Tips on how to make your online content accessible.
This article applies to: Online and Blended Learning
Legally, online course materials are required to be accessible to all students (see WebAIM’s overview of United States Laws). However, designing accessible course content is not solely for the benefit of students with disabilities. Research has shown that all students can benefit from certain improvements in the usability of course materials. For example, providing accurate video transcripts can improve comprehension for non-native speakers.
When creating online courses, keeping in mind the principles of universal design will help you ensure that materials are easy to use and understand for all learners. For specific questions, please contact Cornell Student Disability Services (SDS).
Evaluating Online Courses for Accessibility
The three areas of primary concern include:
Video captioning: All video assets should include a caption file that is timed to display in sync with the video. Videos may also include interactive transcripts. This allows viewers to not only read the spoken words and descriptions, but to search for key terms and jump to relevant portions of the video. Some video may also benefit from having a separate descriptive track recorded. Low-vision viewers can use this to hear a description of the on-screen visuals.
Image tagging and descriptions: Images include all photographs, graphs, charts, and other visual representations of information within a course. Each image should contain alternative text (alt text). This is a textual description giving as much information as needed for users to glean all necessary data. Image tagging helps when students are using screen readers.
Document readability: All documents, regardless of format, should be easily understood by students who use screen readers. Typically, screen readers provide linear narration of each element of a web page or document, while allowing users to jump between sections. In order for your documents to be easily understood, they should employ correct heading style structure. Screen readers will read the alt text for any image or graphic present. If no alt text is given, they will completely skip over the image.
Accessibility Statements for Online and Blended Courses
Cornell University is invested in making online course materials accessible to students with disabilities. To this end, we have reviewed this course for baseline accessibility, which includes the captioning of videos, and use with assistive technology. This may not include some complex content (graphs, images, and/or equations). Please contact your Student Disability Services (SDS) Counselor if you have difficulty with accessing online course material at 607-254-4545, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional assistance.
Statement for Course Syllabus
Access and Accommodations: Your experience in this course is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Student Disability Services (SDS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me as soon as possible so we can discuss your needs for this course. If you have not contacted SDS, but require an accommodation due to a disability, please contact SDS at 607-254-4545, or email email@example.com for additional assistance.
The following statements have been provided by SDS for students who have identified themselves with a disability, and may require additional accommodations.
Statement for Individual Image
For an accessible copy of this image, please contact your Student Disability Services (SDS) Counselor at 607-254-4545, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. When contacting our office, please give the name of the image, where it can be found, and the accessible format desired (e.g. tactile Braille, image with alt text, enlarged). Consultation with the instructor may be needed for some access needs. Document conversion can be a time-consuming process. In order to ensure that alternative formats are available when needed, students are encouraged to complete the SDS Alternative Format Request Form when you have pre-enrolled for courses.
Statement for Coversheet
For accessible copies of any images in this document, please contact your Student Disability Services (SDS) Counselor at 607-254-4545, or email email@example.com. When contacting our office, please give the name of the image, the page number where it can be found, and the accessible format desired (e.g. tactile Braille, image with alt text, enlarged). It may be necessary to consult with the instructor for some access needs. Document conversion can be a time-consuming process. In order to ensure that alternative formats are available when needed, students are encouraged to complete the SDS Alternative Format Request Form when you have pre-enrolled for courses.