Design Accessible Content
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Simple ways you can make your content accessible!
- Use descriptive headings to organize content. Headings are critical when creating accessible content. They provide the ability to directly jump to content and can save assistive tool users hours of time. Keep it simple and use the heading styles provided by the tool you are writing in.
- Don't use font styles alone to indicate importance. Screen readers don't identify font styles such as bold and color. When you need to give a strong visual cue, make sure that you use an accessible alternative. For example, use an exclamation mark at the end of your sentence if it is important. Screen readers intonate exclamation and question marks. Meaning it will not read "question mark" but will give a questioning tone to a question.
- Add alternative (alt) text to your images. First ask yourself what the purpose of the image is. If you don't know the meaning or purpose of the image, don't use it! It is clutter and will be overwhelming to those with learning disabilities. Next, add alt text that is simple, succinct, and describe exactly what the image is. For example, alt="photograph of a Cell Dividing". If the image is a diagram that conveys more complicated information a long description or textual format of the material is required.
- Make your links descriptive. Every link should describe what the user can expect to find when they click it. Web addresses or URL's are not considered informative and should not be used. Tell your users when links are going to a new window as new windows can be disorientating.
- Use lists over tables when you can. Tables can be made accessible but screen reader users need to know advanced keystroke commands to navigate and understand them. If you do use tables, use column headers (<th>). This causes the screen reader to re-announce the column heading for each cell as the user navigates through. This gives the user context for each cell content. Consider how each cell will read when naming the columns and adding information to the cell.
- Include descriptive captions to your videos. Including descriptive captions to your content ensures users with hearing impairments are able to consume it. For more information, see Caption Video Content.
- Format your files to be accessible. One of the top complaints heard from students with visual impairments is the inability to consume attached files. Format any attached documents with appropriate headings to ensure they can be properly consumed by screen readers. Use the "Formatting and Style" options available in Microsoft Office, Adobe or other word processing tools when creating your documents to define appropriate headings and lists. For more information, see Format Accessible Documents.
- Tag PDF files. Attached PDF files need to be properly tagged to ensure their structure can be read by screen readers. Simple methods for "print" or "save" to PDF create a single image of the file. While the document will look like it is properly structured the screen reader will not be able to interact with or read any of the material. For details about making accessible PDF documents, see Meet PDF Accessibility Standards on Adobe Acrobat website.
- Provide students with clear expectations, instructions, and directions for all assignments and tests. Students with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities can have trouble focusing on even simple tasks. Clear directions and understandable expectations can help them focus, making them much more likely to succeed.
Enroll in our synchronous course, The Accessibility MOOC: Inclusive Online Course Design. Learn how to deliver more accessible online courses and content to your students. This course is just a small piece of Blackboard's effort to increase awareness around best practices that support more inclusive learning environments.
Universal Design and Accessibility for Online Learning Course Archive
Download a copy of the course archive to customize and facilitate at your own institution. This archive (1.9 MB) is compatible with Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP 8 and later. Do not unzip or open the archive. A system administrator must restore the course to the system.