Accessibility is important for everyone and benefits everyone. Open access and open pedagogy is about building and sharing knowledge with as many people as possible. Accessibility is part of that mission and means making sure your OER, your projects and your content are accessible by people of all abilities.
With the increase in digital scholarship, open pedagogy and student centered content creation we also must ensure the content creator's side of a digital project is accessible, in addition to the public side of the project or digital tool.
Making sure your course and materials are accessible to as many people as possible is not only ethically responsible, it is also legally required by the ADA. Currently many schools and businesses are being sued because their sites and content are not accessible. In 2015, Harvard and MIT were sued by advocates for the deaf for falling to caption online lectures, courses and other educational materials.
In 2019 Harvard settled agreeing to “caption Harvard-produced content posted on or after Dec. 1, 2019. For pieces of content posted earlier, Harvard will provide captions within five business days. Harvard will also provide captions for livestreams of University-wide events.”
In 2020 MIT settled agreeing "to provide industry standard captioning for publicly-available online content, including video and audio content posted on MIT.edu as well as MIT’s YouTube, Vimeo, and Soundcloud pages, certain live-streaming events and online courses such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), MITx and MIT OpenCourseWare."
In 2016 the University of California, Berkeley was found by the DOJ's civil rights division to have violated disability law by not providing the appropriate accommodations for its own free video lectures and podcasts. Beyoncé isn't even above the ADA. In January 2019, a class action lawsuit against Beyoncé was filed, claiming her website violated the ADA because it employs an exclusively visual interface and those with vision issues cannot browse the site and make online purchases without the assistance of a sighted companion (Cullins, 2019).
To learn more detailed accessibility information, look at the CUNY Accessibility Toolkit for OER by the CUNY Accessibility Librarian, Amy Wolfe. This guide provides detailed platform and program specific instructions on creating accessible content, evaluations of digital platforms and instructions on how to evaluate your digital sites and content.
Select a tab to learn about WCAG, POUR, and Accessibility Best Practices regarding Titles, Text/Typography Layout, Headings, Lists, Tables, Meaningful Link Text, Alternative Text (alt-text), Videos, Audio and Color/Contrast.
The web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) were created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to be world-wide web accessibility standards. CUNY strives for (WCAG) Version 2.0 , AA conformance level, as its accessibility standard.
Focused heavily on the techniques for accomplishing accessibility, especially as related to HTML.
CUNY has pledged to make their digital tools and content accessible. To that end CUNY uses the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG AA) as its accessibility standard. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were created to help define how to make web content more accessible with the goal of providing a single shared standard.
There are four main guiding principles of accessibility upon which WCAG has been built. These four principles are known by the acronym POUR.
POUR is a way of approaching web accessibility by breaking it down into four main aspects:
Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. Users need to be able to identify content and interface elements by means of the senses. For many users, this means perceiving a system primarily visually, while for others, perceivability may be a matter of sound or touch.
Means that a user can successfully use controls, buttons, navigation, and other interactive elements of your OER. For many users this means using assistive technology like voice recognition, keyboards, screen readers etc.
Users should be able to comprehend the content, and learn and remember how to use your OER site. Your OER should be consistent in its presentation and format, predictable in its design and usage patterns, and appropriate to the audience in its voice and tone.
Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of users, allowing them to choose the technology they use to interact with websites, online documents, multimedia, and other information formats. Users should be allowed to choose their own technologies to access OER content.
When you create a web page, a word document, a PowerPoint, a spreadsheet make sure you create a meaningful title for your item.
When you create a web page or document which has well organized content it helps users to orient themselves and to navigate effectively.
<ins>element (insert) tag is used.
These tips are based on WebAim's article "Text/Typographical Layout". WebAIM is a non-profit organization based at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.
Here is a video showing the difference between how a screen reader reads aloud a word document which has inaccessible blank spaces with one with accessible blank spaces.
Organizing a web page, word document or pdf with headings helps all users get an idea of the page’s structure and organization.
Here is a video showing the difference between how a screen reader reads aloud a web page which has inaccessible headers versus one with accessible headers.
Semantic Lists (ordered and unordered) provide orientation for users by organizing information in meaningful ways.
Creating a properly structured table helps a blind, low-vision and/or screen reader user make sense of a table by reading out the heading titles and then cell content.
Here is a video showing the difference between how a screen reader reads aloud a web page which has inaccessible hyperlink text and one with accessible hyperlink text.
Making images and graphics “visible” to all users is one of the first principles of accessibility. The way you make your image visible to everyone is by adding "alternative text" or "alt-text".
Adding alt-text to an image allows it to be discoverable and understood by users in a variety of ways.
Alt-text should convey the purpose of an image.. For example, alt-text for a search button would be “search” rather than “magnifying lens”.
Here is a video showing the difference between how a screen reader reads aloud a web page which has inaccessible images versus one with accessible images. In the first instance you will hear the file name of the image. Many times if you leave an image without alt-text, screen readers will read aloud the file name of the image, which usually is not accessible information.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created a very useful guide on how to create useful alt-text.
Videos are great and they should be produced and delivered in ways that ensure that all members of your audience can access their content. Providing captions, audio descriptions and transcripts make your videos accessible to a wide audience,
Text versions of the audio content, synchronized with the video.
Commentary and narration which guides the listener through the movie, tv show, theater or other art form with concise, objective descriptions of new scenes, settings, costumes, body language, and "sight gags," all slipped in between portions of dialogue or songs.
Still not totally sure what audio descriptions are and how they are different from captions? Play these 2 videos of the same trailer for movie Frozen to see the difference.
People who are deaf, hard of hearing and/or have difficulty processing auditory information can benefit from transcripts. Since they may not be able to use audio by itself, you need to make sure your audio is robust and the information and content can be conveyed in an alternative format. Transcripts convert audio into a readable text format but unlike captions, they do not necessarily display in real-time. There are three types of transcripts: basic, descriptive and interactive. Full transcripts support different user needs and is not a replacement for captioning.
Don't shy away from using colors but use color intelligently. Having a general understanding of color and color contrast is important to help communicate in an accessible manner.
"Color is an important asset in design of Web content, enhancing its aesthetic appeal, its usability, and its accessibility. However, some users have difficulty perceiving color. People with partial sight often experience limited color vision, and many older users do not see color well. In addition, people using text-only, limited-color or monochrome displays and browsers will be unable to access information that is presented only in color." - W3C Working Group Notes
Another way to incorporate accessibility into open education is to design projects and tools where not only are the learners acquiring accessibility skills and knowledge, they are also producing accessible content and tools which will allow content on numerous different disciplines to be made accessible to a much wider audience.
Below are two such projects. Describe It! is an Art alt-text accessibility project attached to the Frick Art Library's photo archive collection. Mapping Access at Vanderbilt University, is a participatory mapping and data visualization project documenting the features of the campus built environment that facilitate inclusion.
Describe It! is a Zooniverse project created by The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library. A member of the Describe It! team is Brooklyn College alumni Sara Schwartz. In this project, online volunteers write short descriptions for works of art in the Library's Photoarchive collection. In order to obtain a variety of descriptions, each image is described three times before it is retired. Once an image is retired, the submitted descriptions are evaluated by library research staff who select the best description for each image. Each of the descriptions are then converted into alt-text (alternative text) which make its collections accessible to all users. Volunteers can help anonymously or create an account. The project includes a tutorial, instructions, tips and detailed metadata information about each work of art.
To collect descriptions for every image in the Library's digital Photoarchive.
To convert the descriptions into alternative text that can be accessed by assistive technologies, making their collection materials accessible to all users.
To provide volunteers with a greater understanding of the research collections available at the Frick Art Reference Library and the importance of art and accessibility.
This digital project can be incorporated into numerous types of courses. Below are just a few ideas.
Mapping Access is a participatory data-collection and accessibility mapping project of the Critical Design Lab at Vanderbilt University. As they describe on their about page, typical approaches to accessibility focus on issues of code compliance and checklists of standards. Instead, this project draws upon the analytic frameworks of intersectionality and disability justice, as well as Universal Design methodology, to craft alternative standards for meaningful access. Through digital maps, Map-a-thon events, community conversations, photography, and film, the project explores mapping as a process of social transformation. Their broader body of work includes a podcast, experimental protocols, and workshops.
Engage users as experts in the design process to generate surveys, collect data, create new mapping methods, and build a commitment toward broad accessibility.
The Mapping Access projects and ideas can be used in various courses on various different topics. Below are a few ideas.