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Making Your Online Classroom Accessible

You’ve decided to create an online course and sell it. You know you need to make the classroom accessible to People with Disabilities (PwD) but are unclear on what that means. There are a few simple ways to implement accessibility features into your workflow:


First, check with the platform you are using. Different platforms have different requirements and tools that can help you. Some even have accessibility checkers that will flag areas for you to improve.


Know that people have different ideas about what accessibility needs are required for learners and customers. Basically, an accessible course means it contains various tools and strategies to make the content available to learners with different needs.


No matter the platform, here are the essential features to implement that will help make your classroom more accessible:


  • Descriptive Links– When you create a link, it’s easy to click “Insert link,” and your learner sees something like “box_whisker_chart456” in the text. That is not very useful and makes for a messy visual. Instead, use text that indicates what the link is for instead of filenames. An improvement on the box_whisker_chart456 example would be “Create a Box Whisker Chart.” It’s also essential to skip directional terms in your links, such as “Click here” or “Click below.” If a learner is visually impaired, they cannot see where here or below are.
  • Alt Text– This is the text that you insert with images that can be read by a screen reader. It’s easy to add a simple description such as “Pic of person at desk.” But that’s not helpful to someone who cannot see the image. Provide more information and describe the purpose of the image. An improvement would be “Image of a person at a desk working on their laptop and phone simultaneously with thought bubbles of their to-do list. The person has a lot to do and to think about.”
  • Captions and Transcripts– Captions and transcripts are text-based versions of audio, video, or visual content that make content available to a broader audience. Initially, they were intended for those with hearing impairment, but are now used by people who may not have access to headphones so they can read material while watching with the audio off. Captions and transcripts can be helpful if the content is in a different language or the learner benefits from reading and hearing simultaneously. Learners can refer back to captions and transcripts to find specific points. Learners are constantly coming up with new ways to take advantage of the benefits of captions and transcripts.
  • Text Formatting– How your text appears is important to readers and screen readers. Use headers to organize content and lists for bulleted or numbered lists. Be mindful of fonts. It can be creative to use different fonts, but always be cognizant of how readable the font is. To make your content available to a broader audience, avoid cursive fonts. Larger fonts are easier to read. Use bold to bring attention to words instead of italics, which can be harder to read.
  • Color Contrast – You want your text to be readable and to stand out from any background. The more contrast, the easier the content is to see and read. When you use a dark background, use a light color for your text, and vice versa. For example, use black text on a white background or white text on a black background.

Finally, check in with learners who are PwD for feedback and look to continuously improve your course.

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Angela Britcher

Angela Britcher, M.A. is an adjunct professor, curriculum developer, and content writer.

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