Your LATTE course page is often the portal your students use to get to all of your other course materials. You may have links to your syllabus and readings, you may point to external websites, and you might post information on the main page of the course. Moodle, the software on which LATTE is built, is generally very accessible, but if your content is inaccessible, it doesn't matter how good the system itself is.
Although it's important, your LATTE course page isn't the main accessibility pitfall when using LATTE. One of the biggest potential source of problems is with attached files. Attachments often require the user to have special software, and the more different types of software you bring into the equation, the more potential problems you also invite. If you're just uploading a short text file, consider creating a text page within LATTE, instead. However, there are times when a different format is necessary. Here are some tips.
Click on the type of file you're working with to go straight to that section of the document:
- PDF Files
- Microsoft Word Files
- Microsoft Excel Files
- Microsoft Powerpoint Files
- Video Files
- Audio Files
- Other common tools used in/linked from LATTE courses
- Make sure that any images (including graphs and charts!) in your document are adequately captioned. This will not only assist users with screen readers, but also ensure that images that print poorly can still be read by any users who need to create hard copies.
- Try to create your PDFs using Acrobat Pro, which has a number of accessibility tools built in.
- Read Adobe's very thorough guides to creating accessible documents in Acrobat. There are guides on the Adobe page to creating documents, converting Word documents, and to repairing and checking current PDF files.
- Other useful resources for working with PDFs include WEBAIM's guide to PDF accessibility.
Microsoft Word Files
- As with your LATTE course pages and any other web document, using headings is a huge step towards making your document more readable and accessible. The formatting menu/palette (depending on your version of Word) will offer the standard Heading 1. . . Heading 6 formats, and using them for section headers (instead of just making your text bigger or smaller manually) is the way to go.
- If you have images in your Word document, you can still provide alt-tags that screen readers can handle. Note that on the Mac, only Word 2011 supports this functionality (Word 2003 onward on Windows can also do this). For detailed instructions on how to do this in different versions of Word, see WebAIM's tutorial here.
- If you format your document using columns, use true columns via Word's own functionality; using tabs to create artificial columns can wreak havoc on screen readers.
- If your Word document is extremely long, consider creating a table of contents. Combined with your use of headings, this will make navigating your document much more user-friendly.
- If you use tables, Identify row and column headers clearly, making headers bold or in a larger font. This helps viewers to distinguish headers from the actual information in the table. Note that users of screenreaders will still have some trouble distinguishing row and column headers, and may benefit from a list of headers provided separately.
- As with your LATTE course page, make sure you use color and hyperlinks properly.
- If you are using Word 2010 for Windows, take advantage of Word's built-in accessibility checker.
Microsoft Excel Files
- Give each worksheet a meaningful name; the default names of "Sheet 1, Sheet2, etc" are not useful to anyone.
- Clearly identify column and row headers. Depending on which version of Excel you are using, this option may be in the Table Tools Design Tab, or on a palette.
- Do not use blank cells, rows, or columns for formatting. These can fool screen readers into thinking there is no further information.
- Follow all of the standard advice for LATTE pages and documents: use alt tags for any images, use color and hyperlinks carefully, and use punctuation in any blocks of text.
- If you are using Excel 2010 for Windows, remember to take advantage of the built-in accessibility checker.
Microsoft Powerpoint Files
- Add unique titles to all slides; this vastly improves the navigability of your presentation for people who are unable to view the slide. You can do this from the Slides group for each slide.
- As with other documents, use alt tags for significant images, use meaningful hyperlink text, and punctuate any text (other than items in bulleted lists).
- Ensure that the reading order of your slide is logical; using the Selection Pane (under Drawing and then Arrange), you can re-order the objects on each page.
- If you are using embedded video in your Powerpoint, make sure that you provide captioning. Ideally, an open-captioned video (where everyone sees the captioning) is the best option, but adding closed captions is at least a viable alternative. If you are using Powerpoint 2010 for Windows, Microsoft has a subtitle tool add-on that will allow you to manually create captions.
- If you are using standalone audio, make sure you have a transcript available.
- PowerPoint 2010 has a built-in accessibility checker that can be very helpful.
- Uploaded or embedded LATTE video files (whether from Youtube, Vimeo, or any other source) need to be captioned for any viewers who have difficulty hearing. Open captions are ideal, as many users benefit from access to this information, but closed captions are acceptable.
- If you are creating your own video, most video editing tools (including the ones in use at the Getz Lab) have the ability to add captions.
- If you are creating and captioning your own videos, use text that contrasts well and is very visible. The National Association for the Deaf has an excellent set of guidelines, including specific font and color recommendations.
- If you are using videos from Youtube or Vimeo, there is a free service called Overstream that allows you to overlay a set of captions onto the video. Note that you will still have to create the captions.
- Another free tool for captioning is the open-source Amara.
- If you have uploaded your own files to Youtube, you can caption them directly there, which allows anyone who uses the video to benefit from the captions.
- If you would rather use a commercial service, there are a large number of them available. Be aware, however, that captioning can be expensive (especially on short notice).
- Also provide audio descriptions of actions for anyone with visual issues. This is especially important for filmed lectures that might refer to charts or data. The Described and Captioned Media Program has a very thorough set of guidelines on how to create these.
- For any audio archive files (radio shows, song clips, etc) used in your course, provide a text transcript of the contents.
Other common tools used in or linked from LATTE courses
- Prezi is not currently accessible and should be avoided.
- Twitter's website has some accessibility problems, but there is a web-based Twitter client called EasyChirp that works wonderfully with screen readers.
- Flash objects may or may not be accessible. If you are embedding something from another site and are unsure about the accessibility of the object, please see the developer's site, or contact us.
For any questions you may have, contact LATTE Help at firstname.lastname@example.org or x6LTTE.