Assistive technology helps many students with disabilities achieve their educational goals. The following list offers guidelines for creating materials that these technologies recognize.
- Software applications for visually impaired students can read course materials aloud. However, screen readers cannot recognize PDF files which contain text that is an image.
- Whenever possible, create course materials in Word, then, if desired, create a PDF from the Word document.
- When creating documents in Word, use styles in Word to organize materials in a course document hierarchically. For example, apply the style “Heading 1” to first level headings, “Heading 2” to sub-headings, etc. This way, screen readers understand the most important information and convey it to visually impaired users.
- Use the Navigation Pane under the View tab in Word to review the outline of your document and make sure that the headings organize information in the best way.
- Use Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana fonts, which are easily recognized by screen magnifying applications for visually-impaired students.
- Use high contrast colors. For example, instead of bright yellow text on a kelly green background, use white text on a dark green background.
- Use alt tags to describe images.
- Word makes it easy to create an alt tag for an image. Right or Ctrl+click on the image, select format image, then type a short descriptive phrase under the “alt text” option.
- This link to Adobe Reader’s accessibility guidelines offers more advice on creating accessible PDF files.
- When adding links in your document or website, rather than writing “click here” offer a description of the link.
- When using multimedia, offer alternatives for students who might not be able to view or hear the media.
- When creating videos for class, create a script that you follow so that a transcript can easily accompany the video. If possible, add captions to the video.
- Be aware that some software and applications are not easily accessible for students with disabilities. For example:
- Google Docs, while an excellent collaborative writing tool, is not as accessible as other programs. When using Google Docs, consider possible alternative assignments that could be offered for students with visual and hearing impairments.
- Many online course materials from textbook companies and Massive Open Online Courses from well-known providers, while compliant with federal guidelines, may not be readily accessible for students with disabilities.
While faculty cannot anticipate every potential learning alternative for students, creating course materials easily recognized by widely-used software programs for students with disabilities and utilizing universal design principles increases the likelihood that the online and hybrid course will be accessible to all students.
Also contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities if you would like more information about creating accessible classes at Baruch College. They are located in Room 2-271, Newman Vertical Campus and can be reached at 646-312-4590.
The federal government has published a brochure detailing educational institutions’ responsibilities to their students with disabilities: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/news/section-504.pdf.