There are a number of ways that you can evaluate the accessibility of the resources that you have created. Some of these are quick and easy to implement whilst in-depth approaches will require time and extra resources.
These methods cannot guarantee that the resource is accessible to every possible student but they can help to identify accessibility issues with the resource. All of these techniques require human judgement to ensure that the quality of the accessibility practices can be assessed not just the technical aspects.
Automatic checking tools
These tools can help you to identify technical accessibility issues with your resources. They should be used with the guidelines to incorporate human judgement. For example they cannot check that images have ‘appropriate’ alternative text, just that they ‘have’ alternative text.
Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker
This tool comes with Microsoft Office 2010 and can be found in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Once run it identifies:
- Errors – given for content which makes a file very difficult or impossible for some disabled people to understand.
- Warnings – given for content that in most, but not all, cases makes a file difficult for disabled people to understand.
- Tips – given for content that disabled people can understand, but that might be better organized or presented in a way that would maximize their experience.
It takes you to the place in the document that the error occurs and provides advice on how to fix it.
For more information on how to use the accessibility checker in Office 2010 take a look at this guide.
Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Check
Adobe Acrobat Professional, available to install on staff computers from UoD Software as part of the Adobe CS6 Master Collection and also for home use from the Derby Teacher Superstore, provides an excellent tool for checking the accessibility of PDF documents.
Using the Accessibility Checker you can run either a quick or full check to pick up on areas within the document which may cause an issue for disabled students. Take a look at this guide for more information on using the Accessibility Checker in Adobe Acrobat Professional.
Without Adobe Acrobat Professional your options for checking the accessibility of PDFs may be limited. However, if you want to know if there is a problem then you can use the Quick Accessibility Check in Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is installed on most machines.
To do this:
- Open the PDF in Adobe Reader.
- Click on Edit.
- Select Accessibility.
- Select Quick Check.
- The check only identifies issues one at a time, so if there is a problem an error message will come up. Unfortunately this will not provide information on how to fix the problem identified.
Student feedback is one of the best ways to evaluate a resource for its accessibility. Not only will it give you an idea of how useful the students find it but also whether they have any problems accessing it or the information it contains.
It is a good idea to create an open dialogue with students about online resources. This means that they can feel comfortable about raising any problems they have and that you are responsive to their needs.
Here are some useful questions to ask students when they are reviewing a resource:
- Did you have any problems accessing or finding the resource? If so what?
- Did you have any problems viewing the information in the resource? If so what?
- What aspects of the resource did you find useful?
Microsoft (2013) Check for accessibility issues [online], http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/check-for-accessibility-issues-HA010369192.aspx (accessed 20 January 2013).
I hope that you have enjoyed the post on accessibility, some of these resources have now been put onto our website within the Inclusive Teaching Practices resources and can be found in the section on Creating accessible electronic learning resources.