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There’s more than one way to make your content accessible

Getting started with accessibility can be an intimidating process. There’s no shortage of advice, methods, new terms to learn, and plenty more than can quickly become overwhelming. Accessibility can be complicated – but it doesn’t always have to be. By learning some of the key concepts underlying accessible content, you can prepare yourself with principles that can be broadly applied, and make big improvements in your content. 

Stay with us as we go through why there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and the most important practices you can adopt for better accessibility.

The diversity of accessibility requirements

While there are common themes in the broader field of accessibility, we should never make assumptions about the specific requirements of one person, or how they might engage with content. Inclusive learning encompasses permanent, temporary or situational scenarios – to include any type of learner in any type of situation.

The different ways that people can use assistive technology is a good example of this. Screen readers are an important form of assistive technology for people who are blind or vision impaired. Other types of assistive technology can benefit people who have cognitive or learning disabilities, neurodiverse people, people who are Deaf or hard of hearing and those with mobility impairments. Different users will have their own requirements, as well as preferences, for engaging with digital content. This doesn’t mean though, that you need to create multiple versions of content to address these different needs. As the next section details, following core accessibility principles will give you the best chance of addressing these different needs in one go. These practices can help all students engage with content and concentrate more effectively.

Follow the UTS LX Accessible Practices

The LX.lab at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) This link takes you away from the ADCET page, has developed accessible content practices and resources This link takes you away from the ADCET page – that are easy-to-follow practices for making your learning materials clear and accessible. Please note: All the links in the list below will take you away from the ADCET website.

Get into the habit of referencing this list when you need to create content – it is much easier to make something accessible from the beginning than it is to go back and fix problems.

You may find that after some time, thinking about accessibility and ensuring your new content is accessible becomes second nature. Like any skill, practice helps a lot.

Bring up accessibility in the classroom

It can make a big difference if students feel comfortable approaching you about their accessibility requirements, knowing that you’ll listen and understand. Set the tone by letting students know in Week 1 that they are welcome to discuss their accessibility requirements with you. This is also a good opportunity to refer students to your Accessibility Service team (or equivalent area for your institution) if they’re not aware of it yet.

You may never know if there are people with disabilities in your class – some people prefer not to disclose their disability. But for students who do not disclose, just being in a welcoming and supportive environment can make all the difference.

Consult with your local accessibility team about new types of content

If you’re thinking about introducing a new type of content in your class, it’s a good idea to check in with your local accessibility team, who will be able to advise if there are any potential accessibility issues with your new content.

Use tools to make accessibility processes faster

There are now many useful tools to help you in your accessibility practice. Many Learning Management Systems (LMS) have an Accessibility Checker. Accessibility information for some of the common LMS systems are listed below:

These can help to spot anything you might have missed, and automated captions can minimise the amount of time you spend on videos (whilst always remembering to review and check automated captions for accuracy).

The best way to use accessibility checkers is by first following the other accessible content practices to format and structure your page with accessibility in mind from the beginning, and then running the checker when you’ve finished creating the page to check if you have missed anything. It is much easier to fix a page that is mostly accessible than to try to retrofit accessibility for an inaccessibly designed page.

Overview of accessibility checkers

The accessibility checkers like the Canvas Accessibility Checker are a great inbuilt tool that will scan your page and produce a report pointing out different types of accessibility problems and prompt you to fix them. Any automated accessibility checker, will not pick up on all issues, it is a useful way of minimising some content issues.

Use accessibility checkers mindfully, mainly as a proofing tool and not as a solution for all accessibility issues.

Remember to be flexible

There aren’t many circumstances where content can’t be made accessible, either through alterations or by providing an alternative. Your knowledge of accessibility can also be enormously beneficial for your students, as a good example to learn from. All students need to be prepared to work in inclusive environments, and helping them to be informed about accessibility can lead to an increased sense of belonging, engagement with the subject content, and with each other.

By spending a little time to acquaint yourself with the basics, you’ll find that not only is it easy to create accessible content, you can also make big improvements with small measures, while ensuring that you fulfil legal obligations to provide accessible content.

A special thank you to LX.lab, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), for allowing ADCET to adapt their There’s more than one way to make your content accessible This link takes you away from the ADCET page, and Accessibility checkers: accessible practice This link takes you away from the ADCET page for our website.

This post is co-authored by Ashley Willcox, Inclusive Practices Support Officer at UTS LX.lab, and Rhiannon Hall, author at LX at UTS

(March 2022)