Accessibility Reviews for Online Courses

All new and revised online course developments are reviewed using the Quality Matters standards rubric. Currently PCC’s Online Learning Accessibility Guidelines (based on WCAG 2.0 AA) are more stringent than the Quality Matters Standard 8. To properly align the two for PCC internal reviews, the order and point values for specific standards 8.1 through 8.5 were adjusted.

What happens if a course doesn’t meet the Standards?

An icon that show a sign post with signs pointing in opposite directionsIf a course doesn’t meet the required 3 point standards, it is given a Provisional Recommendation. A Provisional Recommendation means the instructor has up to one year to address the unmet requirements. During that time the instructor may work with their Mentor, an Instructional Technology Specialist, and the Accessibility Advocate to ensure the course meets the standards when re-evaluated.

If the course doesn’t meet a 2 or 1 point standard, it may still be Recommended. Although, we will note the areas that need improvement so the instructor can work on those as time permits.

PCC Accessibility Review Guidelines
8.1 Course navigation facilitates ease of use. (3 points)
  • Clear and consistent navigation in D2L Brightspace.
  • Avoid using underline for emphasis as this type of formatting can be easily mistaken for a link.
  • Write meaningful link text.
  • When you link to web sites and external web activities, ensure that any action that requires a mouse, such as buttons and drag and drop actions, can also be completed by using only the keyboard.
  • Ensure that websites have keyboard focus (when you tab through a webpage, see if there an indication as to what item you are currently on).
Why this is important
  • Clear navigation is so helpful to those with visual disabilities in addition to those new to the online environment.
  • Links embedded in text should describe the link’s destination. This helps all users navigate more efficiently, especially screen reader users.
  • Mobility and visual disabilities often make using a mouse impossible or ineffective. If content is not keyboard accessible, it will limit who can learn from the content.
8.2 Course design facilitates readability. (3 points)
  • Accessible technologies/applications must be used for all required material.
  • Use properly formatted headings to structure the documents (HTML, Word, Google Docs, etc).
  • Format lists as lists using the list tool found in toolbar menu (HTML, Word, Google Docs, etc).
  • Create tables with column and/or row headers (HTML, Word, Google Docs, etc).
  • Maintain a proper reading order in web pages, Word documents, and PowerPoint slides.
  • Use sufficient color contrast.
  • Don’t use color alone to convey meaning.
  • Write accessible math and science equations (MathML/D2L Equation Editor for HTML or MathType for Word).
  • Provide alternative text descriptions for images. (This can include posting a detailed description in the text before or after image and reference image or add text that is only visible to screen readers via the “Alt text” functions (HTML, Google Docs, Google Slides, Word, PowerPoint, PDF etc)
Why this is important
  • Inaccessible technologies create a barrier to a student with a disability. Any technologies (forms, websites, software, publisher homework sites) outside of PCC and D2L that you require students’ use (that are not essential functions of the course subject matter) must be accessible. If the publisher’s website is found to be inaccessible to certain disabilities, an accessibility plan will need to be developed to ensure everyone has a path to the learning outcomes, regardless of disability.
    Warning: This may require extra work by the faculty member, so be careful when adopting 3rd party materials.
  • Headings help to organize content, making it easier for everyone to read. Headings are also a primary way for people using screen reading software to navigate a page of text.
  • Formatting is conveyed to assistive technologies and mobile devices so they can present information as it’s meant to be presented. Properly formatted documents are more understandable and accessible.
  • Using table headers is important to conveying tabular data accurately.
  • Documents need to be laid out in a very linear fashion to be accessible, so don’t use textboxes (in MS Word, Insert>Textbox) or tables to layout a document.
    • Tables should only be used for tabular data.
    • Web pages: Don’t layout a webpage with tables. Tables should only be used for tabular data.
    • PowerPoint slides read by a screen reader are read in the order the content was added to a slide, which sometimes is not the proper reading order. The reading order can be changed in PowerPoint to fix this issue.
  • Without sufficient color contrast between font and background, people who are color blind and low vision will not benefit from the information.
  • Using color alone to convey meaning will leave those who are color blind or blind unable to interpret the meaning.
  • Math and science notation is not accessible to screen reader users unless it is written in MathML or MathType (in MS Word).
  • Alt text is read by a screen reader. Alt text should adequately describe what is being displayed and why it’s important. This allows screen reader users to benefit from the information being conveyed by the image, even if they cannot see it.
8.3 Course provides alternative means of access to course materials in formats that meet the needs of diverse learners. (3 points)
  • Recommend the use of captioned videos. Non-captioned videos will be captioned by Online Learning at time of accommodation.
  • Visual content in videos needs descriptions or alternative assignment that doesn’t require sight.
  • Required course activities that are inaccessible must have an equally effective alternative.
  • PDFs that contain text are not merely an image scan; any text contained in PDFs is selectable and searchable.
  • Optional materials must include a balance of accessible options.
Why this is important
  • Video captions benefit many viewers. Captions are essential for those who are deaf and hard of hearing, but they also aid in comprehension for non-native English speakers, those who are unfamiliar with vocabulary, and viewers with some learning disabilities or in a noisy environment. Audio transcripts also benefit many students. They are essential for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, but they also assist anyone who would like to read or search the transcript.
  • People who are blind can only listen to a video. They will not see what is happening on the screen and unless that information is conveyed in the audio track, they will miss it.
  • Documents that are scanned without using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can not be read by screen readers as it will be an image of text, not actual text that can be selected. In addition, it is important to note that screen readers cannot read mathematical equations in PDF documents and reading order can be jumbled.
  • Any required assignment or activity that uses inaccessible technologies needs to have an equally effective accessible alternative upon accommodation so that all students can meet the learning outcomes.
8.4 Course multimedia facilitates ease of use. ( 2 points)
  • Eliminate or limit blinking / flashing content to 3 seconds.
  • Accessible media player(s).
Why this is important
  • Blinking content is distracting, and it can cause seizures to occur in people with a photosensitive disorder.
  • Not all media players are screen reader or keyboard accessible which means people who are blind or unable to use a mouse won’t be able to play the media.
8.5 Information provided about accessibility of all technologies required in the course. (1 point)
  • Provide links to products’ accessibility or assistive technology user information.
  • Include current Accommodations Statement on your syllabus.
Why this is important
  • Many products have helpful tips or instructions for users of assistive technologies who want to use their product. We want to make sure students have easy access to that information.
  • For a new development, you will have the most recent Instructional ADA statement already in your syllabus template. For all other courses, check the Syllabus standards for credit courses.

Standards from the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric, 5th Edition.
(Retrieved from Lamar University)