There are a number of general ‘good practices’ that can be followed to enhance the general accessibility of an Interact2 site.
Use of Discussion Forums
Although a well-run and structured discussion forum can greatly enhance the student experience, from an accessibility perspective the discussion forum tool presents some issues for students needing higher levels of accessibility. The way that the discussion forum tool itself works with tools such as screens readers is problematic, and as a result students using these tools can find it difficult to engage with these tools. This means that care needs to be taken in the following scenarios:
- Responding to student queries within i2 – whilst this itself is a great practice, students with accessibility needs might not be able to access your responses in the discussion forum format. It is worth ‘repeating’ this information in other places such as weekly update videos/podcasts/adobe connect meetings, or if it’s significant information, it’s worth using the announcement functionality.
- New content in the discussion forum – in the spirit of the above, as a general good practice, learning materials which might be considered ‘new’ should never be posted only to the discussion forum. Instead, this material should be provided as a content area which utilises the regular design conventions of i2 content such as (learning module/folder/page)
Look and Feel and Accessibility
Generally speaking, the CSS (Content Style Sheet) and standard module and page templates in use within ‘Interact2’ at CSU are ‘Accessible.’ Some things to keep in mind, however, include:
- Font – using a standard style of font will ensure students can easily read text or deploy a screen reader, whilst using ‘black on white’ remains the most accessible colour/background combination. It is recommended to not use red/pink/green text, especially not in combination as this can be difficult for students with vision problems such as colour-blindness, to read.
- Layout – using basic text structures such as paragraphs, headings and subheadings along with appropriate spacing can make it easy to read the text for all students
Although it may seem obvious, the overall organisational design of your i2 site can have a significant impact on the ‘accessibility’ experience for your students. When planning the layout of a site, considering the points below is beneficial.
Generally speaking, the content within most subjects within interact2 will be organised in one of the following ways:
- Assessment Focused – the content a student needs to learn in order to complete an assessment is organised in a series of discrete folders or learning module(s). This may be useful or preferred when students don’t require a strict weekly ‘plan.’
- Week by week – the site is arranged so that there is a clear scaffold of learning content and materials each week. The implication herein, of course, is that any information required to submit an assessment is included in the ‘weekly’ folders prior to the assessment due date.
- Topic Focused- Information is clustered around the ‘big ideas’ of a subject – for example the learning outcomes.
- Adaptively released – sometimes not all content will be available ‘ahead’ of time. In some cases this may be because an ‘Adaptive’ Release functionality has been deployed. Simply put, this is when a choice is made to grant access to certain content based on criteria such as grades, date, membership of a particular group in Interact2 (‘Groups being a specific i2 functionality) or review of content.
It’s important that you take the time to consider the way a student ‘moves through’ the content within the interact2 site for your subject. Whilst it’s natural that a subject design within Interact2 might have a range of ways in which content is organised, keeping in mind aspects such as assessment due dates and expected knowledge and skill needed for an assessment may provide you with a pretty instructive guide for how to present this content. Not taking this time may result in confusion about where content is to be found, placing an unnecessary barrier in terms of accessibility.
Headings and Subheadings
Making use of appropriate headings and subheadings is an important part of improving accessibility, as it allows students using screen readers to accurately determine the different parts of a document – these screen readers recognise the meta data tags such as ‘heading’ and will give it priority and read the page in the ways a human is likely to – i.e. giving the headings greater prominence in a skim read. More generally, it allows all readers to do the same.
Grouping and Presenting Resources – Adaptive Release
It is worth noting that for some students, providing content on an adaptive basis can cause some issues, especially if a delay in content means study plans are interrupted. If you’re wanting to use an Adaptive Release trigger for content within your subject and you feel as though this may present challenges for some students, it may be worth a conversation with an Educational Designer or member of the Assistive Technologies team, so that alternative formats can be prepared ahead of time and presented to students who need these materials in a timely manner.
When organising and structuring content, some common sense approaches always work well. For example, having one page which neatly provides information about accessing Adobe Connect meeting rooms, as well as providing a link to the recording of a meeting, is going to be easy to navigate than a site which stores access links on one page and recordings on another.
Another example of streamlining access is in the use of CSU Replay (Panopto). Whilst students can access all recordings the academic has made available within a subject within the ‘CSU Replay Folder’, CSU Replay videos can also be directly embedded into a content area.
Problems can occur for students where there is:
- seemingly a combination of labels in use
- Labels are used inconsistently or labels for content don’t readily identify what will be within that content section
- When content needed to complete learning activities and assessments is not where it is expected to be (for example, the assessment design calls for use of knowledge presented in a ‘week 8’ content folder but the assignment is due in week 5)
If you can keep the provision of content within your i2 site ‘Consistent, Predictable and Usable’ you’ll greatly reduce the issues for all students, but especially for those with additional accessibility needs as you’ll be making their study easier because:
- Consistent: if you say you’ll post a briefing video each week on a certain time or day, you do it – this is important as the student with additional needs may be highly reliant on that resource to support them through a subject. Not doing so may interrupt their ability to study as they may require more study time per week
- Predictable – this relates to where content is placed and stored – the same type of content is found in (broadly) the same type of spot each week or each topic. This can be drilled down to even the use of a similar look and feel for each (e.g.) module page
- Usable – as noted both in this document and in other sections of this website, providing content which users can engage with is vital – for example, well constructed PowerPoint presentations or podcasts which include decent quality audio, benefit all users but especially those with additional accessibility needs. Beyond this, ‘Usable’ includes provision of alternative formats of learning resources – not only does this assist students with accessibility requirements but makes a site more engaging and interesting for all students.
Did you know you can access quick and easy tools for checking document accessibility issues?
Microsoft Office allows users to check for accessibility issues across several of their applications using the “Accessibility Checker” tool. You can run the checker tool to see what elements of your work needs attention and follow the recommendations to fix any issues.
If you are using the latest version of Microsoft Office or Office365 the Accessibility Checker is available for Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. Microsoft provides instructions for improving accessibility with the Accessibility Checker.
For older versions of Microsoft Office, follow instructions to use Accessibility Checker in Word, Excel or PowerPoint.
You can also check accessibility issues in Adobe by running the inbuilt Wizard tools to Quick Check or Full Check your document. The tool scans the entire document, detects accessibility issues, identifies document structure matter, and prompts to provide recommendations to correct.
The National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE), have developed a webpage with free resources or ‘cheatsheets’ to assist anyone who is creating accessible content. These include guidelines for Microsoft & Adobe applications, Accessibility for Web Content and Captioning. The easy to follow step-by-step instructions can be viewed online or as a one page PDF file to save or print.
Producing material in accessible formats including braille, large print, e-text and audio (Print Disability)
If would like further information for creating accessible format material for people with print disabilities, Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities provide guidelines that are available for free download in a range of electronic formats.
In the online environment colour provides interest as a visual tool to identify an item and for decorative perspectives. However, colour should not be the only means to convey information, like an action or prompt. If the contrast between the text and the background is not correct, colour can lose its appeal and make it difficult for a student to read the text.
- Do not rely on colour to convey information.
- Add text labels, patterns or symbols
- Avoid using red to attract attention – looks dull, not bright
- Ensure there is sufficient contrast between text and the background. Contrast helps older students and students using mobile devices particularly in poor lighting conditions.
- Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered pages with plain backgrounds.
- Use colour combinations that are high contrast and can be read by those who are colour blind.
More on Appropriate Contrast
The International Standards (WCAG 2.1) for contrast are measured by the difference in perceived ‘luminance’ or brightness between two colours. The brightness difference is expressed as a ration ranging from 1:1 (eg white text on a white background) to 21:1 (eg. Black text on a white background). Contrast requirements also apply to images of text.
Pure red (#FF0000) has a ration of 4:1. This is red text.
Pure green (#00FF00) has a very low ration of 1.4:1. This is green text.
Pure blue (#000FF) has a contrast ration of 8.6:1. This is blue text.
Use a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for text and images of text, unless the text is decorative or part of a logo.
Large text (18 point or 14 point bold) is easier to read, so use a contrast ration of at least 3:1.
Test your content to ensure none of the meaning is lost when you remove the colours. Print your page in black and white, making sure the printing preferences are set to print background colours.
Resources – See these sites for further information
IMAGES AND DIAGRAMS (Non-text content)
Images and diagrams help to enhance your student’s comprehension of a topic more effectively than just text alone. However students who cannot distinguish images depend on the content being transcribed into an alternative format. The purpose and complexity of an image will determine the best alternative to apply to an image. Here’s some ways you can improve the accessibility of your images.
- Give all of your images a text alternative. Alternative text communicates the idea of an image and is different to a caption.
- Animations in your subjects should be user controlled or very short in duration.
- Ensure icons are well designed, easy to understand and are used consistently.
- Do not use an image of text if the same visual effect can be made using text alone. True text is easily enlarged without becoming pixelated or degraded in quality.
- Flashing images must flash more than three times per second, be sufficiently large, and bright or significant contrast between the flashes.
- Functional images provide content and often navigation. Use succinct alternative text in your materials.
- Form image buttons, such as Next Page, must have an alternative text that describes the function of the button.
- Do not use instructions that rely on things that can only be seen. For example, shape, size, screen location, orientation or colour.
- Provide descriptive identification for audio or video content.
Techniques for Alternative Text
When determining the best alternative text to use for an image in your subjects, think of the context of the image in the document and categorize from the following statements:
- The image conveys simple information (e.g. a photograph, icon, or logo)
- The image conveys complex information (e.g. a chart or graph)
- The image is purely decorative, not informative
The most common method is to supplement an image with an alternate text (alt text) attribute. Alt text is beneficial in communicating the content of an image for students who cannot see it clearly. The description should be succinct and communicate the idea of the image as if you were explaining the image to someone. Don’t repeat the caption in the alt text.
Screen reader software is able to read out aloud the alt text when the image is encountered. The image description is read first and then the alt text. Common authoring tools and Microsoft Office programs have the ability to add alt text to images and this is another quick and easy way to enhance accessibility in your learning resources. Check out the two lists below for practical examples.
How to Add Alternate Text in MS Office Programs
How to add Alt Text to an Image:
- Right click on the image
- Select Format Picture
- Click on Layout and Properties icon in Format Picture menu
- Click on Alt Text item
- Add a Title
- Add a verbal description
- Save the file.
Example of detailed image (below)
Example of simple image (above)
See here for detail about how to add alternate text to images in Blackboard
Complex images, such as graphs, charts, or complex diagrams, may contain too much information to be effectively described using alt text. When a complex image cannot be limited to a succinct alt text attribute (more than a few sentences), then you should provide an alternative text that provides the same information – ideally in proximity to the original diagram. The alternative text for the image should still describe the general context of the image. Ask yourself the question, what information is this image intended to communicate? A long description can include any structure necessary to communicate the content of the image, including headings, lists and data tables.
You can locate the alternative text:
- In text adjacent to the image
- Within the page containing the image, such as an adjacent data table
- By linking to a separate web page that provides a longer description. The link can be adjacent to the image or the image itself could be linked to the page
Refer to examples of complex images at the DIAGRAM Centre http://diagramcenter.org/making-images-accessible.html
Images that are purely decorative or make a document visually appealing and contain no informative content, do not need a description. However, they still require specific markup so screen reader programs know to skip them. There are methods for hiding decorative images from screen reader programs, such as the null alt text attribute (alt text “ “)
Refer to examples at WebAIM https://webaim.org/techniques/alttext/
Although there’s lots an ever increasing range of CSU developed resources on this page that make specific reference to Interact2, you may also find this resource (published by Blackboard) to be a useful ‘ready reckoner’ when creating or editing content within Interact2. Ally-QuickStart-2018_05-Checklist
Preparing PDF documents of modules and other subject material provides many benefits for students studying. When available in this format students do not only benefit from being able to download and save, but assists in providing students with:
- an alternative format for students who have limited internet
- a prepared document for ease of printing
- alternative format for students who may have a condition with reading online, or students who are just fatigued from looking at a computer all day.
The best practice for creating PDF’s of modules is to convert the module content from original WORD documents. However If these are not available (as may be the case when information is edited directly into Interact2, the following instructions from DLT will allow you to create a set of PDF resources for your students.
It is worth noting that once a student accesses the PDF of a module, you will be losing some of the analytics functionality inherent in the storing and presentation of materials in the Interact2 environment. Put another way, if students are provided with the PDF content of the entire subject upfront, their need to engage with other features of the Interact2 subject site such as discussion forums may be lessened. Your ability to collect information such as ‘content accesses’ will become problematic. As such, some thought needs to given to how and when these materials are provided, and these decisions taken in light of the overall learning design approach within the subject.
Captioning is not only important for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, but anyone who prefers to view media with limited or no noise due to their personal preferences or due to their immediate environment i.e. in the library, on public transport or in an office environment. It can also assist where the spoken dialogue in the video may not be the listener’s or speaker’s first native language and it can help to clarify terminology and assists to improve overall comprehension. Furthermore, once captions have been created, videos can be searched using SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
The most common types of captioning are:
- Automatic captions – these are automatically generated using speech recognition technology eg. YouTube or Panopto. These are around 60 – 70% accurate and it is important to note that editing of these captions is therefore frequently required (if you are the owner of the video and have editor/admin rights for the video on that platform)
- Manually created closed captions – correctly transcribed text as well as other descriptive sounds eg. background noises or other audio cues, usually 99% accurate
- Word transcription – this is when the sound (such as the lecturer’s presentation) within a video is instead converted to written record which can be used as as stand alone artefact (or in conjunction with the original media
Best Practices for creating quality captions
- Use Sans Serif fonts ( Arial, Verdana or Calibri)
- No more than two lines of text on screen
- White text with black outline or background
- For multiple speakers, consider using names to identify e.g.
(Lecturer) What do you think?
(Student) I think this is great
- Ensure captions are synchronised with spoken words
Automatic Creation of Captions for Audio/Video content
There are several ways in which captions can be created automatically, and these can give the overall process of providing accessible resources greater efficiency. The most relevant platforms for doing this are listed below. There are however some aspects which must be kept in mind. Firstly, the accuracy of speech to text recognition of platforms such as youtube can be as low as 60% to as high as 90% and this accuracy can be impacted by aspects such as ambient noise, speaker’s tone/pitch/pace, quality of recording equipment, accents and subject matter. Although Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning approaches are rapidly impacting upon and improving automated speech recognition, you need to be prepared to review and possibly edit captions in the videos you’ve created. If you’re embedding youtube videos into your Interact2 site which don’t belong to you, encouraging students to turn on the closed captions is and providing written module commentary on the video is a good starting point, however if the resource is critical you may need to investigate additional measures to ensure accessibility and equity is maintained.
YouTube Editor gives you the choice of generating automatic captions, uploading a transcript file or creating your own captions. Once an account has been created, an MP4 can be uploaded, edited and then published.
Using Dragon Naturally Speaking software
Dragon speech recognition software can be used to create captions in YouTube or a Word document and in other software players. The video is played through dictation headphones and then spoken aloud, creating a speech to text transcription. Platforms such as YouTube will then set the timings to automatically line up with the text.
Many students prefer a Word transcription of audio material. So rather than captions being included within the original media (such as video with captions), the content is provided as a written transcription in a Word document. This is also beneficial for persons using screen readers, highlighting important details or to print out a hard copy. Express Scribe transcription software player is available to download for free, it can also be used with a supported foot pedal to increase typing productivity.
Adobe Connect Meetings
Live captioning can be carried out for Adobe Connect meeting using the services of a Captioner/Stenographer or other Captioning Service, eg. AI Media. To prepare captions of recorded meetings an offline MP4 recording is required and academics can prepare these by following a few simple instructions. Follow this link for creating Adobe Connect offline MP4 recordings.
Note: The Disability Service is able to provide specialised transcription for students registered with the service. Contact CSU Disability Service
Although quite an ‘old technology’ the ubiquitous nature of PowerPoint Presentations means that thoughtful design from an accessibility perspective can greatly enhance the student experience of subject content. Here’s a list of easy to utilise hints and tips that will help improve the accessibility of your presentations.
Sans Serif fonts should be used for text and headings. Below are a few examples:
- Century Gothic
- Headings 32 points or larger
- Subheadings 30 points or larger
- Text 24 – 28 points or larger
To Enhance Text
- Bold text
- Sufficient white space
Backgrounds & Text
- Every slide should have a unique title
- Slide Layout should be simple – minimise bullets, try not to use columns
- Use simple table structure – specify column header, don’t contain merged/split cells, nested tables
- Use high contrast colour schemes
- Keep it simple, preferably one colour or two colour gradients:
- white and pastel
- two pastel colours which are adjacent on the colour wheel
- Avoid grey background or grey text
- Avoid shadowed text
- Avoid blue backgrounds
- Use built-in slide designs for inclusive reading order
Animations & Graphics
- Images, tables, graphs and data visualisations are not accessible with screen readers. Add an alternative text to each visual
- Avoid excess animation, flashing images, strobing or rapidly moving images
- Limit animations – preferably no animations or transitions as screen readers do not read these
- Avoid low contrast and grey scale graphics
- If adding a narrated voice to each slide, turn off automatic transitioning
Other General Accessibility Best Practices
- If a PDF format is required for students, save the PPT to an accessible PDF
- Create PowerPoint in outline view. Outline view displays what is read by a screen reader
- Hyperlinks should be meaningful – name or briefly describe link destination
- Check external content for accessibility
- Provide audio transcription – could be provided in notes section
- Use the built-in accessibility checker in Microsoft Office products
- For additional accessibility checking, use a screen reader
Podcasts are increasingly utilised by academics and tutors to engage their students in both direct subject learning as well as broader areas relating to a field or discipline. As such, it’s vital to ensure that you’re presenting these materials in the best possible way for students. As podcasting is an audio medium, the success of your production relies on a sufficient level of audio quality which is beneficial to all students, but particularly for those students who may have a hearing issue, especially in relation to audio acuity (i.e. the ability to focus on or distinguish between multiple sounds presented simultaneously). Although some of the tips might seem like a departure from normal podcast approaches, remember the aim here is to create podcasts that are more accessible for students and provide better input to the range of technologies that create transcripts among other assistive technologies.
There are a number of simple and ‘common sense’ tips which you can utilise to ensure that you’re creating podcasts and audio resources for students, many of which simply utilise standard type CSU equipment.
- Read from a script (before you record), or if the podcast is conversational (or there is more than one guest or presenter), ensure that you’re clear on the main points you want to hit throughout the piece.
- Use a headset or desk microphone (or if using a smart phone, utilise an audio recording input device).
- Minimise background noise – start recording when you speak, remove jewellery, avoid shuffling paper.
- Test the volume of the microphone before recording.
- Include visual information in the audio. Ensure all relevant audio information is included in the recording.
- If referring to an item on a slide, say the content of the item in the recording. Instead of saying, “as you can see on this slide, the results peaked here”, say, “this analysis chart for the last year shows that it peaked in July.”
- Repeat questions that are not picked up by the recording.
- Prepare a transcription of the podcast (after the recording).
- Provide a link to the transcription.
- Consider closed captioning as well as a transcript for vodcasts. Panopto has a feature to create captioning.
- Indicate a change in speakers.
- Ensure there are options to start, stop, pause, or adjust the volume for action by a mouse and a keyboard.
- For pre-existing podcasts, consider preparing transcriptions by utilising a voice recognition program (eg. Dragon Naturally Speaking or Windows or Mac Speech Recognition) to convert the audio to text. This method is effective if you are the only speaker.
Of course, some people have access to equipment well beyond the minimum- the aim here is to ensure a base level of quality for the sake of accessibility. Although there are many ways to capture audio – especially via smartphones, this guide is based primarily on the creation of audio files from CSU equipment.
How to Make Offline (Accessible) Recordings
Adobe Connect meetings are saved in flash format (.flv) which has limitations for:
- Students with iOS devices unable to play .flv files (unless they have a flash enabled browser)
- Students who wish to watch the recording in chunks or offline
- Preparation of audio transcripts/captions
As a host, you are able to make an offline version to download to a computer, or make available to students. The offline version can be uploaded to CSU Replay to publish in Interact or the file made available to download as an MP4 version. The following article provides academics with an easy to utilise set of instructions which can dramatically improve the time taken to provide students with Word transcriptions of Adobe Connect meetings.
Access Adobe Connect Central
Currently there are two ways hosts can gain access to the backend of Adobe Connect Central to download recordings as an MP4. They are:
- Their online meeting room
- Within Adobe Connect Central
From the online meeting room
- Open the Adobe Connect room
- In Meeting Menu, select Manage Meeting Information
This takes Hosts into Adobe Connect Central
From within a meeting room in Adobe Connect Central
- Log on to Adobe Connect Central at CSU Adobe Connect page with your Adobe Connect username and Adobe Connect password
- Click Host Tab
- Hover mouse over the room name, and select Edit
The details for the meeting room are displayed
Make a Recording in MP4 Format
- Go to Recordings Tab
- Find the recording to be made into an offline recording
- Under Actions, select Make Offline
The Offline Recording window will open
Offline Recording dialog box
It is important to follow the recommendations:
- Creating an offline recording is done in real time. That is, it takes the same amount of time as the duration of the meeting.
- Hosts should save the play back recording to a local drive and not to a network share location.
- Set the screen resolution high enough to include all activities that occurred in the original meeting
- Avoid network or system intensive activities such as installing software or downloading files during the recording process
- Disable screen savers and monitor power settings before proceeding
Offline Recording settings dialog box
- Format: select MP4 format (recommended)
- Video Quality: Mobile, Desktop, High Definition, Full High Definition
The higher the resolution, the larger the output file
The default is HD
- Click Proceed with Offline Recording
- Save the file with a meaningful name to a hard drive location on your computer
Saving to a server will take longer and it could crash
- The recording will play in real time. On the bottom right hand side the duration of the recording will show.
Reduce the volume and minimize the window to continue with other work.
Long recordings can be broken into shorter sections:
- Pause/Resume will temporarily stop the recording.
- Stop and save ends the creation of a recording.
- Start New creates a new file from where you left off.
- When you are finished with the recording, click Stop Saving
Recording Summary dialog box
Click OK to finish.
The recording/s can be located in the location specified as an MP4 file.