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Digital Accessibility: 7 Simple Fixes to Improve Accessibility of Digital Information
This article contains links to resources that can help you improve the accessibility of your digital information like documents, online courses, multimedia, websites and more.
Introduction - Designing with Accessibility in Mind
Disability affects around one billion people worldwide, or about 15% of the global population. Disabilities range in type and severity and include:
Checking a few key areas of your digital content will greatly improve accessibility for everyone, including people with disabilities. Moreover, improving digital accessibility is an essential part of Universal Design for Learning, a framework for inclusive teaching and learning.
Digital accessibility is the degree to which digital content can be accessed and used by as many people as possible, regardless of ability.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
UDL is a framework for proactively designing learning environments, and adopting inclusive teaching practices, that meet the vast array of individual learner needs.
This article includes links to help you fix common accessibility errors, known as "Low-Hanging Fruit."
- Headings & Structure
- Alternative Text
- Closed Captions
- Color Contrast
- Descriptive links
- Table Headers
- PDF Files
Use integrated and free third-party tools to scan your digital content for general accessibility. Automated scans can flag most major issues, but they're not 100% accurate. Scans also return “false positives,” or flagged items that aren’t actually an issue. For these reasons, we strongly recommend manually checking your content following automated scans.
- UDOIT Cloud (checks all content in a Canvas course)
- Check Accessibility button (checks a single content item while editing in the Rich Content Editor)
- Validate Links in Content
- Silktide (web governance tool for rice.edu websites)
- Accessibility Insights for the Web (free Chrome and Edge browser extension)
- Deque Axe for Web Developers (free Chrome and Firefox browser extension)
- Jim Thatcher Favelets for Checking Web Accessibility (free bookmark tools)
- WAVE Evaluation (free Chrome and Firefox browser extension)
Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel)
- Office for Windows - Check for Issues, Check Accessibility
- Office for Mac - Review tab, Check Accessibility
- Access @ Rice Document Guides
Manually checking the accessibility of your document/content will take a bit of guidance and practice. The following resources are excellent and provide detailed information about the low-hanging fruit, as well as more complex accessibility issues you may want to learn more about.
Guides & Resources
- Canvas Accessible Design Guidelines
- DO-IT (University of Washington)
- Microsoft Accessibility Training Videos
- WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
- Headings in the Rich Content Editor and HTML
Rich Content Examples: Paragraph, Header 2, Header 3, Header 4
HTML Examples: <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5>, <h6>
- Heading Styles in Word
Examples: Normal, Heading 1 - Heading 5
Canvas Alt Text
- Alt text in the Rich Content Editor and HTML
Rich Content Example: "Embed Image" button, "Alt Text" attribute
HTML Example: alt="[your alternative text description]”
Word Alt Text
- Alternative text in Microsoft Office
Example: "Format Picture" pane, ALT TEXT
Kaltura (My Media in Canvas)
Zoom (Cloud Recording)
- Edit Automatic Closed Captions in Cloud Recordings (Rice guide)
- Automatically Transcribe Zoom Cloud Recordings (includes information about editing)
Canvas Color Contrast
Word Color Contrast
The Microsoft Office suite does not include an integrated solution for checking color contrasts. For more information about this process, see this article from Medium. For a free and robust color analyzing tool, we recommend the Paciello Group Colour Analyser (Windows, .exe; Mac, .dmg).
- Accessible tables in the Rich Content Editor
Example: Cell Properties, Cell Type, Scope = header or row
Make sure PDFs include accurate tags that are organized into a logical reading order. It is best to start with accessibility when designing your source document, such as in Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign. All six of the "low-hanging" techniques described in this article should be applied to your document design. Make sure you export the document to PDF using the appropriate export or save as options. Never use File > Print to PDF, because it will result in an untagged PDF. Before publishing your PDF on the web, use the Check Accessibility tool and clean up any deficiencies.