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3 Checking the accessibility of materials

When you are creating materials for online use it is a relatively simple process to ensure they are as accessible as possible (as you have just read in the previous section). However, you also need to be able to assess – and, if necessary, adjust – the accessibility of other people’s materials that you want to reuse for your own purposes. While there are automated tools available that give some indication of a resource’s accessibility (such as MS Office’s Accessibility Checker feature [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , or web page accessibility checking tools (such as AChecker or WAVE), always apply your own judgement and common sense to the outputs of these tools, and use them as part of a wider assessment of the resources.

There are surprisingly few guidelines available covering how to evaluate open educational resources (OER) for accessibility, but you might find this downloadable document useful: ‘Rubrics for Evaluating Open Education Resource Objects’ (Achieve, 2011). It contains a variety of guidance, with Rubric VIII (pages 10 and 11 of the document) giving some useful suggestions as to what to look out for. However, this document is very USA-centric, with references to legislation and organisations that are only relevant in North America.

The OER network OpenWashington (2017) suggests six key accessibility questions to ask when considering reusing materials:

  1. Is all written content presented as text so that people using assistive technologies can read it?
  2. If the materials include images, is the important information from the images adequately communicated with accompanying alternative text?
  3. If the materials include audio or video content, is it captioned or transcribed?
  4. If the materials have a clear visual structure including headings, subheadings, lists and tables, is this structure properly coded so it is accessible to people using screen readers?
  5. If the materials include buttons, controls, drag-and-drop or other interactive features that are operable with a mouse, can they also be operated with keyboard alone for users who cannot use a mouse?
  6. Do the materials avoid communicating information using colour alone (e.g. the red line means X, the green line means Y)?

It is usually fairly straightforward to adjust features such as font size or colour combinations in OER, and to add or amend alternative text for images. If you wish to use a video that does not have captions (or is not in your language), you have several options: