I know that so many people do not even consider accessibility when it comes to Digital Citizenship, but really for online environments it is not just about “accessibility” but it is about “good design”.
Let’s look at an accessibility ramp for instance. A ramp is not just for the few. Everyone can benefit from it.
Accessibility is not just about a physical impairment, but also about good media design that ensures everyone benefits regardless of the technology available to them.
Images, video, audio should all have text alternatives. If a button or navigation control is an image, the alternative text should describe where the button will take the user, or what it will do. Where the image is part of the learning material, you must ensure that the same information is given in text form.
Remember this is not just for people who are sight impaired, but for those users with issues loading the image due to poor connection speed. This will also help to cover different learning styles.
The only exception is an image that is just there as part of the page design, for example a blue line with dots in it, might appear as part of branding and design on a webpage. The learners are not “disadvantaged” if they do not see that design element. So for the alternative text, it should be given a null value of “”.
With video/audio, your original planning material/script can form the basis for your closed caption file or text document. Be sure to describe what is “happening”, not just what is being said.
Think about it – have you ever seen a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation where you can’t make out the words because they clash with the background image/colour?
If you are struggling to read your own content, even in part, then others will also have the same issue.
Furthermore colour-blindness, which is common, can affect the visibility of some colours over others. You really need to make sure you use high contrasting colours to support learners.
You can test colour contrast for accessibility using some freely available tools such as this one: http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/
It is important to mention that these checkers only check colours for Accessibility. They will not tell you if it is a good colour choice from a design point of view, so always ask a designer if your colours work together.
As always it is best to check your organisations branding department and ask for the corporate colour palette as this can take some of the guess work out of choosing colours that match your corporate materials.
For video and audio, ensure that the learning material can be clearly heard over any background noise or background music you have added in.
Test your online content and see if you can navigate around it easily and in a predictable fashion using nothing but the keyboard. Most learning management systems take care of this for course navigation, but any content you create yourself in it should also be navigable in this way. Look out for Keyboard traps. Items in a webpage that keep you “trapped” once inside them when using Keyboard only navigation.
Any timed events should have plenty of time for all users to complete and contain controls for the user to pause, step back and step forward.
The pages of your course/site should be navigable through several methods. Again, your organisations Learning Management System will take care of much of this by providing both main navigation links, and also bread crumbs. Make sure you use titles in your pages so that users never feel lost, and ensure that “Home” takes your user to the first page they saw.
For those navigating by Keyboard, there must be a visual indicator as to what area of the site is currently selected. Ensure that where you repeat your navigation links on sub-pages, that they are consistent throughout the site.
You should also use the section heading and heading hierarchy functions in the software that you are creating in, again talk to your organisations deign department or look at your corporate style guide as this should indicate fonts and heading styles to be used.. It is helpful to know how to set section heading and heading hierarchy up in HTML or the CSS.
Text should always be aimed at pre-secondary education reading level. Any complex terms and wording should be explained or an explanation made available via a link to a glossary of terms.
Web pages should never “auto load” new content and links should always jump to the page relevant to a title link. No random links.
Most importantly content should work on ALL devices and not be created for a proprietary device. To ensure this you should test your online course on all web browsers and mobile devices.
Remember that a user must not be disadvantaged because of their personal choice of device nor their access speed.
At the end of the day accessible web design refers to the philosophy and practice of designing web content so that it can be navigated and read by everyone, regardless of location, experience, or the type of computer technology used (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014).
Australian Human Rights Commission. (2014). World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes ver 4.1 . Retrieved, from http://www.humanrights.gov.au/world-wide-web-access-disability-discrimination-act-advisory-notes-ver-41-2014#whatis
Daniel Lobo. (2007). Ramp [Image]. Flickr. Retrieved, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/377766377/
WebAIM. (2016). WebAIM: Color Contrast Checker. Retrieved, from http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/