Accessibility Considerations for Online Courses
Westchester Community College and The Disability Services Office are fully committed to continued student success and educational excellence despite the recent Coronavirus outbreak. As faculty develop alternate forms of instruction, please remember these adjustments still require us to ensure that academic accommodations are provided within the spirit of all state and federal guidelines.
The Blackboard Learning System is written to be compliant with the requirements of Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, this compliancy with accessibility legislation is not the same as having the content within Blackboard applications being compliant and accessible. Extra care and consideration is needed when designing and building content so that accessibility standards are met.
Listed below are some ways that instructors can create a more accessible online course.
All course syllabi must include a statement on accommodating disabilities.
Westchester Community College (WCC) is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body. If a student has a documented disability, it is the student’s responsibility to self-identify by signing up through the Disability Services Office (DSO) online at https://www.sunywcc.edu/student-services/disability-services/request-for-referrals-to-faculty-for-modifications-in-testing-for-online-evening-and-off-campus-courses/ Once signed up for accommodations, the DSO will notify faculty via email. Extended time testing accommodations will be provided by professors remotely. Specialized testing accommodations, such as reader or scribe will be handled through the DSO. To access these specialized accommodations, the student must complete a Testing Accommodations Request form online at https://www.sunywcc.edu/student-services/disability-services/online-testing-accommodations-request/ no later than three business days before the quiz/exam date to allow for accommodations to be arranged with the DSO.
For more information regarding accommodations offered at WCC, you may visit the Disability Services Office Website at https://www.sunywcc.edu/disabilityservices. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Navigating the Blackboard Shell
Use a shallow folder structure
- Keep your folders to as few “levels” deep as you can, while still giving it the organization it needs. Having your structure be fewer folders deep is easier for screen readers to navigate.
- Make sure modules and files are labeled appropriately and are informative: Week One, Week Two, Discussion, Homework.
- Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered pages with plain backgrounds
Audio and Video
- When creating a lecture or presentation include a transcript.
- Add captions when narrating power points.
- Auto-generated closed caption, like those frequently found on YouTube, may not include accurate captions. Check for accuracy before uploading to your course.
- Check out https://www.washington.edu/accessibility/videos/free-captioning/on how to make audio/video closed captioned
Use the Headings, Titles, and Subtitles function on the ribbon. This allows not only a visual difference to the reader, but also enables screen readers to help users navigate the document.
- PDFs may not be fully accessible. If you use PDFs, avoid using ones that are scanned images.
- Add descriptive text beneath images to describe the text for screen readers.
- Tables can be difficult for screen readers to navigate. Use tables only for areas where the content requires it.
- Use simple tables (one header row and one header column).
- Avoid excessive length, merged cells, or blank cells.
The Accessibility Checker tool finds accessibility issues in Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Outlook emails, and PowerPoint presentations.
- Use Alt tags to describe images to those who are blind or low-vision and use screen reader technology.
- When adding any images to Blackboard, include an informative description to convey important information about the image.
- Include only necessary and content driven images in your courses.
- More information on alt tags can be found on the WebAIM website.
- Label hyperlinks to assist screen readers in navigating your course for blind or low-vision students.
- Use informative link names that describe the content of hyperlinks. Do not paste the actual link or write “Click Here.” The screen reader will read the hyperlink aloud, so ensure that it is descriptive of the actual linked content.
- Use 12 point for documents and 9 point for footnotes
- Use a minimum of 24 point for Power Points
- Verdana, Lucida, Tahoma, Georgia, or Palatino are screen reader compatible
- Avoid using color to denote importance or meaning. Instead, consider making a word larger or using bold text.
- Use colors that have a high contrast such as Black and White. You can use Navy, Dark Green or Maroon for dark colors and pastel colors for light colors.
- Avoid color that is distracting, such as bright colors or patterned backgrounds.
- Faculty should address any concerns related to academic integrity and the honor code directly with their students.
An additional statement can be added to all exam submissions indicating that students have not accessed any unauthorized resources, including those available on the laptop used for the exam.
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