Accessible Course Materials

UPDATING AND ACCESSING TECHNOLOGY

With continuous updates to software and the emergence of new technologies, we recommend that you ensure you are using the most up-to-date software as these will have the accessibility tools needed.  Please visit the WMU Office of Information Technology to access software downloads and other information technologies that can support your research, course development, teaching and student learning outcomes.

CREATING ACCESSIBLE DOCUMENTS

It is every educator’s role at WMU to ensure that accessibility is incorporated in course development and design in order to meet the needs of students with various backgrounds, abilities and learning styles.  More information for instructors regarding accessibility design guides, as well as processes for checking accessibility, is provided by Extended University Programs.
 
These core principles are the same for all document types, but the individual steps vary depending on which tool you’re using and what the final format of the document will be.   

Use Headings

Headings and subheadings should be identified as such using the built-in heading features of the authoring tool. Headings should form an outline of the page content (Heading 1 for the main heading, Heading 2 for the first level of sub-headings, Heading 3 for the next level of sub-headings, etc.). This enables screen reader users to understand how the page is organized, and to quickly navigate to content of interest. Most screen readers have features that enable users to jump quickly between headings with a single key-stroke. Virtually every document writing format includes support for headings and subheadings.

Use Lists

Any content that is organized as a list should be created using the list controls that are provided in document authoring software.  Most authoring tools provide one or more controls for adding unordered lists (with bullets) and ordered lists (with numbers). When lists are explicitly created as lists, this helps screen readers to understand how the content is organized. When screen reader users enter a list, their screen reader informs them that they’re on a list and may also inform them of how many items are in the list, which can be very helpful information when deciding whether to continue reading.

Add Alternate Text for Images

Users who are unable to see images depend on content authors to supplement their images with alternate text, which is often abbreviated “alt text”. The purpose of alt text is to communicate the content of an image to people who can’t see it. The alt text should be succinct, just enough text to communicate the idea without burdening the user with unnecessary detail. When screen readers encounter an image with alt text, they typically announce the image than read the alt text. Also, images that require a more lengthy description, such as charts and graphs, may require additional steps beyond adding alt text.

Identify Document Language

Leading screen reader software is multilingual and can read content in English, Spanish, French, and a wide variety of other languages. In order to ensure that screen readers will read a document using the appropriate language profile, the language of the document must be identified.

Use Tables Wisely

Tables in documents are useful for communicating relationships between data, especially when that relationship can be best expressed in a matrix of rows and columns. Tables should not be used to control layout. A key to making data tables accessible to screen reader users is to clearly identify column and row headers. Also, if there are nested in columns or rows with multiple headers for each cell, screen readers need to be explicitly informed as to which headers relate to which cells.

Understand How to Preserve Accessibility When Exporting to PDF

For an Adobe PDF document to be accessible, it must be a “tagged” PDF, with an underlying tagged structure that includes all the features described above. Some programs don’t support tagged PDF at all, while others provide multiple ways of exporting to PDF, some that produce tagged PDF and some that don’t.