Classroom Accessibility Best Practices
By Connie Belden, Professor of Accounting and Business Administration and Co-Chair of Accessibility Task Force, Butler Community College
"The disability is not the problem. The accessibility is the problem."
-- Mohamed Jemni
Even your face-to-face classroom uses technologies. Making your classroom accessible is a challenge, both in and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, your materials and instruction methods need to be accessible. Any outside materials (such as web assignments or shared electronic documents) need to also be accessible. There are some best practices that can help with making your classroom accessible.
Figure 1. Classroom (by Wokandapix on Pixabay)
1. Provide an outline of class lectures to all students in advance of the class meeting highlighting materials that are covered. Outlines can be done in Microsoft Word and run through the accessibility check.
2. For any paper handouts offer a digital version that is accessible (such as word file or PDF) that can be read by magnification or screen reader.
3. In-class Visual Text Sources standards for visibility:
a. Whiteboards: Use high contrast markers (black and blue are recommended) unless other colors are necessary (be careful with use of red as that is difficult to read by some students).b. Blackboards: Use high contrast chalk (white or yellow recommended) unless color is necessary.c. Whiteboard and Blackboards: Use appropriate-sized letters (2” minimum height and then 1” additional per 10’ of usable classroom size beyond 20’).
4. PowerPoint: Use high contrast colors and do not use font sizes below 18 pt. Use Sans Serif fonts (Arial). The projected size of your PowerPoint text should conform to the same standards as that for whiteboards. Because there is a dynamic relationship between screen size, projector distance and resolution, and font size, you will have to judge your PowerPoints in the classroom and be prepared to adjust font size if necessary.
5. All content presented visually: Narrate/describe what is written on the blackboard/whiteboard/PowerPoint or other format. Describe images and charts as you work through the material in class. Enlarge text as needed.
6. Present new or technical vocabulary in a handout, digitally, or on the board.
1. Rephrase or repeat student questions and comments when addressing them for the group when you are lecturing, especially in a room that is large.
2. If the class has an important discussion, especially if the discussion deals with testable material, consider following up with an email/announcement after class.
1. Preview all videos used in face to face classes to ensure accuracy of closed captioning and to assess size of caption text (see above). If the captions are not accurate, don’t use them and look for alternative videos or other options to provide accurate closed captioning or transcripts. If the captions are too small, alert students at the start of class that those who plan to read the captions may want to sit in the front of the class. Some videos may have transcripts available that can be printed or linked to.
2. Only show videos that have accurate and available captions. Check into online sources (such as Films on Demand) for accessible videos.
1. Provide a copy of these expectations and recommendations to any guest speakers so they can provide their lectures in an accessible way. A transcript of their speech would be helpful for those who are hearing impaired.
Documents and Web Pages that are Posted for Class in an LMS
1. If your document has different sections with titles, use the built-in headings in documents and web pages (<h1>) for easier navigation by visually impaired students using screen readers.
2. Use built-in list tool so that screen readers will read the text appropriately.
3. Use “insert link” option to add links to web pages and always give the link a more descriptive title than “click here.”
4. Use alternative text (a brief description) for images so that screen readers can correctly “read” the image.
5. Don’t use color alone to convey information. For example, if showing a chart, use different types of lines.
6. Use column headers and/or row headers in tables so that screen readers will read them properly. For the same reason, avoid merged cells whenever possible.
7. Equations should be written using LaTex, MathML or MathType (MS Word) to create formulas in web pages and documents. Read the formula out loud in class presentation.
8. All posted PDF’s and Microsoft Office documents (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) should be run through the accessibility checker provided in the programs, including those provided by publishers.
Making your courses accessible is not just for those with documented disabilities, it helps all students. It can be beneficial for non-native speakers, ADD/ADHD students, and those students who may have slight hearing or vision impairments.
Choosing the Right Fonts for your PowerPoint Presentation. (2016, March 10). Retrieved from https://www.documentswithprecision.com/choosing-right-powerpoint-font/
Face to Face Standards Document Wichita State University. (2019). Retrieved from ksarn.org › wp-content › uploads › 2019/06 › Face-to-Face-Standards-2019
In-Class (Face to Face) Accessibility Best Practices. (2019). Butler Community College.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 [Fact sheet]. (2018, June 5). Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/
About the Author
Connie Belden is a Professor of Accounting and Business Administration at Butler Community College and Co-Chair of Butler’s Accessibility Task Force. Her passion for helping others comes from working all of her life with individuals of different disabilities as she has a brother who is mentally handicapped. She earned a B.S. degree in Therapeutic Recreation and worked developing programs for those having special needs. She then earned a Masters in Business Administration followed by a Masters in Adult Education and Leadership and has been teaching at Butler for almost 30 years.
Her email is email@example.com.
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