Accessibility in Design
As an instructional designer, one of the major issues I encounter in curriculum development is in the design itself. Much of the content being presented is inaccessible to students needing accommodations. Because of the increased reliance on the LMS as a content-delivery tool, we (as designers and educators) need to be responsible for presenting content that engages the largest audience possible. When framed in the philosophy of Universal Design for Learning, inaccessible content hampers the learning of all students, and not those reliant on screen readers and other devices to help them engage with it. The problem, according to UDL, is that the content is too narrow in focus as it is being presented and discourages multiple learning styles in addition to those in need of assistive devices.
I won’t debate the difficulty in implementing universal accessibility on the institution level because I worked hand-in-hand with the eLearning Director in an effort to support a plan to introduce universal accessibility on the college campus. It amazes me as the pushback we encountered as accessibility is the law so there should be no debate whatsoever. Pushback or no, I believe in using fundamental principles of design as they support equitable learning and access to learning. To that end, I continue to read and compile lists that support my efforts to make my designs fully accessible.
Accessibility Laws Specific to Instructional Design
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires electronic communications and information technologies, such as websites, email, or web documents, be accessible. For video content, closed captions are a specific requirement.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects the civil rights of people with disabilities by requiring all federal entities — and organizations that receive federal funding — to make accommodations for equal access. This means that closed captioning must be provided for users who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- A great resource for accessibility content on the web: W3C
- WebAIM has articles that explain accessibility laws: WebAIM
- Video of a Screen Reader Reading an Inaccessible Document: Video
- Microsoft Video Tutorials for Accessibility in Word: Accessible Word Docs
- Microsoft Webpage for Accessibility in PowerPoint: Accessible PPT Presentations
- Owl at Purdue’s Webpage about Readable Font Types: Serif vs. Sans Serif Fonts
- Portland C.C.’s about Making Tables Accessible to Screen readers: Accessible Tables
- The NCDAE’s “Cheat Sheets”: Accessible Documents
- WCET’s Resource Accessibility Page: Accessibility
- Video with Tips for Solving Web Accessibility: Expert Speaker David Berman