The Americans with Disability Act states that all individuals should have equal accessibility, including online instructional opportunities, and that online courses be fully compliant from the start of the course. These steps help ensure that students with disabilities will be able to interact with your course successfully from the beginning. It's important to keep in mind, for example, that sight-impaired students often use screen readers to have web content read out loud, students who are hard-of-hearing need captions or transcripts for any content involving sound, and students with processing difficulties may have trouble interpreting content that is cluttered and unorganized.
In addition to preparing your course to anticipate the needs of students with accommodations, many other students in your course may benefit from these accessible and alternative materials as well. For example, not only can captions help students who are hard-of-hearing, but they can also be helpful for non-native English speakers, students who find it more effective to read captions while watching videos, and parents who do not want to disturb any sleeping children. This, therefore, helps your course conform to the Universal Design for Learning framework by representing information in multiple ways.
For assistance with making your course accessible and addressing student accommodations, feel free to reach out to Disability Resources and Services (DRS) at disabilityresources.temple.edu/contact.
Here are some simple strategies for creating accessible courses and demonstrating due diligence.
To support ADA compliance in online courses, we recommend ensuring all hyperlinks display as text within a sentence to foster readability. The two text samples below demonstrate the suggested ways to display hyperlinks:
A) To view ADA regulations, visit https://www.ada.gov/index.html.
B) The following webpage describes federal ADA regulations: ADA Regulations.
Example A places the whole link URL within a sentence (this option should only be used for short links). Example B links to the webpage with descriptive text, which is preceded by a description of the link and a colon; this approach improves readability, especially with longer website links.
When designing informational material, a sans serif font is easiest to read. Sans serif is a font style that does not have additional strokes attached to the letters. Times New Roman and Palatino have the additional strokes and should be avoided. Examples of acceptable sans serif fonts are Arial and Helvetica. Once a sans serif font is selected, it is best to use the same font throughout the course. Minimizing font variation helps make courses ADA compliant, and it can help all learners stay focused.
Colors and Contrast
Another factor of readability to consider is text contrast. In order for text to be easy to read, it is best to have a dark-colored font on a light-colored background, also known as high contrast. The best option for readability is a black font with a white background. If you want to use color, you need to avoid using extremely bright background colors, such as red. It is also important to avoid red-green or yellow-blue combinations as contrasting colors because individuals with color-blindness are unable to differentiate the text from the background.
After text colors are chosen, text formatting should be examined. Text formatting should follow the "less is more" rule, particularly with the use of bolds and italics. Use them sparingly and only to emphasize extreme items. Concerning underlining, the only text that should be underlined is text that is hyperlinked to meet ADA compliance.
Images & Graphics
Images and graphics can be a powerful addition to any course as they can exemplify content; however, even images have ADA regulations. Images and graphics should be relevant to the content, easy to see, and in high resolution. It is best to avoid animated or blinking images.
An important step to make images and graphics ADA compliant is to add an alt tag or alt text. Alt text stands for Alternative Text and is a word or phrase that can be added to describe the image or graphic. This allows screen readers to read a description of an image out loud, or if an image fails to load properly, the alt text will display instead. Canvas has an alt tag option when adding an image or graphic; see the following Canvas Guide for instructions on how to add one to an image: How do I manage alt text and display options for images embedded in the New Rich Content Editor as an instructor?
Just like with images and graphics, it is important to ensure that courses have clear audio and video.
Clear audio requires minimal background noises, clear word pronunciation, and consistent volume. Clear video has minimal movement to avoid blurriness or refocusing and high resolution. If you are planning on recording videos of yourself, ensure that you are sitting in front of a background that is not distracting.
Both audio and video content requires written transcripts or subtitles, also known as closed captioning. When students request an accommodation of closed captioning through DRS, instructors must provide timely and accurate text alternatives for all multimedia. Click here to read Temple’s guidelines for making multimedia accessible available to all students requiring the accommodation. You can also review the CAT’s best practices for identifying student accessibility needs.
If you have a student in your course who has a documented accommodation that requires closed captions, you can fill out a TUHelp ticket at tuhelp.temple.edu requesting for your audio/video content to be transcribed or captioned for free through DRS. If you do not have a student with a documented accommodation but would still like to provide captions, you can upload your content to YouTube or VoiceThread, which provide automatic auto-captions that can be edited and corrected. Alternatively, you can upload your content to your Ensemble account at ensemble.temple.edu which includes a manual captioning tool: Amara. (Note: If you have not activated your Ensemble account yet, you can request for access via a TUHelp ticket.)
You can also ensure the settings in your Zoom account are set so that all Zoom cloud recordings are accompanied by an automatic audio transcript. This transcript can be edited for any errors. The following Zoom support guide provides more information about Zoom audio transcripts: Using audio transcription for cloud recordings.
Captions in VoiceThread
VoiceThread automatically processes closed captions for all audio and video comments and materials made via a Temple VoiceThread account. You should edit the closed captioning of your comments after they are processed in order to correct any mistakes.
Click here to learn more about closed captioning in VoiceThread.
Captioning in Zoom
To learn more about closed captioning in Zoom, please visit the CAT’s Zoom page.
Closed captioning options vary depending on the platform to which you upload and host your videos:
To request help with creating closed captions for videos, and for any other multimedia, you can put in a TUHelp request. When creating the request, select “Accessibility,” then select “Captioning: Pre-recorded Media.”
It is best practice to have audio or video clips that are 5 to 7 minutes in length for optimal student engagement and retention. If the content takes longer to cover, it is best to create short, segmented videos, each ranging from 5 to 7 minutes in length.
The final component for audio and video accessibility is to use a universal audio or video file type. We recommend using MP3 (audio) or MP4 (video) file formats. If you create audio or video content, ensure that you export your final product as one of these file types.
All text in all course materials should be searchable, which allows learners to search for words or phrases within a document, as well as readable, so a screen reader is able to read the text out loud. If a PDF document is not searchable or readable, an accompanying plain text version should be provided.
When linking documents within a course, the label of the link should have the file extension type at the end (e.g. .doc or .docx for a Word document, .ppt or .pptx for PowerPoint, .xlsx or .xltx for Excel, etc.).
Tables and charts can also clearly exemplify content and must also adhere to ADA compliance. Any table needs to have a designated header row, and any chart needs to have designated labels and captions. This helps ensure that a screen reader navigates through the data in the table and charts logically. It is also helpful to provide a summary of the data included in the table.
In addition, the course syllabus is a document that should include an accessibility statement for students which outlines ADA procedures. The following page provides an template of an accessible syllabus as well as accompanying information: Accessible Syllabus Template.
To ensure that your course documents are accessible, you can reference the following web tutorials and Canvas Guides about making Word documents, PDFs, and Canvas Pages accessible.
Assessments & Activities
Some students may require extra time or attempts on an online Canvas quiz or exam. You may also need to give students extensions or different due dates. The following Canvas Guides provide instructions for taking these steps.
Additionally, if you are planning on incorporating any educational technology tools into your course activities and assessments, it is important to ensure that these tools are accessible. If they are not, either choose a different tool, or provide an alternative assessment or activity for any students who are unable to use or complete the task with the tool.