In the last post, we discussed how to make sure the software you use is accessible. Now we’re on to the final step that puts the power back into the hands of the user.
How do I make my content accessible?
After a whole lot of years in learning management, this is a question that comes up a lot. You’ve been mandated by your department, dean, HR team, etc to make your content accessible to users. Assuming you have an idea of what that means, where do you start?
The first thing I often recommend once we get over the hurdle of defining the what and why of accessibility is to run an accessibility scan. Find out where you stand with your existing content.
One note: Remember that if your content is behind a login, for instance a course in a learning management system, the free scanners may be not able to access your content.
Use the results of the scan to see where updates need to happen. If you follow this list of tips from UC Berkeley you can knock out some of the most common problems around headers, graphics, and tables.
Don’t have a course yet? That’s ok, let’s think about the sort of content that you need. This could include videos, graphics, text, uploaded documents, slideshows, and content that you create in the content or learning management system like quizzes, polls, surveys, and assignments.
The goal is to always have multiple methods of sharing information. Have a great graphic that shows an important process? Write a text caption to go with it.
That video with great narration? Provide a copy of the transcript. I am a hearing person, but I love having transcripts when I need to refer back to a video or if I want to access content but am not in a space where playing the audio would be welcomed.
What If I’m ready to go further?
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a leader in Accessible Technology and has a great website filled with advice and tutorials to take your knowledge even further, ranging from creating accessible PDFs to avoiding interactions that require mouse movements.
They also host community of practice meetings regularly to discuss accessibility issues. While theirs might not be the right place for you, seek out communities of practice, whether they are specific to the content management software you use, the development language, your region, or any other niche that makes sense for you so that we can inform and practice more inclusive design and development together.
Here’s my two cents, in shorter terms:
We all have to start somewhere.
- Find out where your software and content currently stand accessibility-wise.
- Set measurable, reasonable goals for your accessibility-friendly -focused development and/or seek out products that are designed with accessibility in mind.
- Develop your content for multiple modalities.
- Find communities of practice to share expertise.