Step 2: Integrating Accessibility

After designing your initial course, it’s time to think about ensuring that it is accessible to all users. Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can navigate, understand, utilize, and contribute to websites.  It covers all disabilities including visual, auditory, physical, cognitive, and speech. Additionally, web accessibility is also beneficial for those with changing abilities due to aging, slow internet connections, and people with temporary disabilities like a broken arm (Shadi & Brewer, 2012).

The Web offers people with disabilities unprecedented access to information because certain accessibility barriers like print, audio, and visual media are more easily overcome via Web technologies.

Consider this example taken from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI):

Mr. Lee wants to buy some new clothes, appliances, and music. As he frequently does, he is spending an evening shopping online. He has one of the most common visual disabilities for men: color blindness, which in his case means an inability to distinguish between green and red.

He has difficulty reading the text on many websites. When he first started using the Web, it seemed to him the text and images on a lot of websites used poor color contrast, since they appeared to use similar shades of brown. He realized that many websites were using colors that were indistinguishable to him because of his red/green color blindness. In some cases, the site instructions explained that discounted prices were indicated by red text, but all of the text looked brown to him. In other cases, the required fields on forms were indicated by red text, but again he could not tell which fields had red text.

Mr. Lee has found that he prefers websites that use sufficient color contrast, and redundant information for color. The websites accomplish this by including names of the colors of clothing as well as showing a sample of the color; by adding text cues such as an asterisk to discounted prices in addition to showing them in a different color; and by clearly indicating the required fields on the order form in addition to indicating them by color.

Ever wanted to know what it was like to have dyslexia?

This article depicts what it’s like for someone with dyslexia to use the Internet.

The video below, provided by Portland Community College as an OER (Open Educational Resource), includes stories from students whose education is impacted by inaccessible web content and ways faculty and staff can improve digital course materials to make course content more accessible.

Like Portland, GCC also has professional staff dedicated to helping instructors create accessible content. Nancy Pabros, our resident Instructional Technologist, can be reached at: or by phone at (585) 343-0055 ext. 6112.

To Care & Comply: Accessibility of Online Course Content
The next video provides a good summary of these concepts:

Simply Said: Understanding Accessibility in Digital Learning Materials

Accessibility “Top 10” Course Fixes

  1. Include the College’s Accessibility Statement
    1. Ensures students who need accommodations know how to request them
  2. Keep Content Clear
    1. Help avoid confusion for those with learning disabilities or where English is a second language
      1. Avoid slang
      2. Avoid idioms
    2. Write out acronyms the first time they are used
  3. Use Headings (Styles)
    1. Available in Blackboard, Word, gDocs
    2. Use the built-in styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3)
      1. The navigation pane is populated and used for navigation by students, especially for those using assistive technologies.
      2. A must for longer documents to navigate (skip) around.
      3. Creates consistency throughout your documents.
      4. Indents and spacing are the same for all of the same headings or styles used.
  4. Use Color, Contrast, and Images Thoughtfully
    1. Do not use an image of text, unless it is only decorative
    2. Avoid flashing images
    3. High contrast is required
      1. Black text on white background
      2. White or yellow text on black background
    4. Do not use color as the only designator
      1. Check: Does everything make sense when printed in black & white?
    5. Be careful using color blindness combinations
      1. Some examples are red/green, blue/purple combinations
  5. Review Accessibility Checker Suggestions
    1. Microsoft Word Accessibility Checker:
      1. Select File> Info> Check for Issues> Check Accessibility
    2. Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Checker:
      1. Select Tools > Accessibility > Full Check
    3. Use Ally in Blackboard; click on the gauge to find out how to improve accessibility
  6. Audio and Video Need Transcripts or Captioning
    1. Those with hearing impairments benefit
    2. Anyone working in noisy environments benefits
    3. Helps people learn new terminology
    4. Helps those where English is their second language
    5. Can you come up with another reason?
  7. Hyperlinks Must Make Sense
    1. Online Learning is descriptive, isn’t too bad, but Click Here is not acceptable
    2. Hyperlinks Best Practices:
      1. If there is a hyperlink in your material, remember to:
      2. Be descriptive with Naming (Text to Display)
      3. To edit the hyperlink:
        1. Right-click and select Edit Hyperlink…
        2. Update the “Text to Display” field, then click OK
      4. Identify file type and size if link is non-web item
        1. For example, HIS104 Syllabus (PDF, 30KB)
      5. Inform user if opening in a new window
      6. Offer link to software needed for non-web items
        1. For example, Adobe Reader is needed to open PDF files. It is free and available to download from …
  8. Provide Alternative Text
    1. 3 Ways to Provide Alternative Text
      1. Preceding Text
      2. Caption underneath images or above charts and tables
      3. Alt Text command
        1. Select image (or non-text item) > Right Click > Select Format [picture | table | chart]
  9. Consistency
    1. Naming of files needs to be consistent
      1. Students downloading content from multiple courses must be able to differentiate
      2. Good practice is to start with Course ID (ex. CHE100-Syllabus)
    2. When course navigation is consistent it will also be intuitive
      1. Students will know where to find content
      2. Students can predict what a module or week will consist of after the first module or week has been completed.
    3. Consistent highlighting or emphasis gives a quick and easy way to find important things
      1. Ex. Highlight Due Dates the same way and students can easily find due dates!
  10. Provide accessible docs so that students can convert them to the format they need
    1. Some people with Dyslexia find Comic Sans easier to read
    2. Some people may want to listen to larger docs
    3. In Blackboard, Ally can create alternate formats provided your original doc is accessible
All of these fixes or tips are easy to do.


  • take just a little bit of time
  • are common sense
  • can be used to improve your current course or be used when creating new materials

Based on a presentation by Nancy Pabros, Instructional Technologist for Accessibility

Before moving onto the next section, think about:

Can you think of any other scenarios when accessibility would be an issue to learning? What can we, as educators, do to assist learners in those situations?

Click on the title above to post your answer in the discussion lounge. 


Abou-Zahra, S., & Brewer, J. (Eds.). (2012, August 1). Stories of Web Users [Draft] How People with Disabilities Use the Web. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from

Glaser, A. (2016, March 9). What the Internet Looks Like for Someone With Dyslexia. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from

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