This piece is written by Larissa Saco. Larissa Saco is a Graduate Student Researcher with Academic Technology Services. She is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology with scholarly interests in education, social stratification, and cultural sociology. Prior to graduate school, she worked as a research assistant on K-12 education program evaluations for MDRC, a social policy research organization.
Around the world, over 1 billion people have a disability, accounting for approximately 15% of the global population. At UC Davis, 1,848 students were eligible to receive accommodations through the Student Disability Center in the fall quarter of 2019, indicating an approximate 22% jump in the number of students served from the fall quarter of 2018. In light of these global and local statistics, how do we know that our online content is accessible to students with disabilities?
Section 508 defines accessibility in online spaces as “how easily — or how successfully — a person with a disability can locate, get to, and understand information they want or need, as well as how well they can interact with functionality.” There are four principles for web content that are outlined in the federal policy known as Section 508, which requires federal agencies to make internet communication technology (ICT) equivalently accessible for people with disabilities and those without disabilities. These four principles include perceivable information, operable interface and navigation, understandable information and functionality, and robust interpretation across technology types and advancements.
Designing online materials with accessibility in mind helps meet the needs of students with disabilities and offers responsive and simple layouts for your entire class to navigate course information. Perhaps you know that you must make your online materials accessible to all students, but you don't know where to start. Educational materials, such as Canvas course sites, PDFs, and videos, can be made more accessible to students with a little planning and a small amount of effort on your part. Academic Technology Services (ATS) suggests starting with these three tech processes:
- Use the Canvas Accessibility Checker to make the written and visual content in Canvas Pages, Assignments, Announcements, and Quizzes accessible to learners. This built-in Canvas tool helps you make sure headings, table settings, alt text for images, adjacent links, and text color contrast meet accessibility standards.
- Create accessible PDFs in one of these two ways: 1) Creating your Word documents to be accessible by appropriately using headings, alt text, lists, and other features. This allows for easier reading and skimming with or without a screen reader once the document is in PDF form. 2) Using on-campus resources to adapt existing PDFs into accessible formats.
- Provide captions on your videos by requesting and editing captions in AggieVideo, a campus content management portal in which you can upload, manage, edit, and share UC Davis video or audio content for teaching and learning.