Creating Accessible Content

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When creating content for the web instructors should identify and eliminate any unnecessary barriers to teaching and learning while maintaining academic rigour and the value of content.

Instructors need to consider the principles of Universal Instructional Design when creating electronic resources. These principles apply to both the content and format of electronic resource. The asynchronous availability, variable pacing and the general flexibility of electronic resources can be of great value to learners with disabilities. Unfortunately electronic resources are not innately accessible, but a little attention to the preparation to electronic resources is all that is needed.

In Ontario Canada the general measure for accessible of an web-based content is the WCAG2 standard published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The requirements of the WCAG2 are summarized in the four letter acronym POUR:

  1. Perceivable
  2. Operable
  3. Understandable
  4. Robust

[edit] A Simple Measure of Content

A table that should help with adding content accessibly, see following table for textual representation.
A table that should help with adding content accessibly, see following table for textual representation.

This table is intended give a guide to instructors when they are creating/uploading content to the web. Ideally all information should be entered using the methods found toward the right of the table, however instructors should be aware of the compromises they are making when using other methods.

Level of Accessibility: Unacceptable Poor Good Best
File type or Format Images without alternative or descriptive text.

Tables/Images used for decoration not for organizing information.

(assuming no alternative is given)

Files in MS Office format: DOC, DOCX, XLS, PPT The Adobe Portable Document Format can be easily created from most programs (See Making PDF documents). Create or copy content directly in Sakai via options like "Create HTML Page".
Explanation Content cannot easily be searched or read by screen readers. Generates a "Blocked by Internet Explorer!
" alert.

Requires MS office ($120 ~ $600) Inconsistent presentation based on version of Office, IE, etc.

PDFs are generally a good choice.

Try to avoid documents with columns, as they can confuse some software.

The native text editor’s HTML pages are fast to access and accessible to assistive technologies.

Your use of this tool and its headings and bullets option will enhance the experience for all students.

[edit] Preparing Electronic Resources For the Web

The good news is most modern tools that help construct content directly for the web help individuals create accessible content. At Brock University the main web site's Drupal-Based Content Management System (CMS) helps ensure content created in it is accessible, as does Isaak, Brock University's Sakai-Based Learning Management System (LMS). The tools for creating content directly in these systems help ensure the content is perceivable, operable and robust.

The challenge is in ensuring that content created in desktop applications is accessible, especially when multimedia is used. Content created on a desktop application is often not robust enough to perceivable and operable on the web - often traded for more control of the layout. Content that is "exported" to a web page can prevent individuals that are poorly sighted or individuals with learning disability from using strategies and tools that would normally work on properly created and accessible electronic resource.

Multimedia content is particularly challenging, as it can require the use multiple senses, and unless accommodations such as transcription or description are added, some individuals may not be able to access multimedia content.

[edit] Guides for Preparing Electronic Resources

[edit] A General Checklist for Preparing Content

This list was created by Matt Clare with resources from World Wide Web Consortium. [1] The W3C has a simular checklist document: [2]

[edit] Simple Formatting

[edit] Alternative Information/Formats

Programatic access to information is the only guarantee that the highest level of access can be achieved. This is best achieved through providing information in the simplest text-based format without extraneous items.

  • Images should be given a meaningful text description if the image is relevant to the content. If the image is decorative or otherwise irrelevant the description information should be left blank.
  • Avoid Images of text. If an image is presented containing text the text or a description should be provided in an alternative format. Text not in an image is far more transformable and scaleable than anything represented in an image.
  • Audio and video content should have an alternative textual version provided.

[edit] Advanced/Technical Formatting Issues

Information for more advanced formatting or for situations where an individual is creating their own HTML and is not using a WYSIWYG editor.

[edit] Creating Accessible MS Office and Related Files

The Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University, in partnership with UNESCO and the Government of Ontario, has developed consolidated and publicly-reviewed guidance to help ensure the accessibility of office documents and the office applications with which they are created. These guides can be found at

[edit] Word processing

[edit] Spreadsheets

[edit] Presentations

[edit] Checking the Accessibility of Content

While it is hard to replace the insights an individual that uses assistive tools to access the web can offer one can use assistive software ones self to gain insight. Some assistive software is very expensive, however what follows are a list of Firefox extensions that are very useful for assessing the accessibility of web content. Remember, an automated report can never replace a proper inspection of web content.

[edit] Firefox Extensions

[edit] More Information About Accessibility at Brock University

For more information about accessibility at Brock University please visit

[edit] Notes and References

  1. Chisholm, Wendy Trace R & D Center, University of Wisconsin -- Madison, Vanderheiden, Gregg, Trace R & D Center, University of Wisconsin -- Madison, Jacobs, Ian, W3C (1999) List of Checkpoints for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 19:44, February 18, 2011, from Copyright held by W3C, 1999
  2. Caldwell, Ben, Trace Research & Development Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison -- Chisholm, Wendy, W3C -- Slatin, John, Accessibility Institute, University of Texas at Austin -- Vanderheiden, Gregg, Trace Research & Development Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2006) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, W3C Working Draft 27 April 2006. World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 19:41, February 21, 2011, from Copyright held by W3C, 2006
  3. Craig, James, Apple Inc. -- Cooper, Michael, W3C (2011) Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0, W3C Candidate Recommendation 18 January 2011. World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 19:48, February 21, 2011, from . Copyright held by W3C, 2011
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