Alternative Means of Access is Provided

Quality Review Showcase

The Quality and High Quality online course reviews explore components proven to be best practices in online course design. This post showcases Quality item, “Alternative means of access to course materials is provided.”

By: Charlotte Jones-Roberts, Instructional Designer, CDL

“Alternative means of access” means that students have the ability to access course materials in more than one manner. For instance, if a student has limited vision and cannot see the images in your online course, will they be able to fully engage with the concepts presented? Providing alternative text for images help students with limited vision to meaningfully access the true meaning of the images. If a student is Hard of Hearing, will they be able to fully engage with the video clips you have recorded or the video feedback you left? Providing written transcripts and/or captions are an alternative means of access for that student. 

Providing alternative means of access supports all students, not simply those who require accommodations. A student who prefers to read or who may speak English as a second language may choose to read captions while they watch and listen to a video, for instance. A document that is properly formatted makes it easier for everyone to read and understand.

What are Some Ways your Online Course can be Designed to meet this Standard?

  • Run the UDOIT tool in your online course. The UDOIT tool enables you to identify specific accessibility issues in your online courses. It will scan a course, generate a report, and provide resources on how to address common accessibility issues. Some of the issues can be immediately fixed within the report. UDOIT will identify PDFs, however, it does not check them for accessibility. Consult with your instructional designer or Webcourses@UCF Support for additional help with UDOIT. 
  • Video and Multimedia have true captions, or accurate transcripts are provided.
  • Images, including graphs, are described via alternative text (alt-tag), long-description, caption, or audio description.
  • Tables are set up with proper row and column headings. UDOIT will check for row and column headings. Please reference the UDOIT report when considering a score for this rubric item.
  • Documents contain headings. Headings indicate the structure of a document, such as an outline of the content. Headings (e.g., Header 2, Header 3, Header 4 in Webcourses@UCF) are extremely useful for all users to navigate the structure of content. Text simply formatted to be big, bold, italicized, or underlined, may visually look like headings, however, only text formatted as Headings are recognized as such by a screen reader. Verify PDFs contain text and are not merely image scans. Text contained in PDFs should be selectable and searchable. 
  • Color alone should not be used to convey meaning, since some students may be colorblind. Instead of using red to focus student attention, consider bold instead.

What Does This Look like in a Real Online Course?

Captions for Videos

Example 1: Amanda Groff, ANT4153 (North American Archaeology)

To caption her lecture videos, Dr. Groff likes to write a script before recording a lecture and then make edits to the script after recording. Check out her video captioning tips and more video captioning resources on our Tips for Faculty from Faculty page.

ANT4153 Alternative Access

Example 2: Matt Dombrowski, DIG4780 (Modeling for Real-time Systems) 

Professor Dombrowski demonstrates the dedication and hard work required to address a UDOIT report with a long-running course. If you are designing your course, keep in mind to use the UDOIT tool from the beginning to find and address accessibility issues in your course as you build it.

UDOIT Screenshot report

One of the issues found in the UDOIT scan was lack of captions on videos. Professor Dombrowski addressed those issues by ensuring that his instructor-made tutorial videos for real-time modeling had true captions.

You YouTube Video Example/thumbnail

Alternative Text for Images

Example 3. Sandra Wheeler, ANT3026 (Mummies, Vampires, and Zombies: Anthropology of the Undead). 

Dr. Wheeler incorporates many images into her course. She takes a three-pronged approach to ensuring that these images are accessible; she (1) includes a text description of the image right below the image; (2) includes a link to the site that originally hosts the image; and (3) includes true alternative text to be embedded in the image itself.

Example of alt text being displayed
Alternative Text Example

Color and Emphasis

Color can draw attention and communicate information; however, some people’s eyes don’t perceive color or distinguish between some colors; so, when using visual cues, make sure people who can’t see or distinguish between colors can access that information without color.

Here are two examples in actual courses of alternatives to color for emphasis:

Text Styles

Example 4. Michael “Doc” Terry, HFT2254 (Lodging Management). 

It’s fine to emphasize text with color, such as by highlighting or using a different color font; however, an alternate cue should be provided as well. Doc Terry brings attention to important links in his course by highlighting them in a certain color; however, he also adds a bold style and larger font to his links so that it draws attention of people who don’t see color. In addition, screen readers communicate bold and italics to help emphasize text to listeners who can’t see at all.

Alternative visual cues

Example 5. Josh Colwell, PHY1038 (Physics of Energy, Climate Change, and the Environment).

Josh Colwell draws attention to student activities in his course with action icons. The icons’ colors can convey meaning, but the same meaning can also be  communicated by the shape and size of the icons. In addition, each icon has an image that conveys the activity described in the accompanying text.

Example of Alternative visual cues by using icons
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