Over the last couple of months, we have seen the shift to more online learning and teaching. As instructors are being asked to create more digital content and students are being asked to participate in more online learning activities, it’s important to keep accessibility at the forefront of our minds. Creating accessible content will allow us to meet the needs of the largest possible community of learners and users, with the most diverse set of needs. These include users with visual, auditory, motor/mobility and cognitive disabilities, both of the temporary and permanent nature. It’s also especially important, under the current circumstances, because our users may not have access to the same in-person assistance they usually have.
What we know from working to make our digital spaces and content accessible is that when we design and create with accessibility in mind, it becomes much easier and cost-effective to do so. The cost, in effort, time, and money, becomes much greater when we attempt to retroactively make our digital spaces and content accessible. Remember, while creating accessible content is necessary for some, doing so is beneficial for all.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline the standards that we should meet in order to create and maintain accessible digital content. The WCAG standards are divided into four components, housed in the tidy acronym POUR. Let’s outline them below.
P - PERCEIVABLE
Information and user interface components must be presented to users in ways they can perceive: The information can’t be invisible to all their senses.
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
- Create content that can be presented in different ways (including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning)
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content
O - OPERABLE
User interface components and navigation must be operable: The interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard
- Give users enough time to read and use content
- Do not use content that causes seizures
- Help users navigate and find content
U - UNDERSTANDABLE
Information and the operation of a user interface must be understandable: Users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface.
- Make text readable and understandable
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes
R - ROBUST
Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies: As technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools and assistive technologies
Today, and every day, let’s remember that we have an opportunity and obligation to create equitable experiences for everyone. What is beneficial for some is necessary for all. We are in this together!