Sometimes you find a novel or impressive way of communicating information out in the wild west of the World Wide Web. You find some form of content that would be a great addition to your online course – but you quickly find that it has some critical accessibility failing that makes it unacceptable.
If you’re thinking that you can’t use this otherwise impressive content because of the lack of accessibility, consider another option.
Sometimes you can bring a problem out of the rough and sink it into the nice manicured green of your LMS.
Admittedly, this is not always possible, as some content may require complete re-programming to address the accessibility problems it contains. However, for certain media you can recreate the essential aspects of what is being communicated as an HTML page within your LMS.
Essential Accessibility Concepts of WCAG – POUR
When considering content that can be improved upon, remember the four guiding principles of WCAG, POUR:
Ultimately, the WCAG nails accessibility down in simple terms that are easy to remember and apply to content you are teaching.
Perceivable content is styled and represented in a way that allows it to be presented to at least one of the human senses.
No content is invisible to ALL of the senses, there must be a representation of the content that is perceivable by whatever capability a user possesses.
The interface menus, links, and functionality must be operable by all users. Keyboard control is one of the easy tests to see if content is operable, but it is just a beginning.
The content and the intended use and operation of the interface must be understandable. As an educator, this should be an easy one to discern and improve upon, if necessary.
Content needs to be adequately formatted and designed so there is enough information for a variety of different user agents to make sense of it. Over time, the information should retain the core meaning and capability of being expressed through evolving technologies.
Having thorough text descriptions and formatting content with semantic styles like headings and lists is a great way to make content more robust.
When you find digital media that can be improved upon, follow the WCAG concepts of POUR to enhance the message as much as possible.
Essential Interactive Elements
Your LMS can be used to create many of the interactive elements used by digital designers. From basic HTML pages to more sophisticated content packages, today’s modern LMS offers the capability to create several types of accessible interactive content.
Consider mapping out just what kind of interactivity is present in the content, and see if you can duplicate it within the LMS.
Undescribed and Unlabeled Content
It is very easy to provide alternate text descriptions for images within your LMS.
If the only accessibility issue you find is missing or inappropriate alternate text, then copy and paste the images into your LMS and provide appropriate descriptions for those images.
Remember that form fields require text labels as well.
Inaccessible polls and surveys can be recreated accessibly with the assessment and feedback tools of your LMS.
If there is bad contrast between text and background, that is another issue that is extremely easy to fix.
Copy and paste the text into your LMS and apply appropriate colors for WCAG-compliant contrast ratios.
Likewise, if the focus indicator has been styled to be invisible or difficult to see via linked CSS, you can copy and paste the content into your LMS. The styling for the focus indicator will be formatted according to your LMS CSS settings.
Bad Instructions and Layout
Sometimes good content comes with bad instructions, explanations, or just a confusing or cluttered layout. Redesigning a problematic page for easier readability is a valid activity for accessibility and a great use of the LMS.
Another benefit of fixing accessibility issues by redesigning the content within your LMS is the opportunity to demonstrate to your students how to responsibly synthesize information into new forms of media, and how to properly cite sources when using other people’s content.
Reproducing content within the LMS can provide a simple means for addressing basic accessibility concerns, and it can also be a great way to focus user attention and keep students in the LMS.
You’ve learned not only how to assess content for accessibility, but how to make content better for accessibility and learning. Now when you encounter inaccessible content, it doesn’t have to be a dead end – you can create options and improve the situation for everyone.
Thanks for reading!