Accessibility Toolkit

1. ISU Course Template

The ISU course template provides the key characteristics of an accessible Canvas course structure. Add the template to your blank course during the Canvas course creation process and utilize the resources and structure to develop your Canvas content.

2. Develop your Syllabus

Set a student-centered tone for your inclusive classroom by developing a Learning-Centered Syllabus.

Add the Accessibility Syllabus Statement and encourage students who may be eligible to receive accommodations for a documented disability to contact Student Accessibility Services.

Review the strategies for accessible communication and incorporate the strategies into your syllabus and course to improve the experience of all students in your course.

3. Use modules to organize your content

Canvas Modules allow you to organize course materials, assignments, and assessments in a linear path. Consider how you might organize and group course content into manageable chunks so that students know where to find course information and expectations.

Things to Consider:

    • Group module content by unit, chapter, concept, or time frame and arrange it in chronological order.
    • Utilize a consistent organizational system and naming structure. Consider using headers such as Read, Watch, Complete, etc. to guide students’ course interaction.
    • Create descriptive titles for module contents so that students who use assistive technology can easily navigate through content.

4. Minimize options in the Navigation menu

Limit the number of course navigation links to improve the experience of screen reader users and students new to the course. Limiting the number of options by removing unused and redundant links makes students’ ability to locate the important course content more efficient, especially for students that use screen readers. For instance, if all assignments are included within the Modules organization, consider removing Assignments from the Course Navigation Menu.

5. Discussion Boards

Students that use screen readers and text-to-speech software will require extended time to navigate lengthy discussions. To improve accessibility consider splitting students into small groups for discussions and creating separate discussion forums to address new topics.

6. Format Content with the Rich Content Editor

All text boxes located with Canvas allow the user to utilize the Rich Content Editor (RCE) features to ensure that content is formatted appropriately for use with accessible technology such as screen readers.

Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker, located below the text box, provides notification of accessibility concerns on the page and information on how to easily correct those errors before you save and publish your content. Click on the Accessibility Checker icon to receive instant feedback.

Pages vs. PDF

Create course content within Canvas on pages rather than linking to PDFs and other document files. This allows you to ensure that pages are formatted appropriately and enables page content to flex to the width of the screen which creates a better viewing experience for individuals accessing Canvas via mobile devices.

Headings

Structure your content with headings and subheadings organized sequentially using the Paragraph dropdown in the RCE toolbar.

Tables

Tables should be used to structure and organize information, they should not be used for page layout.

Header: Assign table headers from the Table menu in the RCE toolbar.

    1. After creating your table, highlight the header cells.
    2. Open the Table menu and select Cell > Cell properties from the dropdown menu.
    3. From the Cell type, dropdown menu select Header cell.
    4. From the Scope dropdown assign Row or Column.

Table Caption: Add a table caption using the Table menu in the RCE toolbar.

    1. Click on any cell in the table.
    2. Open the Table menu.
    3. Select Table Properties.
    4. Check the box next to Show caption, and click Save.
    5. Click above the table and enter the table caption
Lists

Format lists with the List button in the RCE toolbar.

Math and Science Formulas

Format math and science formulas using the Equation Editor in the RCE toolbar.

Alternative Text and Image Descriptions

Add textual descriptions of all non-text content (i.e., images, maps, charts, graphs, formulas presented as images, etc.) to provide access to screen reader users.

Alt Text

    1. Add descriptive text (approximately 125 characters) in the Alt Text field of the dialog box that appears when you add images using the Embed Images button in the RCE toolbar.
    2. If the image has text in it, include all of the text verbatim.
    3. If the image has no associated meaning and is purely decorative, select the Decorative Image checkbox.
Image Description

Images and other non-text content such as maps, charts, and graphs that require a detailed description of more than 125 characters should be accompanied by an image description. The image description should be text added near the image so that it may be accessed by all users.

For more information, read about How to Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions.

7. Hyperlinks

Create descriptive and concise hyperlinks that tell the user where the link will take them or what the title of the document is, and avoid “Click Here” and “Read More” links.

When possible, links should not open in a new tab. This allows users to navigate using the back button in their browser to return to the previous page. If links will open in a new tab, alert users what will happen when they follow the link.

8. Color and Color Contrast

Ensure sufficient color contrast between text and its background. When using the Rich Content Editor in Canvas the Accessibility Checker will alert to color concerns. For other documents, you may check contrast using a color contrast checker. To meet general WCAG 2.1 AA color contrast standards, the contrast ratio must be at least 4.5:1.

In addition, color should not be used alone to relay information, nor should it be the only mechanism used to emphasize essential information.

Captions

Course media should be produced to provide equitable access to all students, including those that cannot engage with the material via sight or sound. For audio-only media, a transcript is required; for video, closed captions. Should you be creating a video that contains detailed images required for context, audio descriptions may be necessary.

When you make course media decisions, choose those with available captions or transcripts. If you must utilize media that does not include captions or transcripts, it is your responsibility to ensure that captions or transcripts are developed and made available.

Formatting Course Documents

The Office of Digital Access at ISU provides instructions and assistance with formatting accessible documents.

  1. Microsoft Word
  2. Microsoft PowerPoint
  3. Adobe PDF
  4. Microsoft Outlook email

Plan for a diverse audience

Your classroom may include students that may have disabilities that impact their ability to see, hear, move, speak or understand the information presented in some ways.  To best address the diverse needs of your audience:

  1. Ensure your classroom, lab, or alternative location is accessible. Confirm that all students have transportation to alternative meeting sites.
  2. Utilize interactive technology that has passed university vetting for accessibility and security. Consider providing alternative interaction modes to ensure ease of use for all students (i.e., chat, verbal discussion, exit tickets, polling, etc.)
  3. Ensure that accommodated seating remains available for students that require it.
  4. Speak clearly and use a microphone if available.
  5. Live stream your course.
    • Enable captioning.
    • Broadcast any problem solving/work you do at the front of the classroom.
    • Make a recording and post it for students to view later.
  6. Be visible, avoid walking around the room especially if you are not using a microphone.
    • Participants can see your face which is essential for quality communication.
    • Students will be able to hear and understand you better.
  7. Repeat student questions or discussion points.
  8. Give students time to process information, pause between topics, and ask if anyone has questions.
  9. Provide handouts, slides, and other materials in accessible formats and prior to class.

Work with interpreters and captioners

  1. Add interpreters and/or captioners to your Canvas course
  2. Provide interpreters and captioners with course materials in advance
  3. Assist with difficult terminology, explain acronyms, terms, names, etc and be available to assist with questions
  4. Ensure that interpreters have appropriate space in the classroom

Consider activities that may create accessibility concerns such as class discussions, quick transitions, or maneuvering around the room.

  1. Learn more about Learning Spaces Strategies for an inclusive environment.

Create accessible visuals

  1. Text and images on slides, videos, posters, etc. should be large enough to read even in the back of the room
  2. Use sufficient color contrast
  3. Read all information that is displayed on a slide aloud
  4. Provide verbal descriptions of any images, graphics, etc. that are displayed

Plan for a diverse audience

Your classroom may include students that may have disabilities that impact their ability to see, hear, move, speak or understand the information presented in some ways. To best address the diverse needs of your audience:

    1. Ensure any technology used passes accessibility standards. Consider providing alternative interaction modes to ensure ease of use for all students (i.e., chat, verbal discussion, exit tickets, polling, etc.)
    2. Speak clearly and use an external microphone if available.
    3. Be visible, and remain on camera.
      • Participants can see your face which is essential for quality communication.
      • Students will be able to hear and understand you better.
    4. Describe visuals and read any presented text aloud.
    5. Give students time to process information, pause between topics and, ask if anyone has questions.
    6. Enable live transcription/captions so that all users may utilize this function should they need to.
    7. Provide handouts, slides, and other materials in accessible formats and prior to class

Create accessible visuals

    1. Text and images on slides, videos, posters, etc. should be large enough to read even in the back of the room
    2. Use sufficient color contrast
    3. Read all information that is displayed on a slide aloud
    4. Provide verbal descriptions of any images, graphics, etc. that are displayed
    5. Ensure that required accessibility specialists such as interpreters and captioners have required access to the online platform and that technology is functioning appropriately.
    6. Consider the needs of students when setting course policies such as camera and participation requirements. Provide flexibility and alternative options to provide the best experience for all learners.
    7. Learn more about the accessibility features of the virtual meeting platforms available at Iowa State University.
      1. Webex Accessibility Features
      2. Zoom Accessibility Features
      3. Microsoft Teams Accessibility Features

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