Consider how much easier it is to catch up on lectures or readings when you can listen to them while driving or catching up on housework. Ask someone who works out a gym if they appreciate catching up on the news or their favourite soapies thanks to closed captions that feed the dialogue across the screen in text format.
Now, consider that ABS reports reveal that 46% of Australians operate at a literacy level below that required to function well in a knowledge society, so may be using text to voice technologies to get by – http://www.abs.gov.au/
These are a few examples of how accessibility features in the physical and digital realms make spaces and content available to wider audiences.
It’s not just about considering those who are physically handicapped – although statistics show that 15% of Australians identify as having a physical disability – http://www.and.org.au/pages/disability-statistics.html
The accessibility of your learning materials is seen through adherence to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2).
The guidelines are organised by four principles:
- Perceivable – users should be able to perceive the information being presented.
- Operable – users should be able to navigate the interface (Don’t require actions users cannot perform).
- Understandable – the content and the operation of the interface should be understandable.
- Robust – the content should be able to be interpreted by a wide range of technologies using up to date and accurate coding.
This would seem common sense for any web content and hopefully, all content creators strive for this.
However, the way in which people are able to perceive, access and interact with content varies.
- People with sight issues use assistive technologies to read out text on a web page. But these technologies cannot read videos or some interactive learning objects to them.
- People with hearing difficulties can read text but cannot get meaning from a video or audio file alone.
- People with motor impairments cannot always use a mouse and rely on their keyboard alone to navigate.
- People with LLN (Language, literacy and numeracy) issues can struggle with extensive reading or whimsical page structures.
- And people using mobile devices to access the internet can find web sites built without mobile in mind a nightmare to navigate.
Keep in mind these guidelines apply to all the content you provide – documents, videos, audio, learning objects, interactive forms, images – to both internal and external users. This list includes Word documents and PowerPoints! So this makes for a lot of work to ensure your content is accessible.
The HEROC has a list of the most common ways that people fail and we have adapted it to show how you can make a start
- Put alt+tags on your images: This is number 1 in the HEROC list of what people miss on their websites. If you don’t appropriately use alternative text for non-text elements, users of your site could miss out on vital information.
- Provide accessible alternatives when using a visible CAPTCHA tool. If you are blocking spam bots by using CAPTCHA images, provide both a visual and audio CAPTCHA so that people with vision impairments can prove their humanity too.
- Ensure you are using Heading tags to indicate structure. When reading a book or paper, many people skim the headings to glean the main topics and subtopics before diving into the text (and if not, you should, it can increase your comprehension and retention). Assistive technologies for site impaired people often have an option to allow users to skim headings to find what they want quickly too. So using heading styles properly (as opposed to purely aesthetic reasons) allows time poor sighted and sight impaired people to get to the information they want easily.
- Tell people what information they need to provide on your form. If this seems obvious to you, it should be obvious to the people who want to send information to you via a form. Label your fields clearly and don’t assume people will know that little red asterisk means they have to provide certain information.
- Make your colours have the right level of contrast: Can you see the number in this Ishihara image? http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ishihara_1.PNG
Colour defective vision has been quoted as affecting as many as 1 in 10 men and 1 in 200 women worldwide.
So when using colour, ensure there is enough contrast so that if you took most or all of the colour from your web page – or slides – or images – the foreground text would still be readable.
- Mark-up your data tables: Data tables can be an effective method of displaying some types of comparative and range data so make sure your web content people understand how to structure them and provide details in the code so that users can make sense of what you’re showing them.
- Let users control content and don’t cause harm with flashing content: Make sure your content moves people in all the right ways by avoiding rapidly flashing images and providing ways for users to stop the action.
- Make sure you can navigate using the keyboard: Can you navigate your web page with one mouse tied behind your back? You and your users should be able to get to where you need to go just using your keyboard. Mousing takes sophisticated motor skills that not everyone has – so ensure your site allows users to surf via keyboard.
- Use clear and consistent navigation: Does your web page magically change when a user selects a menu item? Give them a heads up and a choice. They will appreciate your wizardry all the more for not feeling disoriented.
Here are some useful links:
Access iQ™ offer content, contacts and education that equip individuals and organisations with the information they need to ensure their websites, web applications and digital experiences are accessible – http://www.accessiq.org/
National VET E-learning Strategy – New Generation Technologies business activity manages the process under the direction of the EEG, performing extensive research and providing guidance in implementation of the e-standards – http://ngt.flexiblelearning.net.au/
A complete list of web accessibility checkers – http://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/complete
A great tool to check the contrast of your colours – http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/
We can help you develop accessible resources, provide support and style guides and a well as offer custom training. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.