Images, audio, and video are a good way to engage learners and diversify your course content. For all students to benefit equally from this content, certain steps must be taken.
Closed captioning (CC) is a great method to ensure video accessibility for all students. Obviously, students who are deaf or hard of hearing benefit immensely from captioned videos, but the same can be said of international (ESL) students, students new to the material and vocabulary, or simply students who learn better visually. The best and easiest practice is to use video content from sources that offer captioned videos.
If you have created a video of your own, an easy way to caption it is to upload your video to YouTube. YouTube automatically captions your video and with some minor correcting, you will have good captions added. Then, using the YouTube URL or embed code you can easily link the video in Blackboard, or share it via email. Additionally, if the video you have sourced does not offer captioning, search for a captioned version on YouTube. Request a UMass Boston Google/YouTube account to host any videos you create for your course and benefit from the added storage and automated closed captioning.
When providing audio-only instruction, be sure to make available a transcript, or a text version of the information provided. This could be as simple as providing the lecture notes that accompany a recorded lecture, or utilizing transcript software. Not only do transcripts help our hearing-impaired students, it allows self-pacing, clarity and spelling accuracy for all students.
Images and Alternative Text
Images can serve multiple purposes in instruction, but it’s important to understand that they are inherently inaccessible to learners who are visually impaired. Depending on what type of information is represented, different steps can be taken to ensure accessibility.
For images that convey complex information, it’s important to include a detailed long description either as a caption, or within the content of the lesson itself. Charts and graphs, while visually helpful, are weak methods of conveying information on their own. Screen readers cannot always translate the information presented. More generally, by providing descriptive elements to graphs and charts, students of all abilities and learning styles will gain clarity and understanding. When writing a description for a complex image, consider what information is presented in the image that you want the student to learn and carefully explain the content. Perhaps the easiest way is to use sources which offer already-captioned complex images.
For simple images, the best practice is to describe them with alternative text, or alt text and captions. Alt text is an easy and efficient application that is employed by most authoring tools (Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, etc.). For full instructions on how to add alt text, go to the NCDAE Cheat Sheets, find the program you are using and scroll down to “Alternative Text for Images.”
Basic Guidelines for Alt Text
- Be accurate and equitable. The alt text should present the same content, and serve the same function as the image itself.
- Be succinct. Usually, no more than a few words are necessary. Sometimes a short sentence may be needed, but if a lengthy explanation is required, the image chosen might not be the best option for presenting your material.
- For decorative images: If an image does not convey any significant information, there is no need to describe it. Simply label it as a “decorative.”
- Avoid irrelevant phrases. Generally a screen reader will already identify that the user has come across an image, so there’s no need to begin alt text with “image of…” or “depicted here is a picture of…”
More information on alt text can be found at WebAIM.