The course design and development process should ensure that course navigation facilitates ease of use and information is provided about the accessibility of all technologies required in the course. Also, the course should provide alternative means of access to course materials in formats that meet the needs of diverse learners, which can be met by providing information in the course about how students can obtain accommodations from the Disability Resource Center. A recommended practice is to build text alternatives to audio/visual material into the first week of course content so that if a student who requires an accommodation enrolls in your course, they will not fall behind while captions, transcripts, or other alternatives are being created for the rest of the course.
Accommodations in Online Courses at UNF
At the University of North Florida, the Disability Resource Center is responsible for providing accommodations for students with diagnosed disabilities. These accommodations may include, but are not limited to, extended testing time, providing transcripts for audio or video presentations, and audio for text materials. Some students may need an appropriate accommodation as required by disability laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in order to complete their coursework. Students who seek reasonable accommodations must first register with the UNF Disability Resource Center (DRC) and then present their faculty with a current Letter of Accommodations provided by the DRC that states allowed accommodations for the student.
Accessibility in Online Courses
There are several factors that must be considered when removing the barriers that stand in the way of students with various disabilities. Often, these disabilities present themselves in different ways, but most can be accommodated with simple design adjustments that will make your course universally accessible. These adjustments stand to benefit all students and not just those with a disability.
Below are a few examples of ways to make course content more accessible:
- Choose a sans-serif font with a minimum size of 12 points and 25-30% line spacing. Verdana, Tahoma and Arial typefaces are ideal.
- Avoid the use of italic fonts.
- Avoid using color-coding to organize course content or to convey emphasis and stick to black font.
- If using color, particularly if there is text on top of a color background (like a button or banner), stick to colors with a contrast ratio of 4.5:1. Use WebAIM's Color Contrast Checker to verify the contrast ratio of colors.
- Include alternative text for any graphics, images, tables or hyperlinks.
- Include a transcript for embedded audio files, including narrated PowerPoint presentations.
- Include closed-captioning for videos or provide a transcript of the video.
- Use meaningful hyperlink text. For example, UNF Website instead of http://www.unf.edu.
- Use headings in Word, PowerPoint, PDF, and Excel documents to allow for screen readers to navigate through the content easily.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) refers to a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL allows for the creation of instructional goals, materials, and activities that work for everyone as a flexible approach to meet individual needs. The principles of UDL can help guide your Blackboard course toward ultimate accessibility with regard to design.
The three principles of Universal Design for Learning include:
- Multiple Means of Representation: Present information and content in a variety of ways.
- Multiple Means of Expression: Differentiate the ways in which students can demonstrate what they have learned.
- Multiple Means of Engagement: Stimulate and encourage interest and motivation for learning.
As you plan to develop your online course, it is important to remember that some students may use assistive technology. Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. These products and services are designed to help people who have difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, etc. Different disabilities require different assistive technologies. Take this into account as you are developing your course materials.
Common assistive technologies include but are not limited to:
- Low tech communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.
- High tech devices such as special purpose computers.
- Hardware such as prosthetics, attachment devices (mounting systems), and positioning devices.
- Computer hardware, like special switches, keyboards, and pointing devices.
- Computer software such as screen-readers or communication software.
- Inclusive or specialized learning materials and curriculum aids.
- Specialized curricular software.
- Electronic devices, wheel chairs, walkers, braces, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze, and head trackers.
(Information adapted from the Assistive Technology Industry Association)