Accessible and Usable

An important factor to remember is that good web accessibility is a function of design, not the technology used. So, even though there are a variety of attractive programs, instructors must remember accessibility and usability are the most important factions in web design. Web accessibility refers to how well web content is processed by electronic and information technology (e.g., adaptive technology), and web usability refers to how well web content is understandable and easy to use.


Instructors may believe that if they use programs that are deemed accessible to create websites or other applications, then their creations will be accessible, too. However, a program is marketed as accessible can still be used in a way that creates inaccessible products. For example, Blackboard, WebCT, and WebVistaCt can be used for online course development that is accessible. However, if an instructor includes PDF files or videos that are not captioned, then those parts of the website are not accessible or usable for all students. Some common applications and how to ensure that their use is accessible and usable follow.


Java Applets

Java applets allow the developer to include audio outputs such as beeps and whistles. To ensure accessibility, these outputs should be accompanied by video cues or a text equivalent. A video will also help those who may not have a sound card or who may be using a device without sound capability.


Multimedia Video

Multimedia files should contain tagged text or be captioned in order top provide accessibility for all students. Closed captioning allows text only to be seen at the viewer’s discretion., and open captioning is visible text that always appears for viewers. Different programs available are; Flash, Multimedia Access Generator (MAGpie) , Apple Quick Time, Windows Media Player, and Real Player.


PDF Files

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files can be very accessible. However, files created by a scanner are completely inaccessible to people who use screen readers. There are two ways to check for PDF file accessibility:

  • Open the file in Acrobat reader and choose “text select tool.” Attempt to select part of the text. If you can then it most likely is accessible.
  • Convert the PDF file to an HTML file to test its readability. This can be accomplished at theAccess Adobe website


Charts and Graphs

Charts and graphs are usually used to present complex information in an understandable visual format. This can present a problem, however, for students with visual disabilities. To increase accessibility, explaining the chart or graph in text or audio file to present the same information to students who have visual impairments and use screen readers.


HTML Accessibility

Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) is a computer language that marks up text to indicate to a web browser how the text is to be displayed. When using HTML, do not create complicated backgrounds and do use contrasting colors between the text and the background. This helps individuals with visual impairments view the web page more easily. Also, describe all hyperlinks, rather than using phrases like, “follow this link.”