Starting accessibility in education is an exciting time for any student, regardless of age, but for some students, it can be the start of a difficult time, especially if their course or provider isn’t as on board with disability support as they should be.
Why Is Accessibility Important?
The bottom line is that everyone deserves the chance to learn, and disabilities shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone to go on that journey.
Before we get started, it’s important to look at why accessibility is important and why you should make sure that your course can cater to students with disabilities. Some countries have laws in place to make sure that people with disabilities are given fair opportunities, but even outside of the law, there are good moral reasons as well as business ones.
Investing in students from the start means low risk for your business later on. In addition, accessible services and content can actually increase the revenue you gain from students instead of decreasing it.
Here are some tips on how you can help improve the accessibility of education for students of all abilities.
Make Your Courses Accessible
It’s important to make sure your courses are accessible so that students with a range of disabilities can access them.
When making your courses accessible, it’s best to make them as inclusive as possible by designing them universally usable, meaning you should avoid using color as this is an identifier that may not be available for every student who uses your course.
You should also ensure all information has alternative text descriptions and that the content is structured so that anyone who uses assistive technology can take advantage of the information presented.
If your course will be presented live over a video conferencing system, using CART services (Communication Access Realtime Translation) to caption and translate for all students is an important step.
Using Alternative Text
Providing alternative text information is an easy way to ensure that everyone who uses your course will have the chance to gain access to everything. Alternative text is a text written alongside images that people can read using assistive technologies or whose vision allows them to see the images but not the text.
You could keep it simple and write something like “Image of a person with glasses” as alternative text, but research has shown that people often ignore this kind of simple writing using assistive technologies. To ensure your alternative text is utilized, you should write more detailed descriptions of what the image shows.
The words you use in the alternative text should be relevant to the image and help clarify what is shown. Describe the important parts of what you’re showing, such as how many people are shown in an image or if more than one thing is being shown.
Another great way to make your content more accessible is by using a text-to-speech service for any audio content you have, video, podcasts, or audio files used for learning purposes. This will allow students to use screen reader technology to access information presented in audio format.