This week Robert Hardy, our district website accessibility specialist, shares about creating accessible content. Please contact Robert with any accessibility questions.
As a teacher in the Olympia School District, you will have heard a lot about accessibility. Here is a summary of what accessibility is, how it pertains to you, and how you can ensure greater access for everyone in our community!
What is accessibility?
Accessibility means creating digital content that can be understood by our entire community, including those with visual, auditory, cognitive, or motor disabilities. In general, this means we want to create content that works with assistive technology, such as screen readers or screen magnifiers.
What does this mean for OSD staff?
Put simply, all content posted to the web, be it SchoolMessenger or Schoology, must be accessible. While this may initially sound daunting, the workflow for creating accessible content is relatively straightforward.
Creating Accessible Content
There are many aspects to creating accessible content, but there are two elements that come into play most frequently:
True headings consist of section titles, which enable users of assistive technology, such as screen readers, to skim through a document. While section titles may be created visually using bolding, larger font sizes or underlining, these do not provide a programmatic accompaniment to the text.
In most software, creating a true heading is as simple as highlighting a piece of text and selecting the appropriate heading style. Guides for each piece of software can be found on the district’s Website Accessibility Resources page.
A screen reader operates by synthesizing text into speech. When it encounters an image, it requires a description of the image to read to the user. This description is called alternative text. Good alternative text describes both the content and the function of an image, ensuring the meaning of the image is conveyed to all users.
Alternative text can easily be added in most software programs – steps can be found on the district’s Website Accessibility Resources page.
Once content includes true headings and alternative text, the author should consider how they intend to publish their content. There are two options, either posting the content directly to a page, or including the document as an attached PDF.
Content published directly onto a webpage, either in Schoology or on a SchoolMessenger teacher page, is natively quite accessible. Content written in Google Docs can easily be copied onto one of these platforms. Content from Microsoft Word will require the images to be added back in and alternative text to be added.
If an attachment is preferred, the document should be saved as a PDF and then posted to the web. Accessible PDFs can be created using either Word or Google Docs. Word users can simply go to File > Save As > and change their file format to PDF. Google Docs users will need to use Grackle to create an accessible PDF. Detailed steps for both software suites can be found in the blog post Exporting to PDF, or on the district’s Website Accessibility Resources page.
For video content to be accessible, all meaningful audio must be captioned. By utilizing YouTube’s speech recognition software, staff are able to create captioned video content for our community.
Videos should be uploaded to YouTube, and then the automatic captions should be edited for accuracy, punctuation and timing. More information on increasing the accuracy of automatically generated captions can be found in this captioning guide.
Creating accessible documents not only ensures more of our community can enjoy our content, but it also often results in efficiency increases. If you have questions about creating accessible content, please feel free to reach out to Robert Hardy, the district’s website accessibility specialist.