Accessbility? Why to do it, how to do it.

One of the common questions people have in preparing learning materials is also the one they tend to skip over when no immediate yes/no is to be had.

Why accessibility matters to all teachers

Creating content comes with responsibility – The Australian legislation pertaining to equal rights of access for all is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992. The Blind Citizens of Australia site has an online copy-and-paste email format for lodging an inaccessible web site complaint under the DDA to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC). The applicability of the DDA legislation to internet websites was tested and proven back in 2000, with the case of Bruce Lindsay Maguire v Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games which Maguire won. The ‘industry standard’ guidelines for web accessibility is conformance and validation to W3C accessibility checklist guidelines.

How to create accessible content

PAC is a recommended set of criteria from World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0

  1. Document is marked as tagged
  2. Document Title available
  3. Document Language defined
  4. Accessible Security Settings
  5. Tab follows Tag-Structure
  6. Consistent Heading Structure
  7. Bookmarks available
  8. Accessible Font Encodings
  9. Content completely tagged
  10. Logical Reading Order
  11. Alternative Text available
  12. Correct Syntax of Tags / Rolls
  13. Sufficient contrast for Text
  14. Spaces existent

There are several common problems with documents, most often in PDF documents which are the most widely used form of electronic distribution to students. Abobe has an excellent guide for authors which is free to download.

In addition, there is a pre-flight checklist which can be used before your course materials are presented to students. Why bother? Well, besides the legal and ethical requirements – many teachers have no idea whom will finally enroll on their course. Using a inner-self probability strategy is a bad way to address these responsibilities.

Pre-flight checklist

  1. If the document contains scanned text, apply Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
  2. Add author, title and subject and set the language in the document properties
  3. Tag the document to provide structure for remediation and support for bookmarks
  4. All documents should be structured so that an accessibility statement is the first text to be read aloud, to ensure the reader does not have to try and find it.
  5. Verify accessibility (see tool below)
  6. Verify and correct the Reading Order
  7. Add descriptive text to images or mark them as background
  8. Optimize the file size and set compatibility
  9. Redact all personal and private information
  10. Add bookmarks
  11. Verify accessibility (use software or contact someone who knows how)
  12. Does the linking page contain a link to download Adobe Reader
  13. Form fields, if used, are accessible.
  14. Descriptions must reflect the nature of the input and tab order must be set in a logical sequence.
  15. Security settings, if used, do not interfere with screen readers.

Test your PDF Documents

You can download this free tool to run over your documents, which will give you a report.