eCampus Accessibility Checklist and Guide

Last revised on 5/16/2024 by kek

Overview

This post provides a guide to implementing the eCampus Accessibility Checklist, including disabilities and common barriers, accessibility frameworks, rationale for accessibility standards, and resources for implementation.

Introduction

The eCampus Accessibility Checklist and accompanying Guide were developed to aid faculty in developing an online course accessible to students with disabilities. Online courses designed in collaboration with eCampus must pass a Quality Matters (QM) review to meet evidence-based standards of course design quality. One of these standards is General Standard 8 on Accessibility and Usability. This checklist is designed to help faculty meet Standard 8 and related federal disability law.

The guide provides annotations for checklist items, including:

  • Item’s point-value and relative importance
    Note: Some checklist items in the guide are preceded with an asterisk (*), which indicates "at a glance" that it is a 3-point Essential item. The annotation for every checklist item contains its point value and relative importance.
  • Aligned QM Specific Review Standard
  • Disability types generally impacted
  • Reason for the item’s inclusion in the checklist
  • Resources for implementing the checklist item

Diversity of Abilities

People may experience barriers to accessing digital content for a variety of reasons, whether it be a disability from birth, illness, or an accident, a temporary impairment, age-related impairments, or a situational limitation. Some individuals may not identify as having a disability even if they do experience functional limitations. While not an exhaustive list, some types of disabilities include:

Disability Category Examples of Disabilities and Impairments Examples of Barriers
Auditory
  • Hard of hearing
  • Deafness
  • Audio content without captions or transcripts
Cognitive, Learning, and Neurological
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Learning disabilities
  • Mental health disabilities
  • Memory impairments
  • Neurodiversity (e.g., ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder)
  • Seizure disorders
  • Vestibular disorders
  • Complex navigation and page layouts
  • Moving or blinking content that cannot be turned off
  • Content that is not designed for use with a screen reader
Physical/Motor
  • Amputation
  • Arthritis
  • Reduced dexterity
  • Muscle weakness/damage
  • Paralysis
  • Tremors and spasms
  • Content that is not designed for navigation with a keyboard
  • Complex navigation and page layouts
  • Controls (e.g., links) as images without equivalent text alternatives
Speech
  • Apraxia
  • Stuttering
  • Muteness
  • Offering voice as the only way to communicate
Visual
  • Color blindness
  • Low vision
  • Blindness
  • Complex navigation and page layouts
  • Content that is not designed for use with a screen reader
  • Images missing alternative (alt) text
  • Videos missing text/audio alternatives
  • Content that cannot be resized
  • Content with insufficient contrast
  • Content that uses color alone to convey meaning

Refer to W3C WAI's Diverse Abilities and Barriers page for more information about each type of disability and common barriers.[1]

Each item on the eCampus Accessibility Checklist is designed to reduce or eliminate a barrier that people with disabilities experience when accessing digital content. Annotations list one or more disability categories to provide additional context to each standard's purpose. This is meant to be illustrative and is not a complete list of all disabilities and barriers.

Points and Relative Value

Each checklist item is assigned points depending on its relative importance. Definitions are as follows: 

Points Relative Value Definition
3 Essential These items are essential for meeting 3-point QM standards on accessibility or federal disability law. If these items are unaddressed, the content may be impossible to read or understand for many people with disabilities.
2 Very Important These items support QM standards on accessibility. If these items are unaddressed, the content may be difficult to read or understand for many people with disabilities.
1 Important These items support QM standards on accessibility. If these items are unaddressed, the content may provide a less-than-optimal experience for many people with disabilities.

Faculty designing online courses in collaboration with eCampus are expected to meet all 3-point Essential items on the eCampus Accessibility Checklist at an 85% or better level.

Resources for Implementation

Since technology is constantly updating, this guide focuses on what to consider when making an accessible course and why. Links to selected external resources on how to implement a checklist item are included in each annotation. These resources are typically curated from the platform’s help guides (e.g., Microsoft Support, Blackboard Support) as vendors generally have the most up-to-date support for their product. However, you may find it helpful to search for additional resources on your own, such as YouTube video tutorials.

A number of accessibility tools are available to support you in making accessible courses, such as built-in accessibility checkers (e.g., Microsoft Products, Adobe Acrobat Pro, HuskyCT/Blackboard). Information on the availability and limitations of relevant accessibility checkers is provided.

Frameworks

Two common frameworks for addressing accessibility include WCAG Principles of Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning. Each eCampus Accessibility Checklist item aligns with components of one or both frameworks. While the checklist items are technical in nature, considering these frameworks more broadly allows for a more conceptual approach to creating student-centered and accessible courses.

WCAG Principles of Accessibility (“POUR”)

The W3C is an international group that determines web standards and protocols. Within the W3C, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WGAG), which are the standard in accessibility law.[2a]

While WCAG 1.0 focused on techniques-based guidelines, the release of WCAG 2 in 2008 shifted to user-centered Principles of Accessibility, also referred to as “POUR”:[2b][3]

  1. Perceivable: Content is presented in a way that a user can perceive, regardless of which sense is used (i.e., sight, sound, or touch).
  2. Operable: Users can navigate and interact with the content, including users that do not use a mouse.
  3. Understandable: Content and layout are clear, consistent, and predictable.
  4. Robust: Users can access content using a variety of devices and assistive technology.[4]

Though these Principles of Accessibility were specifically created to address web accessibility, the principles also extend to creating accessible digital content, especially when access or shared online.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

While the eCampus Accessibility Checklist addresses specific barriers people with disabilities experience, designing for those ‘in the margins’ helps the design work better for everyone.[5] “The UDL Guidelines are a tool used in the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.”[6]

Learn more about Universal Design for Learning with the interactive UDL Guidelines graphic organizer.

To summarize the UDL Guidelines most simply, they emphasize providing learners with options in their learning. Creating accessible digital content specifically addresses providing options for perception, language & symbols, and physical action:

Provide options for Perception:
Provide options for Language & Symbols:
Provide options for Physical Action:

Section 1. Text Style

This applies to all document types and web content.

1.1. Use a simple, familiar font, preferably a sans serif font when possible.

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.2

Simple, familiar, or easily parsed typefaces allow for easy readability on computers and mobile devices. Unfamiliar or complex typefaces require additional cognitive processing to understand. Additionally, sans serif fonts (e.g., Calibri, Arial, Veranda) are easier to read on lower resolution and smaller screens.[7a]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked. However, the text editor in Ultra has a limited number of fonts, most of which are simple, familiar, and sans serif.

1.2. Use only one to two fonts in each document.

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.2

Each added font used requires some orientation and cognitive load to the reader.[7b]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked. However, the text editor in Ultra has a limited number of fonts.

1.3. Do not overuse text decorations (i.e., bolded, italicized, entirely capitalized, and colored text). Only underline hyperlinks.

2 points (Very Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.1, 8.2

Long sections and many variations of text styled in atypical ways makes text more difficult to read. Additionally, each added style requires some orientation and cognitive load to the reader.[7c]

The convention of underlined links is well-established, and using underlining for other purposes will likely cause confusion, as some may try to click the underlined text.[8a]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

*1.4. Use real text and mathematical notation, not images of text and equations.

3 points (Essential)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.3

Real text—text that is rendered as text characters in documents and web pages—has many advantages over images of text. Real text provides a better experience for screen reader users than an image of text with alt text. Additionally, real text is customizable for better readability. For example, readers can change the typeface, font size, text colors, and line spacing. Translation to other languages and copy/paste functionality is also possible.[7d] This customization addresses UDL Checkpoint 1.1 (offer ways of customizing the display of information).[9a]

Similarly, equations need to be presented as mathematical notation. LaTeX is a common format for typesetting math, particularly for more complex equations.[10] For simple equations, Microsoft’s built-in equation editor, which uses Office Math Markup Language (OMML)[11], may be sufficient.[12a] Microsoft 365 subscribers (i.e., UConn Microsoft accounts) can also use LaTeX to create and edit equations in Word.[13]

When creating complex mathematical notation, consider going one step further. "One must also be able to ‘do mathematics’—that is, to understand, manipulate, and write symbolic expressions in order to solve a mathematical problem or to develop a mathematical proof."[12b] For screen reader and braille display users, having a single-line readout of an expression requires a great deal of working memory and leaves little for actually doing the math. While such a readout is technically accessible, usability could be improved. That’s where semantic mathematical notation comes in.

Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) is a web-based semantic mathematical notation that represents expressions in a way that preserves their underlying meaning. MathML is the industry standard adopted by W3C, which is the organization that sets web accessibility standards.[12c][14a] Since MathML is web-based, presenting content with mathematical notation as an HTML file (rather than a Word, PowerPoint, or PDF document) is typically the most accessible. For those using LaTeX to write mathematical notation, MathJax can convert it to MathML.[14b] While both LaTeX and OMML may be technically accessible, usability and accessibility could be improved by using MathML for complex equations, as emphasized in UDL Checkpoint 2.3 (support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols).[15]

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

1.5. Left-align text.

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.2

Except for some languages that conventionally read right to left, left-aligned text is almost always easiest to read. Long blocks of centered text require additional cognitive load to read, as each line starts in a slightly different location. Fully justified text creates spacing variations and distracting patterns of whitespace, which also increase cognitive load.[8b]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

1.6. Do not use blinking or scrolling text.

2 points (Very Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.2

WebAIM advises that "animation should almost always be user controlled or very short in duration."[16a] Continuous, longer animations make it difficult for highly distractable learners to consume the surrounding content. Other learners may not be able to read the text in the time it is visible or track and read the text while it moves. Lastly, some strobing content can potentially trigger a seizure.[16b]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

Section 2. Color Usage

This applies to all document types and web content.

*2.1. Use sufficient contrast between foreground and background color combinations in text and images.

3 points (Essential)  |  Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.2, 8.3, 8.4

Text and graphics with insufficient contrast may be impossible or difficult to see. "Sufficient" contrast is defined in numerical terms and can be measured with a contrast checker.[7e][17a][18a] While accessibility checkers will identify some contrast issues, they don’t identify all issues, such as text on a non-solid background. It’s important to conduct your own visible inspection and conduct a manual test of other potential issues.[19]

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Partially checked; the issue is classified as a Warning. The Accessibility Checker verifies sufficient contrast between text and the background. It works well for text on solid backgrounds but is unreliable when checking the contrast of text on background gradients and images. It does not check contrast between other elements (e.g., lines, shapes) and the background or contrast within images.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Checked; this issue is classified as Major, but may be elevated to a higher priority with more instances of the issue. The text editor in Ultra has a limited number of font colors, all of which have sufficient contrast with the white background. The Accessibility Report identifies contrast issues with text and figures in uploaded documents.

*2.2. Do not use color alone to convey meaning.

3 points (Essential)  |  Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.2, 8.3, 8.4

Color enhances the user experience and helps convey, differentiate, or reinforce information. However, differences in color may be impossible or difficult for some people to see (e.g., color deficient, color blind). Accessibility tools that increase contrast may override default document colors, displaying colors differently than what the creator selected. Instead of using color alone to present essential information, use an additional indicator such as textures or labels.[17b][18b][20]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

Section 3. Images

This applies to figures, images, charts, and graphs in all document types and web content.

3.1. Use figure numbers to reference images, charts, and graphs.

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.1, 8.4

Referring to figures in terms of their location on the page (e.g., the image above) may be confusing or meaningless to learners, especially if they have impaired vision.

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

3.2. Place figures in line with text (Word only) and near the content they support.

2 points (Very Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.1, 8.4

In Word, images or figures requiring alt text must be placed “in line with text” (default setting) to be recognized and announced by a screen reader. Screen readers skip images using a different text wrap setting.[21][22a]

Placing figures near the content they support reduces the cognitive load associated with locating figures. It also reduces the working memory needed to consume information presented in multiple modalities.

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Partially checked; the issue is classified as an Error. The Accessibility Checker in Word verifies that images or objects within the document’s body are placed inline with text. The Accessibility Checker does not check that figures are placed near the content they support.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

*3.3. Include meaningful alt text or descriptions with figures (e.g., images, charts, graphs, tables).

3 points (Essential)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.4

As WebAIM explains, "alternative text [or alt text] is a textual substitute for non-text content in web pages" and other digital formats. "Screen readers announce alternative text in place of images, helping users with visual or certain cognitive disabilities perceive the content and function of the images."[23a] Alt text is also displayed in place of an image if it fails to load. Alt text should contain the image's content and function, so considering the context is important. Typically, alt text can be added to the image attributes. However, complex figures, like charts and graphs may need the information provided as a description in an alternate format.[23b]

Related Resources:
Writing Alt Text:

Adding Alt Text:

Accessibility Tools:

Caution! While some tools provide AI-generated alt text, note that these descriptions are generally quite poor and do not rise to the level of “meaningful.”

  • Microsoft Products: Partially checked; the issue is classified as an Error. The Accessibility Checker identifies objects missing alt text or objects with alt text containing image names or file extensions. Beyond checking for an alt text and file name match, the Accessibility Checker is to verify that alt text is meaningful or identify if an image is inappropriately marked as decorative.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Partially checked. The Accessibility Checker identifies objects missing alt text. The Accessibility Checker is unable to verify that alt text is meaningful or identify if an image is inappropriately marked as decorative.
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Partially checked; this issue is classified as Major, but may be elevated to a higher priority with more instances of the issue. When adding an image in Ultra, the user is prompted to either enter alt text or mark the image as decorative. Images missing alt text will show Ally’s Low Accessibility Score button in the instructor view and are identified in the Accessibility Report. As a means to identify meaningful alt text, Ally will provide a Low Accessibility Score on images where the alt text matches the file name. Beyond checking for an alt text and file name match, the accessibility tools are unable to verify that alt text is meaningful or identify if an image is inappropriately marked as decorative.

3.4. Only use animated images when they contribute to the learning experience and support the course content. Do not use blinking images.

2 points (Very Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.4

Well-designed animated images can make content more accessible and enhance comprehension among learners with cognitive and learning disabilities. However, poorly designed animations can leave learners with those same disabilities unable to access the content.

Consistent with UDL Checkpoint 1.1 (offer ways of customizing the display of information),[9b] WebAIM advises that "animation should almost always be user controlled or very short in duration."[16c] Continuous, longer animations make it difficult for highly distractible learners to consume the surrounding content. Lastly, some strobing content can potentially trigger a seizure.[16d]

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

Section 4. Content Authoring Tools

Content authoring tools include all software used to create content such as HuskyCT, Word, and PowerPoint.

4.1. Provide documents with a unique descriptive title and file name.

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.1

Most people navigating a computer have multiple windows and tabs open at a given time, and screen reader users are no different. Using unique descriptive titles and file names helps orient screen reader users as they navigate. Meaningful titles and file names also reduce learners’ cognitive load, as they know what to expect from the document.[24a] Note that you must add your document title to the document properties for a screen reader to interpret it as the title.[22b]

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Partially checked. The Accessibility Checker verifies that the document has a title. It is unable to verify that the document’s title and file name are descriptive and unique.
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Partially checked; this issue is classified as Minor, but may be elevated to a higher priority with more instances of the issue. Ally verifies that an uploaded PDF has a title. It is unable to verify that the document’s title and file name are descriptive and unique.

*4.2. Organize content using standard heading levels.

3 points (Essential)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Physical/Motor; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.1, 8.2, 8.3

Screen reader users and keyboard users can navigate through a document using headings. Navigation can become cumbersome and confusing if headings are absent or used incorrectly.

To ease navigation, use built-in headings and styles and use them in the correct order with no levels skipped.[25a][22c] In most cases, this will be Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, . . . Heading 6. Husky CT has three levels, labeled Title, Heading, and Subheading.

Built-in headings also appear in the Navigation pane in Word documents, easing document navigation for everyone. Designating headings also makes it easier to manage the appearance and styling of your document. With the click of one button, font size, font decoration, line spacing, and other attributes are automatically applied or changed.

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Partially checked; the issue is classified as a Tip. The Accessibility Checker identifies lengthy content that does not use any built-in headings. It does not identify instances of skipped heading levels.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Partially checked. The Accessibility Checker verifies that the document does not skip heading levels. (Adobe calls this “appropriate nesting.”) It does not identify content that is missing built-in headings.
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Partially checked; this issue is classified as Minor, but may be elevated to a higher priority with more instances of the issue. The Accessibility Report identifies content (in the text editor, uploaded Word documents, and uploaded PDFs) that skips heading levels and lengthy content that does not use any built-in headings.

*4.3. Use a unique, descriptive title in the “Title placeholder” for each slide (PowerPoint only).

3 points (Essential)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Physical/Motor; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.1, 8.2, 8.3

Screen reader users and keyboard users can navigate through a PowerPoint document using slide titles because slide titles are interpreted as Headings in screen reader software. The Title Slide title is coded as Heading 1 and content slide titles are coded as Heading 2. Navigation can become confusing if titles are absent or formatted incorrectly.

To ease navigation, PowerPoint slide titles should be unique, describe the content on the slide, and use the "Title placeholder" textbox. Using the proper placeholders is important for screen readers to correctly interpret the slide title as a title.[26][22d]

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Partially checked; the issue is classified as a Tip. The Accessibility Checker in PowerPoint verifies that each slide has a title and that all titles are unique. It cannot check that the title is descriptive.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Partially checked. When PowerPoint documents are converted to PDFs, the slide titles are coded as headings. The Accessibility Checker verifies that the document does not skip heading levels (i.e., title levels). (Adobe calls this “appropriate nesting.”) It does not identify content that is missing built-in headings. It cannot check that the title (i.e., heading) is descriptive.
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Partially checked; this issue is classified as Minor, but may be elevated to a higher priority with more instances of the issue. The Accessibility Report does not identify this issue in PowerPoint files. However, for PowerPoint files converted to PDF, it does identify uploaded PDFs that skip heading levels and lengthy PDFs that do not use any built-in headings. It cannot check that the title (i.e., heading) is descriptive.

*4.4. Place essential information in the document’s body, not text boxes (Word only) or headers/footers.

3 points (Essential)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.3

Screen readers may skip content in headers and footers as well as Word document text boxes. Any learner, regardless of disability, viewing Word with the “Separate Pages” setting turned off also will not see header and footer content. Place essential information in the document's body. In PowerPoint, this means using the proper placeholders, when possible. Using slide placeholders helps all learners by making text visible in the outline view. In Word, do not use text boxes. Reserve the header and footer for content like page numbers.[25b]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

4.5. Use descriptive links.

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Physical/Motor; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.1

Screen readers generally announce "link" followed by the text of the link. Keyboard users and "screen reader users often navigate from link to link, skipping text in between," and "[they] sometimes obtain an alphabetically-organized list of links."[27] Therefore, the link text needs to be long enough to be descriptive (but not too long), and it should make sense out of context.

"Click here," "link to [destination]," or similar directions do not make sense out of context and, in some cases, are redundant. Writing out a URL as link text is usually lengthy, lacks meaning, and should not be used.[28] (One exception is when conveying a short, meaningful, and memorable URL, such as "huskyct.uconn.edu," for the purpose of facilitating web navigation in the future.) Generally, it’s best practice to use the article or resource title as link text.

One place this could create conflict is citations, as many style guides specify including the URL in the citation entry. This makes sense for printed content but hinders accessibility for digital content. One alternative is to omit a written URL and use the article or resource title within the citation as the link text, which is the approach this guide takes.

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

4.6. Format lists correctly.

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.2, 8.3

Lists are a great way to organize information. Lists are recommended as potential replacements for simple tables, since correctly formatted lists are easier to navigate with screen readers.[29a] WebAIM clarifies that "list structure should be used wherever a logical list is present, and nowhere else. . . Don’t apply list structure to elements that do not logically form a list."[30]

Don’t create lists by manually typing in numbers, dashes, or indenting. Instead, use the built in "lists" tool, so screen reader users can navigate the list and access the relative position of each item in the list. Moreover, use the correct type of list for the context. Use ordered lists (e.g., 1, 2, 3, …) when there is a defined sequence or order for the items in the list. Use unordered lists (e.g., bullet points) when there is no specific order for the items in the list.[29b]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked. However, when manually typing numbers or dashes to create a list, Microsoft typically converts it to a built-in list automatically.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked. However, when manually typing numbers or dashes to create a list in the text editor, HuskyCT typically converts it to a built-in list automatically.

*4.7. Create data tables that use header rows and repeat header rows.

3 points (Essential)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.2, 8.3

Tables are a great way to present data and allow learners to make visual associations they might not make with a different presentation. Tables should only be used to present data or tabular information. Tables should not be used to organize or lay out a page.[31a]

Tables must be formatted properly to be accessible to screen reader users. An image of a table should not be used to present a table.[16e] Screen reader users can use “table reading mode” to navigate a table if it is properly formatted with designated header rows. Otherwise, the screen reader will read the table straight through by row, making it difficult to understand.[32][31b]

When possible, avoid complex table formatting such as merged cells and multiple levels of headers. Most screen readers fully support complex formatting, but not all. And even when technically accessible to screen reader users, extremely complex tables may be functionally inaccessible due to the cognitive load needed to understand the table.[31c]

Repeat header rows are important for long tables, as they reprint the header row at the top of each page and reduce the cognitive load of remembering which column is which. It’s important to use the repeat header row feature rather than simply duplicating the row, however, as it allows screen reader users to ignore the repeated information as they navigate the table.[33]

Related Resources:
How Screen Reader Users Navigate Tables:
Creating Tables with Header Rows:
Creating Tables with Repeat Header Rows:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Partially checked; the issue is classified as an Error. When creating a table, Microsoft automatically designates the first row and column as headers. The Accessibility Checker identifies tables that do not specify a header row. It does not verify that tables have repeat header rows or that tables are used for data (and not layout).
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Partially checked. The Accessibility Checker identifies tables that do not specify a header row. It does not verify that tables have repeat header rows or that tables are used for data (and not layout).
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Partially checked; this issue is classified as Major, but may be elevated to a higher priority with more instances of the issue. The Accessibility Checker identifies content (in the text editor, uploaded Word documents, and uploaded PDFs) with tables that do not specify a header row. It does not verify that tables have repeat header rows or that tables are used for data (and not layout).

4.8. Ensure the slide reading order is logical (PowerPoint only).

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.2, 8.3

From WebAIM:

Although it is best to use slide layouts when possible, there may be times when you need to add content to a slide when it would be impractical to create a new slide layout. By default, a screen reader will read the slide title first, followed by other content in elements defined in the slide layout. Then it will read any additional content on the side in the order it was added to the slide. If you add content with this principle in mind, it should be presented to screen reader users in a logical order.[34]

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Prompts manual check; the issue is classified as a Warning. The Accessibility Checker in PowerPoint prompts the user to manually check slide reading order. It only prompts for slides that have added objects meeting certain criteria (e.g., number of objects, position on the slide).
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Prompts manual check. For PowerPoint files converted to PDF, the Accessibility Checker prompts the user to manually check page reading order.
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

4.9. Use subtle and limited slide transitions (PowerPoint only).

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.5

WebAIM advises that "animation should almost always be user controlled or very short in duration."[16f] Longer and conspicuous animations make it difficult for highly distractable learners to consume the presentation content.[16g]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

*4.10. Tag PDF documents.

3 points (Essential)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Physical/Motor; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standard 8.3

PDF files are almost always created from a source file and are generally used to preserve file formatting. However, screen reader users and keyboard users cannot access or navigate through the content (i.e., text, figures) in a PDF unless that PDF is "tagged." Tags are not visible; they are information stored in the document "behind the scenes."[35] WebAIM notes that "a great deal of effort is often devoted to remediating PDF files with accessibility issues"[36a] as well as skill and special software. Adobe Acrobat Pro, which requires purchase, must be used to edit and add tags to a PDF. (Unlike Adobe Reader, which is free for viewing PDFs.)[36b] However, you can verify the accessibility of a PDF without Acrobat Pro by uploading the file to HuskyCT and reviewing the accessibility score.

At a minimum, PDFs should be “auto-tagged” which is an AI-powered process of tagging a PDF. Often auto-tagging identifies most (if not all) text as normal paragraph text. While this may be technically accessible, usability and accessibility are improved with semantic tags. Semantically tagging PDFs is a manual process that includes identifying and tagging document elements such as headers, lists, and tables—the elements that many eCampus Accessibility Checklist items in Section 4 address.

Documents converted to PDF

Converting a Word or PowerPoint file to a PDF does keep some of the semantic tag structure intact. However, converted PDFs typically require additional "cleanup" work to be correctly tagged and accessible.[36c] Instead of spending extra time and effort optimizing or remediating a converted PDF file, it typically makes more sense to provide the already accessible original Word or PowerPoint file. With OneDrive, Word and PowerPoint files can open in your browser and be set to "view only," keeping many of the positive features that attract content creators to use PDFs.

Scanned PDFs & external content

The other major source of PDF files is scanned content, such as book chapters or journal articles. Scanned PDFs typically start as images in a pdf file. The text needs to be made into real text through Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and then the content needs to be tagged. This process can be messy depending on the quality of the scan, as the OCR process often interprets some characters incorrectly or misidentifies imperfections on the scanned page as text.

Before remediating a scanned PDF, ensure that the content is truly not available in another accessible format. Many books are available as ebooks and many journal articles are available in both HTML (web page) and accessible PDF formats. Linking to the content through the library allows use of an already accessible format (and follows copyright law).

While publishers are required by law to provide accessible content (i.e., HTML and/or tagged PDFs) many are not compliant with their legal (and ethical) responsibilities and refuse to provide accessible content without a documented accommodation request from the Center for Students with Disabilities. When they do provide “accessible PDFs,” it is typically auto-tagged rather than semantically tagged. Some content is available through multiple databases; one database might only provide an inaccessible PDF, but another might provide an HTML version or accessible PDF. Searching multiple sources may locate an already accessible format.

In sum, it’s typically a better experience for everyone involved to avoid using PDFs where possible. If there's no accessible alternative available, the PDF must be made accessible with tagging.

Related Resources:

Accessibility Tools:

  • Microsoft Products: Not applicable
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Partially checked. The Accessibility Checker verifies the PDF is tagged. If it is not tagged, it provides the option to “Fix,” which auto-tags the document. It does not verify that the PDF is semantically tagged.
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Partially checked; this issue is classified as Minor, but may be elevated to a higher priority with more instances of the issue. Ally verifies that an uploaded PDF is tagged. (If a scanned PDF needs to be OCRed and tagged, the report will identify lack of OCR as the issue at a Severe priority level.) It cannot verify that the PDF is semantically tagged.

*4.11. Use the accessibility checker/report in each content authoring tool to check for and fix [essential] accessibility issues.

3 points (Essential)  |  Auditory; Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Physical/Motor; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.2, 8.3, 8.4

Reviewing for and editing errors is an important part of any project, and course design and development is no exception. The accessibility checkers in HuskyCT, Word, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, and other programs can help identify and fix many, but not all, accessibility problems.

While eCampus encourages faculty to resolve all identified accessibility issues, faculty designing online courses in collaboration with eCampus are expected to fix issues that relate to 3-point Essential items on the eCampus Accessibility Checklist.

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Refer to Rules for the Accessibility Checker for issues the built-in Microsoft Accessibility Checker identifies.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Refer to Create and verify PDF accessibility: Accessibility issues for issues the built-in Adobe Accessibility Checker identifies.
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Husky CT’s built-in accessibility checker is called Ally. Refer to Course Accessibility Report for issues Ally identifies and compiles in the Accessibility Report. Note that Ally typically only identifies issues in uploaded documents, not documents hosted elsewhere (e.g., SharePoint) and linked to within the course.

Section 5. Videos and Audio

5.1. Ensure video and audio quality is clear.

2 points (Very Important)  |  Auditory; Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.5, 8.6

Video that is grainy or has poor background contrast may be difficult for some learners to see. Audio that has background noise or distortion can be difficult for some learners to hear.[37a] Poor video and audio are also distracting and unduly increase learner’s cognitive load.[38][39]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

5.2. Title videos with reference to the video’s topic.

1 point (Important)  |  Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.1, 8.6

People who use screen readers may not be able to see the video thumbnail, which conveys the presence of a video as well as contextual information about the video. Instead, they must rely on the video title to know that a video is present and what it is about.[40] Meaningful titles also reduce learners’ cognitive load, as they know what to expect from the video.[24b]

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

*5.3. Caption videos and synchronous virtual meetings. Transcribe audio recordings.

3 points (Essential)  |  Auditory  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.5

Learners that are hard of hearing or Deaf need another way to access the audio content of videos, web conferences, and audio recordings, which captions and transcriptions provide.[41a][42a] Captions and transcripts help other learners too; 71% of people without hearing difficulties watch videos with captions.[42b]

Related Resources:
Captioning Videos:
Automatic Captioning during Virtual Meetings:

Note: Collaborate Ultra does not have automatic captioning at this time.

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Checked; the issue is classified as a Warning. The Accessibility Checker verifies embedded video and audio media has captions.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Partially checked; this issue is classified as Major, but may be elevated to a higher priority with more instances of the issue. The Accessibility Checker identifies YouTube videos (hyperlinked or embedded) without captions or with automated captions. It does not identify captioning or transcription issues with media from other sources.

5.4. Provide spoken and/or written descriptions of non-decorative visual content (e.g., text, charts, demonstrations, slides) in videos.

1 point (Important)  |  Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.5

W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) explains that "description provides content to people who are blind and others who cannot see the video adequately. It describes the visual information needed to understand the content, including text displayed in the video."[43a] This may be recorded by a narrator as a separate audio track, especially for TV shows and movies. However, the best way to provide description in instructional videos is with integrated description—integrating all the visual information into the main audio"[43b][41b]

Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

5.5. Provide accessible digital copies of documents shown in videos.

2 points (Very Important)  |  Auditory; Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Physical/Motor; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.5, 8.6

Even videos made as accessible as possible have limitations. Providing accessible digital copies of documents shown in videos allows learners to use assistive technology as needed to interact with the document and fully engage with the content, which is consistent with UDL Checkpoint 1.2 and Checkpoint 1.3 (offer alternatives for auditory and visual information, respectively).[44][45]

Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

5.6. Embed instructor-created and YouTube videos with Kaltura.

2 points (Very Important)  |  Auditory; Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Physical/Motor; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.5, 8.6

Kaltura is UConn’s video creation and hosting service, and it has been vetted by the University to comply with accessibility best practice, policy, and the law. In addition to hosting instructor-created videos, Kaltura can also stream content from YouTube, allowing YouTube videos to benefit from Kaltura’s accessibility features.

  • Captions: Kaltura offers machine captioning that can be edited for accuracy. While YouTube also has automatic captioning, Kaltura is the platform through which the University orders professional captioning for students with an accommodation. Captions are placed below the video so as not to cover important content.[46a]
  • Interactive transcripts: Captioned videos also provide the text in transcript form, highlighting text phrases as they’re spoken.[46b]
  • Speaker visibility: Recording videos with Kaltura allows for dual feed capture which is helpful for learners that use mouth movement to understand spoken language.[43c] These feeds can be visible or hidden by the viewer as needed to reduce distraction.[37b]
  • Chapters: Kaltura videos can be organized into chapters, which allows learners to know what to expect and navigate through the video.[37c]
  • Variable playback speed: The Kaltura video player allows for variable playback speed accommodating both learners that need to speed up or slow down the video,[41c][42c] which is consistent with UDL Checkpoint 4.1 (vary the methods for response and navigation).[47]
  • Accessible player: The Kaltura video player supports screen reader use and keyboard only navigation. It is also colorblind compliant and high contrast.[46c]
Related Resources:
Accessibility Tools:
  • Microsoft Products: Not checked
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro: Not checked
  • HuskyCT (Blackboard): Not checked

Section 6. External Content

*6.1. Ensure [editable] external resources (e.g., publisher’s materials, journal articles, websites) used in the course meet all [essential] checklist standards.

3 points (Essential)  |  Auditory; Cognitive, learning, and neurological; Physical/Motor; Visual  |  Quality Matters Standards 8.1—8.6

Select third-party content that is accessible based on the other standards in this checklist. If something you select is not already accessible, remediate that resource or create an alternate accessible format.

eCampus encourages faculty to select already accessible resources or remediate all resources to meet all checklist standards. However, faculty designing online courses in collaboration with eCampus are expected to fix issues that relate to 3-point Essential items on the eCampus Accessibility Checklist and are available in a readily editable format. (For example, faculty can readily edit a 3rd party Word or PowerPoint document to resolve 3-point accessibility issues but cannot edit a website or readily edit a PDF without specialized software and skills.)

A note on publisher content: While publishers are required by law to provide accessible content, many are not compliant with their legal (and ethical) responsibilities nor their own accessibility statements/policies. Therefore, one cannot assume publishers’ materials are already accessible, and these materials should be examined before adoption.

Accessibility Tools:

Refer to applicable checklist item for availability and limitations of accessibility tools.

References

  1. ^ Abou-Zahra, S. (Ed.). (2017, May 15). Diverse abilities and barriers. W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
  2. ^ a b WebAIM. (2020, September 21). Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
  3. ^ WebAIM. (2021, October 4). Constructing a POUR website.
  4. ^ Equalize Digital. (2020, February 5). Web accessibility: POUR acronym explained.
  5. ^ CAST. (2010, January 6). UDL at a glance [Video]. YouTube.
  6. ^ CAST. (2018). The UDL guidelines.
  7. ^ a b c d e WebAIM. (2020, October 27). Typefaces and fonts.
  8. ^ a b WebAIM. (2020, October 22). Text/typographical layout.
  9. ^ a b CAST. (2018). Offer ways of customizing the display of information. UDL Guidelines.
  10. ^ Scholarly. (2023, September 9). Why is LaTeX used in math? Exploring the benefits of LaTeX in mathematical notation.
  11. ^ Microsoft Support. (n.d.). Editing equations created using Microsoft Equation Editor.
  12. ^ a b c White, J. J. G. (2019). The accessibility of mathematical notation on the web and beyond. Journal of Science Education for Students with Disabilities, 23(1), 1–14.
  13. ^ Microsoft Support. (n.d.). Linear format equations using UnicodeMath and LaTeX in Word.
  14. ^ a b The University of Melbourne. (n.d.). Accessible equations.
  15. ^ CAST. (2018). Support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols. UDL Guidelines.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g WebAIM. (2020, September 22). Accessible images.
  17. ^ a b WebAIM. (2021, January 9). Contrast and color accessibility: Understanding WCAG 2 contrast and color requirements.
  18. ^ a b WebAIM. (2021, August 12). Visual disabilities: Low vision.
  19. ^ WebAIM. (2021, January 9). Contrast and color accessibility: Evaluating contrast and color use.
  20. ^ WebAIM. (2021, August 12). Visual disabilities: Color-blindness.
  21. ^ WebAIM. (2024, January 8). Images: Part 3 [Class handout]. Canvas.
  22. ^ a b c d WebAIM. (2023, December 21). Word and PowerPoint accessibility evaluation guide.
  23. ^ a b WebAIM. (2021, October 19). Alternative text.
  24. ^ a b Chen, A. (n.d.). Write descriptive page titles. Access Guide.
  25. ^ a b Microsoft Support. (n.d.). Make your Word documents accessible to people with disabilities.
  1. ^ Microsoft Support. (n.d.). Make your PowerPoint presentations accessible to people with disabilities.
  2. ^ WebAIM. (2021, October 19). Links and hypertext: Introduction to links and hypertext.
  3. ^ WebAIM. (2019, October 24). Links and hypertext: Link text and appearance.
  4. ^ a b Wolfe, A. (2020). Accessible lists. Accessibility Across the Curriculum.
  5. ^ WebAIM. (2020, May 1). Semantic structure: Regions, headings, and lists.
  6. ^ a b c WebAIM. (2017, September 18). Creating accessible tables: Data tables.
  7. ^ WebAIM. (2018, February 9). Creating accessible tables: Layout tables.
  8. ^ WebAIM. (2024, January 15). Section 4: Tables [Class handout]. Canvas.
  9. ^ WebAIM. (2021, February 26). PowerPoint accessibility.
  10. ^ WebAIM. (2023, May 31). PDF accessibility: Defining PDF accessibility.
  11. ^ a b c WebAIM. (2023, May 31). PDF accessibility: Converting documents to PDF.
  12. ^ a b c McCarron, S., Cooper, M., & Sadecki, M. (Eds.). (2015, December 3). Media accessibility user requirements. W3C.
  13. ^ ADA Site Compliance. (2024, January 3). The impact of audio quality on accessibility: Tips for clear sound delivery.
  14. ^ Kühl, T., Eitel, A., Damnik, G., & Körndle, H. (2014). The impact of disfluency, pacing, and students’ need for cognition on learning with multimedia. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 189–198.
  15. ^ New Zealand Government. (2021, June 24). Title attribute, if video published in an <iframe>. Digital.govt.nz.
  16. ^ a b c WebAIM. (2020, July 1). Captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions.
  17. ^ a b c Henry, S. L. (Ed.). (2021, November 29). User experiences and benefits to organizations. W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
  18. ^ a b c Henry, S. L. (Ed.). (2022, August 31). Audio content and video content. W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
  19. ^ CAST. (2018). Offer alternatives for auditory information. UDL Guidelines.
  20. ^ CAST. (2018). Offer alternatives for visual information. UDL Guidelines.
  21. ^ a b c Henry, S. L. (Ed.). (2021, November 29). Media players. W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
  22. ^ CAST. (2018). Vary the methods for response and navigation. UDL Guidelines.

^ Return to top

Post Feedback

    Indicating your role will help us serve our community better.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.