Accessibility in the Online Classroom

Last Updated: March 13th, 2018

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You can read about The University of Florida’s commitment to provide accessible content to people with disabilities on the UF Accessibility page. If you need to make existing material accessible in order to accommodate a student, please contact the Disability Resource Center.

As an office that supports online education, the CITT strives to create course content that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The information below will explain why accessibility is important in the design of online courses, and will provide some best practices and resources that are available if you need assistance in creating accessible course materials.

Application to All Courses

It’s important to design course content with accessibility in mind so that all students will be able to access course content and be able to receive an equivalent education. It’s best to think about ways to provide accessible content before you are in a situation where they are required. The goal is to develop courses that can meet the needs of all students and follow the university policy to provide accommodations for students with disabilities

This tool page provides guidelines on how to ensure that the materials you design are ADA compliant, but these are not official UF policies.

Best Practices

Follow these best practices when designing course content.

  1. Be aware that you may need to adjust assignments if you use a particularly visual or interactive tool. To prepare for this situation:
    1. Keep scripts of any lectures or recordings as you go.
    2. Make sure all text in your documents is selectable.
    3. Provide text instructions/descriptions to accompany any visuals.
    4. You may need to consider offering an alternate assignment which measures the same objectives but does not require the use of the particular visual or interactive tool.
    5. Here is an example where these best practices were followed as materials were developed. In their infographic “Disability Impacts All of Us“, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has included a text version at the bottom of the page that includes the same information that is included in the infographic.
  2. Always include the big three in your documents:
    1. Color contrast – Select text colors and background colors so that one does not blend in with the other. In general, use a dark text color on a light background, or a light text color on a dark background.
    2. Alternate text – Provide alternate text for any photos, charts, or graphs in your assignment instructions, lecture presentations, or course pages. Alternate text (often called alt text) is the text read aloud by screen reader programs that are used by students with vision impairments. Alt text is simple to add in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or within a learning management system (LMS). Instructions and links are provided in the Resources section below.
    3. Headings – Use headings (like H1, H2, H3) in documents and lectures to designate different sections of content as you would if you were writing an article. Screen reading programs are built to share this information with the student. Do not use headings simply as a way to highlight important words. If you want to highlight definitions or vocab, you can boldface or italicize these, and then provide a glossary at the end of the lecture or page.

Additional Resources

Accessibility Statement

Keep accessibility in mind as you develop course content and build assignments and assessments. Many online tools are not fully accessible, so it’s important to think about how you will make the assignment accessible if requested. The Disability Resource Center and the UF Accessibility page will guide you in making appropriate accommodations. You can also find out more about accessibility at our toolbox page on Accessibility in the Online Classroom.

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