Accessibility Can BE dramatic
Introducing the EAB
Using the EAB
The Basics in more detail
In the Inclusive Teaching Toolkit, we advocate for a proactive approach to your inclusive teaching practice. One way you can do this is by adopting some fundamentals of digital accessibility in your work.
Digital accessibility is dramatic! All it takes is a little bit of accessibility applied every day to dramatically improve the educational experience.
– Deakin Accessibility Champions’ Project, 2022
Text Alternative - Everyday Accessibility
Accessibility can be dramatic! An image of a distraught bride clutching a handkerchief to wipe away her tears.
Artist: Danni McCarthy
Copyright: Text by Deakin, Getty image 1003493560 modified by Deakin
Everyday Accessibility Framework
There are many ways you can be digitally inclusive, and accessibility is one meaningful and impactful way you can approach inclusion everyday. Digital accessibility can dramatically impact students’ ability to navigate their learning materials and find specific content. Even the most basic accessibility techniques applied consistently will make an enormous difference in how inclusive your digital learning environment will feel and how it will function.
The Everyday Accessibility Basics (EAB) is the how to of the Everyday Accessibility Framework (EAF). The ethos that underpins Everyday Accessibility is to welcome you into the space of digital accessibility and empower you with fundamental techniques that offer maximum impact with minimal effort.
Introducing the Everyday Accessibility Basics
There are six accessibility basics in the infographic that have been broken down into one or two lines that describe Minimum, Meaningful and Consistent accessibility techniques. These short descriptions might need some more unpacking for those new to digital accessibility. The following sections expand on each of the accessibility basics and the levels of effort involved. This is just the beginning of your accessibility journey and we have provided links to further resources to help you on your way.
What is the Everyday Accessibility Framework?
The Everyday Accessibility Framework(EAF) advocates for best practice digital inclusivity techniques. The ethos underpinning this framework is to respectfully welcome people into the space of accessibility and provide an entry point to wherever they might be on their accessibility journey.
What are the Everyday Accessibility Basics?
Accessibility techniques that provide maximum impact with minimal effort.
How do you use the everyday Accessibility Basics?
Find yourself within these Minimum, Meaningful and Consistency levels. If you are doing all of these things, congratulations you are on your way!
Text Alternative - Everyday Accessibility Basics
1. Use ordered headings to add structure
2. Provide meaning and context to your headings
3. Apply headings consistently across resources
1. Avoid adding raw links
2. Give your links meaning and context
3. Apply links consistently across resources
1. Avoid tables for layout alone
2. Ensure your tables are structured and usable
3. Be mindful about when, where and how you use tables
1. Flag images that are decorative
2. Add meaningful alternative text and context for images
3. Provide alternative information for complex images and diagrams
1. Prepare and deliver with quality in mind
2. Review, reflect and respond to the quality of content
3. Provide links to accurate and quality resources
1. Make your files discoverable
2. Use and communicate a clear naming convention
3. Be consistent across all your resources
Using the Everyday Accessibility Basics
Digital accessibility can indeed be complex, but there are some impactful things you can do every day to empower, engage and connect with your learners.
The educational technologies we use in Higher Education are ever evolving and new accessibility challenges emerge alongside these developments. We encourage you not to be overwhelmed – accessibility is about the journey, not the destination and this is where you begin. The Everyday Accessibility Basics were selected because they are digital accessibility fundamentals that you can implement today. All you need to start is awareness, and with any luck, you might find you are doing more than you thought.
The Basics are divided into three levels of effort:
Little tweaks and adjustments you can make when developing your resources.
Requires a little more thought and reflection about the purpose, context and how learning materials are accessed.
Means you are applying accessibility techniques across multiple platforms, the same way consistently – or as much as is practicable.
Take heart! You are probably already doing the Minimum without even thinking about it, and if Meaningful becomes your regular everyday practice across all areas of content development, very soon you will be Consistent in your approach to the basics.
If you are already doing the Everyday Accessibility Basics we offer you congratulations and challenge you to build upon this practice by visiting the Digital Centre for Excellence (DCOE) – accessibility pages. We invite you to develop your digitally inclusive practice in ways that complement all the work you do.
Select an icon to learn more
Text Alternative - Headings
Barbara and Frank are two students in a desperate conversation in the hallway:
Narrator: With her assignment deadline looming, Barbara goes in search of her biology lecture on cell replication.
Barbara: OH Frank, I’m sure it was in week three…
Frank: Or was it week six? Too many weeks and too many pages – we’re doomed!!!
Narrator: They searched for a number of hours to no avail….
Artist: Danni McCarthy
Copyright: Text by Deakin, Getty image 471119652 modified by Deakin
Headings are an essential means of organising and grouping information. Think of the index of a book, each chapter has a title and within each chapter, there may be further headings to help define and group the information. With an index, you can quickly navigate to a specific section of the book or to a section within a chapter.
The order of the headings, or as it is known for accessibility purposes, the heading level, defines the hierarchy of the headings. For example:
- Heading 1 or H1 tag is a vitally important heading, probably a page title.
- Heading 2 or H2 is most likely a section heading, with smaller headings.
- Heading 3 (H3) and Heading 4 (H4) are subheadings of progressively less importance.
Using headings correctly creates a pseudo table-of-contents that allows screen reader users to navigate quickly through content, for example skipping to every section header (<h2>), removing the need to read through every piece of information line-by-line.
Ways to create accessible headings
Use ordered headings to add structure
At minimum you need to include basic heading structures within your resources. For example, within Microsoft Word and CloudDeakin you can specify Heading Level 1 through to Heading Level 6 by selecting the relevant style.
Provide meaning and context to your headings
Provide meaningful headings that make sense to the user when read out of context and signpost the content to follow. For example:
- Week 1 – An introduction to cell biology provides more information than a heading that just reads Week 1.
Apply headings consistently across resources
Structure your headings with a consistent logic and approach to style that is meaningful across all of your resources.
Consistently applied and meaningful headings will make sense to a user even when read out of context.
Check if the resources you are linking to, particularly reading material, have headings and can be navigated by selecting them. Review the context for headings and information in external resources you are linking to. For example, you may need to provide students with a guide for terminology or provide additional information on navigating the resource.
If you need further guidance on how to create accessible headings visit:
Text Alternative - Links
Gloria is lounging against the wall under a bright spotlight– she is at work at a nightclub contemplating her studies over the last few weeks:
Narrator: Gloria was a busy girl and didn’t have time to go on wild rides or goose chases. She liked her links to be straight-up! She wanted to know where she was going, why she was going and what she would find when she got there!!!
Providing links to digital resources such as websites and files is an essential means of linking relevant information and provides direct navigation to the information. However, links need to stand up in their own right and not be dependent on surrounding terms such as ‘click here’. The name of your link indicates where you are directing people to. It is sometimes the only information they will have to understand the purpose of your resource.
People use links in much the same way as they use headings, they are an essential way of connecting with information and resources. It’s just good practice to provide meaningful links so that learners can understand where the link is going and how it is related to their learning.
Ways to create accessible links
Avoid adding raw links
Links should not be posted as long form URLs. That is, in the form of www.accessibilityguidelines.com/thispage/info.html, instead change the linking text to display a more reader friendly link such as Accessibility Guidelines Website.
Provide context and meaning to your links
Provide meaningful text links that forecast the content they access.
For example, Accessibility Guidelines – Some basic guidelines for applying accessibility. Add in additional instructions for users to know why a link has been added and if necessary, what they are expected to do. Providing a list of links on their own is just that, a list of links.
A brief sentence as to why you have added a link to an external resource can help a student in linking concepts and ideas.
Apply links consistently across resources
When providing direct links to files, add the file type into the link text so users know they can expect a file to open or download. For example, here is the Week 2 tutorial examples (doc).
Text Alternative - Tables
In a cold deserted graveyard, we find Virginia in mourning at one particular gave site:
Narrator: The world had changed…after a lifetime of loving using tables to layout her pages – Virginia finally laid them to rest!
Virginia: R.I.P tables – you served me well!!!
Narrator: All was not lost! Virginia determined to build a new life. She wiped the tears from her eyes and looked forward to building a deeper connection with her content!
Tables are a useful, visual means of displaying data and how it relates to other data. For example, the data for a series of events or survey responses. Tables can relay a lot of information at once and if structured correctly can help users identify and navigate the relevant information. However, it’s essential to understand that tables require extra consideration because they can be completely inaccessible to screen reader users.
Suppose you use tables to format your pages, your pages will appear well laid out and easy to read, but organising your pages using this method will make your content inaccessible to many users.
Using tables is contentious but they are infinitely useful – here we advocate for the thoughtful use of tables! It’s not good practice to structure your content with tables, there are many other accessible ways to organise your content.
Ways to create accessible tables
Avoid tables for layout alone
Avoid using tables to layout your page content. Tables should be used for data only. If you need to use a table for data, you need to make it meaningful. Avoid linking to other resources that are using tables for layout or are an image of a table.
Ensure your tables are structured and usable
Include a table title. Tables should have column and row headings. Consider the style of table you provide:
- Is the data provided with context that is consistent with your content?
- Is it easy to read and does it have a logical structure?
- Do you need to display all the data or just a smaller set?
Be mindful about when where, and how you use tables
Be consistent with the types of tables you use so users will know what to expect. Ensure table row and column headers are consistent across tables of similar data; eg. Tabular data in week 1 that has been built on during trimester is still represented the same.
If you need to link to large sets of data consider providing context on which part of the data is most relevant.
If you need further guidance on how to create tables visit:
Text Alternative - Image
We find Eloise with her mother holding her hand at her bedside consoling her daughter in her hour of need:
Mother: Darling, don’t you know – all you need to do is say the images are decorative!!!
Eloise: OH Mother you are so wise…
Narrator: Eloise loved to introduce beautiful images to break up her text and beguile her students – but she feared they wouldn’t understand why they were there?
For images and diagrams that convey information visually, it is essential to provide a text-based alternative so all users can access and understand the purpose of the visuals. Images are often included because they augment the meaning of the text around them. Make sure you consider images carefully and make a thoughtful decision about how you write your text alternative. At the very least, let your learners know the relation between the text and the image.
For many students’ images are a relief as they break up large blocks of text and create a nice aesthetic tone to pages that enhances comprehension for some learners. Text alternatives ensure that images are not confusing or a distraction particularly for users of screen readers.
Ways to make images accessible
Flag images that are decorative
If an image is decorative only it should be marked as such in your styling or your CloudDeakin site. Avoid overusing images and if necessary, consider hiding those that have no relevance to your content.
Provide meaningful alternative text and context for images
Many images are used to display important ideas or concepts within your learning materials, consider that images can’t be perceived by people who experience blindness, or in instances where they fail to load. Provide context for your images in these circumstances with descriptive text alternatives.
Have a look at the WebAim article that walks through techniques for approaching Alternative text. This is a brilliant resource that will help you develop your approach to writing alt texts.
(complex image descriptions)
Provide alternative information for complex images and diagrams
How to guides and links….
Avoid linking to complex images in external resources that do not have alternative text available.
Text Alternative - Video
An illuminated Sylvia receives high praise from her students – and she loves it:
Narrator: After weeks of her students making suggestions she should turn on the live transcriptions – Sylvia decided to turn them on.
Sylvia: You love me – you really love me!
Sylvia: Now remember dears – you can always turn them off for yourself if you find them a distraction!
Narrator: To her surprise and delight Sylvia got a lot of compliments! Now it’s become her routine for good.
When preparing and delivering teaching and learning via video, either live or pre-recorded, it is important to consider the ways in which you can improve the accessibility of the resource for students. For video content, transcriptions and captions are an essential mean of conveying visual and audio information in a format that enables all users to access the resource when and how then want and need.
Making transcriptions and closed captions available to everyone – no matter what their situation, is a positive step toward digital equity! Providing accessible videos to your students has more benefits than you know. Learners can use these tools as a visual support or an essential way to access content in a noisy environment.
Ways to make video accessible
Avoid adding raw links
There are a few techniques that are quick and easy to achieve when you are recording videos or creating self-produced videos live. When providing live video sessions make sure automatic closed captions is enabled (AI).
If you are in a lecture theatre – try to stay as close as you can to the mic. This will help the transcription software pick up your words better and result in more accurate closed captions for your learners who will access the recording after the event.
A few simple techniques will improve the accessibility of your videos:
- Enable closed caption functions on your platforms e.g. Zoom, teams etc.
- Be upfront with your students that the transcriptions/closed captions are not going to be perfect – manage their expectations!
- Choose a quiet well-lit location and use a good quality headset or microphone to reduce external noise. Quiet is about noise reduction and minimising interference with the transcription software. Good lighting will ensure clarity of communication for students who lip read.
- Pace yourself when speaking. Try to slow down and focus on articulating your words clearly.
- Record shorter sessions with more concise information that can be backed up with further resources to expand on key ideas if required. This is in the realms of a Universal Design for Learning approach.
Learners always have the option to turn off the closed captions if they are a distraction.
Provide alternative means of access
Provide accurate closed captions and transcripts for your resources and if you are using a script for pre-recorded videos, you can use your script as an alternative format. Build in a closed captioning requirement for student assessments, especially if they will be viewed by other students.
Provide and link to quality/accurate resources
Provide accurate closed captions for all your video resources and review any external resources. Consistency refers not just to the videos that you produce but also to those you link to.
Linking to externally produced videos
- Link to resources that have captions or transcripts already available.
- When playing videos in class enable the closed captions option for all viewers.
- Provide information for external resources that do or do not have closed captioning.
- Keep a list of all videos that do not have closed captioning available, or where the automatic captioning is poor.
Text Alternative - Files
Alone and in the black of night Drucilla paces tearfully in her small apartment
Narrator: Meanwhile…Drucilla was having a time trying to locate the file she downloaded earlier that day.
Drucilla: I know it’s here somewhere…But which one to choose!
Drucilla: If only the file was named clearly!
Narrator: At 3 am in the morning she sent a tearful email message to her lecturer asking for an extension.
File names are descriptive and should be structured in such a way that they help everyone in identifying your resources. This impacts learners in two ways. The first in the discoverability of the file in your learning materials and the second in their ability to locate the file in their downloads – long after they have downloaded that file. This is why it’s important to have clear links to the content, the unit and the title of the file evident in the file naming convention you create. This is what makes them meaningful.
The humble file naming convention is a powerful way you can connect your downloadable content to other learning materials and weeks in your course. The name of the file can relate to headings and content and be instantly discoverable to your students and they will love you for it.
Ways to make files more accessible
Make your files discoverable
Provide meaningful file names. File names should let you know what contains when used outside of the context of the LMS or the email where they may have been downloaded from.
Use a naming convention
Use a logical file naming convention that stands up on its own. In the same way you want learners to understand headings and links so too do your file need to be self-evident. For example:
- [Unit code]-[week delivered]-[content and title]-[year produced]
Be consistent across all your resources
Be consistent in your use of file naming conventions across all resources.
Barbara realises she wasn’t paying enough attention to her images and a slow tear that tracks its way down her cheek betrays her resolve to learn more.
Narrator: Now that Barbara was doing amazing work every day with accessibility – it was time to think about inclusivity!
Artist: Danni McCarthy
Copyright: Text by Deakin, Getty image 1003493258 modified by Deakin
Did you notice anything about these resources?
There are some nuances to consider when preparing materials that represent the diversity of our community! So, now let’s talk about representing student diversity in the curriculum in images and in text.
Sometimes we can focus so much on one area of inclusive practice that we can lose sight of another – and this is something that comes with caring! Be kind to yourself and be reassured that inclusive practice is built over time and through a great deal of refection.