What Is Accessibility?
Did you know that there is an emerging trend in improving the accessibility of electronic and information technologies? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA guidelines which are widely used by institutions as a primary resource for improving accessibility.
This page is a collection of tips and resources available to faculty and students at Pace interested in accessible learning. Accessibility can include captioning, adhering to visual standards, and making sure your documents can be processed by screen readers. These best practices can be applied in your course assessments, web content, and course documents including PDFs, PowerPoints, textbooks, syllabi, and multimedia.
Use our Online Course Checklist to check if your course is Accessible!
Blackboard ALLY is a course content accessibility tool that integrates seamlessly with Blackboard, allowing instructors to address accessibility concerns within their courses to benefit students. ALLY provides guidance and tips for lasting improvements to your content’s accessibility. Instructors will receive feedback on the accessibility of their content, and can use ALLY's step-by-step instructions to improve content accessibility. ALLY uses advanced machine learning algorithms to generate a wide range of alternatives to the instructor’s original document file, such as Accessible PDF, Semantic HTML, audio, ePub and electronic braille, helping to create more inclusive learning environments.
For more information about Blackboard Ally, go to: https://www.pace.edu/blackboard-ally
TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR BLACKBOARD COURSE ACCESSIBLE
1. Use a font size of at least 12pt.
2. Have sufficient contrast between text and background.
3. Use proper heading styles.
4. Use a logical heading structure.
5. Add alternative descriptions to images that convey the full meaning of the image.
6. Use tables for tabular data only.
7. Ensure that all tables have column headings.
8. Use built-in list functionality for all lists.
9. Ensure that all links have text that describes the target.
10. Use built-in PowerPoint slide templates.
11. Don’t use scanned PDFs.
12. Ensure that all PDFs are tagged.
Best Practices and Accesibility Resources
Get started with general tips and suggestions.
- How to Create an Accessible PDF from a Microsoft Office Document
- Example Syllabus Statement
- Accessibility Tips
- Microsoft Office Accessibility Center
- Accessibility "Cheat Sheets"
- Accessibility Video 1 - Tips for Making Your Course Accessible
- Accessibility Video 2- Accessible Documents Using Microsoft Office
- Accessibility Video 3 - Third Party Tools
The following tools can generate feedback and help you identify accessibility errors.
Become familiar with these popular screen reading tools and test your own content with them.
The library staff have created a guide to accessibility resources at the library. It describes accommodations at the library as well as assistive technologies including the read-aloud feature available in EBSCOhost databases. Click here to visit the LibGuide to Disability Services.
Captioning and Video Tools
Captioning can provide content and information to the Pace community and beyond, including learners who are deaf and hearing impaired, learners for whom English is not their native language, and when audio quality (noise, volume, clarity, etc.) is a factor.
Studies show that students learn more when information is presented through multiple modalities, including text, audio and video.*
Use captioning tools to make text in your captions searchable so that people can find your video through Google.
Types of Captioning
Closed Captions: Captions can be turned on or off.
Open Captions: The text is burned onto the video image. Captions cannot be turned on or off.
In order to caption a video, you must own it or contact the owner in order to get permission to caption it.
Videos added to Kaltura My Media will be automatically captioned by an algorithm with an accuracy of approximately 70%. For high-priority videos, the Office of Academic Technologies has partnerships with the following captioning vendors that offer closed captioning, transcription, and subtitling with various turnaround options. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Automatic Voice-to-Text options
YouTube can automatically create caption files that you can download and use in Blackboard (see below for information on DIY captioning with YouTube).
Do-it-yourself Captioning options
Please see the captioning key website for guidelines on proper captioning.
- YouTube: Add subtitles and closed captions to your YouTube Videos.
- Amara: Free, open-source subtitles created by volunteers. Take a look at their FAQ page for Getting Started and How-To articles. Also check out this article on Amara from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
An .SRT caption file is required to view captions in Blackboard and Kaltura. You can convert supported files at Caption Converter.
* CaptionSync A Captioning Handbook for Higher Education. Retrieved 8 April 2015 from http://www.automaticsync.com/captionsync/contact/captioning-guide-higher-education/
Assistive Listening Systems and Devices
Hearing is not an all or nothing phenomenon. People show varying degrees of hearing at different frequencies in each ear. The learning implications of this are sometimes overlooked for a variety of reasons that can include a lack of understanding of modern technology that can improve perception of sound.
What is an ASSISTIVE LEARNING SYSTEM (ALS)?
Assistive Listening Systems (ALSs) are sometimes called Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs). Essentially, they are small amplifiers that bring sound directly into the ear. They separate the sounds, particularly speech, that a person wants to hear from background noise. They improve what is known as the “speech to noise ratio”.
Research indicates that people who are hard of hearing require a volume (signal to noise ratio) increase of about 15 to 25 dB in order to achieve the same level of understanding as people with normal hearing. An ALS provides this level of increase without making it too loud for others in the room.
CAN ALSs BE USED BY SOME PEOPLE WHO ARE DEAF?
Yes. ALSs are used by people with all degrees of hearing impairment, from mild to profound. This includes hearing aid users and cochlear implant users, as well as individuals who do not use either hearing aids or cochlear implants. Hearing aids and cochlear implants have performance limitations in certain environments. ALDs are sometimes described as “binoculars for the ears” because they “stretch” hearing aids and cochlear implants, thus extending their range and effectiveness.
WHERE ARE ALSs USED?
ALSs help address listening challenges in three ways: minimizing background noise; reducing the effect of distance between the sound source and the listener; and overcoming poor acoustics such as echo. People use ALSs in places of entertainment, employment, and education, as well as for home or personal use.
ALS Equiped Locations at Pace
Most of the large venues on campus are equipped with ALSs. These include the Bianco Room, Student Union and Lecture Halls in NYC and Gottesman, Miller 21, Miller 22, and the Video Conference Rooms in PLV. Assistive Listening Devices can also be setup in classrooms and other spaces not listed here by contacting Ed Media. For a complete list of locations currently equipped with ALSs please contact the Educational Media Department in New York at (212) 346-1583, or in Pleasantville at (914) 773-3338.
Benefits of Accessibility
The following references offer insight into the benefits accessibility. Improvements in learning, comprehension, and retention are not just for those with disabilities -- everyone can gain from greater accessibility.
- Dexter, L. (2014). Accessibility for all: The benefits of universal design learning. Retrieved from https://ctl.learninghouse.com/improving-accessibility-for-all-users/
- Burgstahler, S. (2015) Equal access: Universal design of instruction. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/doit/equal-access-universal-design-instruction#f3
- Williams, J., & Fardon, M. (2007). Lecture recordings: extending access for students with disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.automaticsync.com/captionsync/wp-content/uploads-old/Lecture-Recordings-with-Students-with-Disabilities.pdf
- Schelly, C. L., Davies, P. L., & Spooner, C. L. (2011). Student Perceptions of Faculty Implementation of Universal Design for Learning. Journal Of Postsecondary Education And Disability, 24(1), 17-30. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ941729