The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 guarantee protection from discrimination and equal access to opportunity for people with disabilities. As detailed Standard 8 (and other criteria throughout) of the Online Course Design Rubric, online faculty should design their courses with the goal of alignment with accessibility best practices. The accessibility criteria apply to: course navigation and design, color and font, course documents, and audio-visual materials.
The SLU Online Course Accessibility Checklist summarizes the criteria for accessibility in online courses at SLU. Below are detailed explanations of each checklist item, examples, and a compilation of existing web resources for further information.
Course Navigation and Design
Navigation refers to the process of planning, controlling, and recording the movement of a learner from one place to another in the online course. Online course layout and design should facilitate easy and predictable movement through the course and its activities.
- Design elements are used repetitively, increasing predictability and intuitiveness.
- Links, files, and icons are labeled with easy-to-understand, descriptive, and meaningful names.
- The course design enables learners to easily locate where they are within the course and to easily return to the home page from any location.
- Tables are used to organize data and include descriptive headers.
- The hierarchy of material in a page or document is clearly indicated through heading styles. A table of contents may be included that allows learners to move easily throughout documents.
Color and Font
Color and font are important to consider as they should maximize usability by facilitating readability.
- Text color is easily distinguishable from the background, with sufficient contrast between the text and background.
- Font color is not used as a reference point or navigation guide (e.g., "green font indicates required reading, red font indicates optional materials").
- Colors alone are not used to convey meaning (e.g., "required terms appear in red, while optional terms appear in green").
- Font style and size are selected to maximize on-screen legibility; simpler fonts are chosen over more ornate fonts, and the number of font families is limited to one or two.
- White space or negative space is used around content to help increase comprehension and reduce eye fatigue that occurs with large blocks of text.
- Editing and proofreading errors are minimal.
- Large blocks of text are broken up with graphics, videos, or other non-text based content.
Documents (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, PDF)
Text-based materials must be designed such that they could be accessed by screen reader applications. Screen readers allow text-based material to be converted into synthesized speech. This video summarizes document accessibility practices (University of Minnesota).
The Library has two scanners that can create text searchable PDFs, located on level one in the Academic Tech Commons. The Library also provides access to Adobe Acrobat Pro, which can create text searchable PDFs from existing PDFs. See this Pius Library FAQ for more about creating text searchable PDFs.
- PDF files are created in optical character recognition (OCR) format, not merely as image scans; any text contained in PDF files should be selectable and searchable.
- Webpages and documents use heading styles found in the word processing software (e.g., the styles gallery in MS Word).
- Tables in text-based materials are set up with headings for columns and rows.
- Images used as an instructional resource must include a descriptive text alternative. The text alternative must be detailed enough to allow the learner to visualize the content of the image, without actually viewing the image. This may be achieved through a descriptive slide that precedes or follows a slide with an image and/or by adding descriptions to the "alt-text" tag associated with images within text-based programs (like MS Word).
- Text referring to hyperlinks is labeled as "links."
Audio and Video
Alternatives to non-text content must be provided to ensure all learners have access to equivalent course information and content. For this checklist item, non-text content refers specifically to audio and video files.
NOTE: The Distance Education Office is in the process of determining how to best address audio-visual accessibility. In the meantime, accommodations will be made on an as needed basis.
- Videos and animations are captioned or text transcripts are readily available.
- If audio content corresponds with visual content in a way that conveys meaning, captions provide the equivalent experience through description.