e.g., different types of test items, portfolios, presentations, discussions).
You can also view a video entitled 20 Tips for Instructors about Making Online Learning Courses Accessible.
(Source: Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler; University of Washington; Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology; 2018).