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Center for Teaching Excellence

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Accessibility becomes more important every year as institutions of higher education extend their reach and course offerings to a variety of students near and far.

Making Your Class Accessible

Eleven percent of college students report having a disability. There are laws that protect individuals with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In addition, other students have hidden disabilities including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Creating accessible courses up-front provides equal access and equal opportunities to all students.

Educators may or may not know whether students have disabilities. Students with hidden disabilities may or may not register with the Student Disability Resource Center. So it is essential that courses are designed with accessibility in mind. Course accessibility means that individuals, no matter their disability, can access course materials with substantially equivalent ease of use as students without disabilities. Accessibility also has the potential to benefit all users, including persons where English is their second language and individuals with changing abilities due to aging.

CTE's Instructional Designers are here to help you develop courses that meet accessibility requirements. To schedule an appointment with an Instructional Designer, please complete and submit the Instructional Design Consultation Request Form.

In the meantime, check out the Helpful Accessibility Resources on the right for several things you can do to make your instructional materials accessible to all students. Below are some key terms with which to familiarize yourself.

Key Terms

A document is accessible if it can be read by a screen reader in the proper order. A video is accessible if it is captioned (or has a transcript).

Alternative Text (Alt Text) is a description of a graphic / picture. When a screen reader (JAWS) comes upon a graphic, it will announce that it is a graphic. Unless there is alternative text, the user will not know what the graphic is or why it is there.

JAWS is a text-to-speech screen reader program. People that are blind use this software to navigate the internet, Word and PDF documents, and other computer programs by only using the keyboard. A JAWS user can better navigate the internet, Word, and PDF document if they contain Headings, alternative text, and properly labeled links. JAWS reads documents from top to bottom, left to right.

OCR is the electronic conversion of images to recognizable text. When users scan a document, the document is saved as an image. Once OCR has been performed, documents can be read by text to speech programs and text can be copied and pasted. The text will also be searchable.

A text-to-speech program that allows the user to listen to what is on the screen.

A document may be accessible because JAWS can read it, but it may not be usable because a JAWS user may not be able to easily navigate through the document. By giving a document Headings to navigate by, alt text for graphics, and properly labeled links, the document will be accessible and usable.


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