See LITS's Tech Documentation for information about Accessibility Features in Office 365, Office 2016, and Windows 10. Microsoft Office products and Adobe Acrobat Pro have built-in Accessibility Checkers that can help you make sure electronic documents you share or publish online are accessible.
Universal Design for Learning
The premise behind Universal Design for Learning is that we should be designing courses, classroom activities, course materials, educational experiences and curriculum to support and engage all learners. The more we can do this up front, the more we will create student-centered pedagogies that welcome and include diversity.
The College encourages all professors, faculty and staff to use Universal Design for Learning guidelines when creating and developing syllabi, course requirements and materials and programming for the Bryn Mawr community.
- Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)
- Universal Design for Learning
- Accommodations and Universal Design, University of Washington
If vetting new textbooks, check to see if the publisher can provide copies in accessible machine-readable or audio formats:
- Publisher contact information
Books published prior to 2001-2002 are generally not available in accessible formats, and Access Services will need a minimum of six weeks to get them converted to audio formats (six months for Braille).
Bryn Mawr provides access to a document converter that can convert documents into a variety of alternative file formats that are more accessible to people with disabilities.
Scanned PDF Documents
Scanned PDFs are the most commonly inaccessible files. A scan is a simply an image of a page. What a human reads as "text" are patterns of light and dark pixels. In order for a scanned PDF to be accessible, it must be put through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process, which analyzes those patterns, identifies letters and words, and converts them into actual text -- that is, into strings of characters, spaces, and punctuation -- which the text-to-speech and screen-reader software that students with learning disabilities and vision impairments use to read course materials can "read."
The scanners currently installed on Bryn Mawr's campus OCR the text in scans automatically, so articles and book chapters you scan now should be accessible. However, old scans of articles and book chapters are often non-OCRed, image PDFs.
To test whether a scan is accessible, try selecting/highlighting text in it using your cursor. If you are unable to select text, it is an image file and is not accessible.
If you have an inaccessible scan and it is of decent quality, you can upload it to the Document Converter and convert it to a "tagged PDF" that is OCRed and accessible.
A decent-quality scan is one with:
- Very little or no underlining, highlighting, or margin notes (these confuse the OCR software)
- No text is cut off or obscured by shadows, page distortions, fingers, etc.
- All pages facing the same direction
If your scan is of poor quality, the Document Converter will be unable to convert it successfully. In this case, it is best to make a new scan from a clean original.
Note: The Document Converter can usually handle scans in which two facing pages appear on the same scanned page (i.e. a "two-up" scan), as long as each page has only one column of text. For multi-column documents (and best results generally), scan pages one a a time.
Starting with Microsoft Office 2010 (Windows) or 2016 (Mac), there is now an Accessibility Checker tool in Word, Excel and PowerPoint that you can use to ensure documents are accessible.
Keep these principles in mind when creating Word documents:
- Use alternative text for images, drawings, charts, tables, diagrams, graphs and objects.
- Use clear column headings
- Use heading and paragraph styles
- Use short headings (less than 20 words)
- Make sure all headings styles are in the correct order
- Use hyperlink text that provides a clear description of the link destination, rather than only providing the URL. Avoid “Click Here” or “For more information."
- Use simple table structure and specify header rows
- Avoid using blank cells for formatting
- Structure layout tables for easy navigation
- Avoid using repeated blank characters, floating objects and/or watermarks
- Include closed captions for any audio
- Instead of making text larger or bold, use the built-in Heading Styles.
- For ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists, use Word’s built-in list tools.
- Use good color contrast and do not use color alone to convey meaning.
- Document Converter from Sensus
- How to Use the Accessibility Checker
- Watch the YouTube video of Creating Accessible Microsoft Word 2010 Documents: Using the Accessibility Checker
When creating a PowerPoint to be used in class, keep the following principles in mind in order to promote accessibility:
- Use simple, standard themes for your background and templates.
- Give each slide a unique title.
- Limit the amount of text on each slide.
- Use simple table structure with a clearly labeled header row.
- Use large, sans serif fonts.
- Use strong color contrasts. A light background with dark text or dark background with light text is best. Make sure your slide is readable in grayscale.
- Use font size, line thickness, graphics, and other visual cues in addition to color to convey ideas, trends, or themes. This will make your ideas more clear to those that are colorblind.
- Verbally describe all graphics including tables, charts, and images during presentations.
- Include alternative text for all images, drawings, charts, tables, diagrams, graphs and objects.
- Include closed-captioning for videos.
- Consider incorporating slide transitions that include sound. This allows audience members who are blind or visually impaired to know when you are moving to a new slide.
- How to use the Accessibility Checker
- Microsoft's tips for creating accessible PowerPoint presentations
- Web AIM: PowerPoint Accessibility
If you are using videos in your courses, only use ones with subtitles and/or closed captions. This helps make the content accessible to all learners, including those with hearing impairments and those who are English language learners. If you are creating your own videos, YouTube provides you with a way to add subtitles and closed captions. View the instructions for adding subtitles and closed captions for your YouTube videos.
Please check with Arlene Zimmerle in the library (firstname.lastname@example.org or x5277) for additional information about videos and other course material needing captioning.
Many websites have formatting that is not accessible to screen-reader or text-to-speech technology. You can check the accessibility of websites you want to use in your courses with the free web accessibility evaluation tool Wave from WebAIM.