Course Accessibility Checklist: A Promising Practice in Helping Instructors Create Accessible Online Learning Courses

Date Updated

Skagit Valley Colleges (SVC) offers online (eLearning) courses that are academically rigorous and equivalent to traditional face-to-face courses. Courses offered online are the same in terms of credits, learning objectives, competencies, content, and transferability. They are also the same when it comes to policies concerning admission requirements and accessibility assurances.

In order to assist instructors in making their online courses more universally designed and, more specifically, accessible to individuals with disabilities, staff in the eLearning department at SVC developed a course accessibility checklist. The checklist is designed for instructors to use by applying each guideline as they prepare their course. It can be used with any course that employs digital content, including those that are primarily face-to-face, hybrid, or fully online.

Items on the checklist include those listed below.

 1. Textbook, syllabus, and handouts

  • Textbook requisition was submitted on time and is available in the bookstore.
  • There is a plan to provide alternative access if a textbook can’t be accessed by a student by the first day of class.
  • I have permission from the copyright holder to use the print and/or electronic content in my course.
  • Required course reserve materials are in a clear and readable format, and are available in the library on all campuses. There is an electronic version online students can access from home.
  • The syllabus has a disability support statement, academic integrity policy, and a list of support resources.
  • All handouts (e.g., Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents) are accessible and are offered in both original format as well as PDF (Portable Document File) format for easy viewing and device compatibility.

2. Audio and video

  • All audio presentations (MP3s, CDs, or other audio formats) are available with a transcript.
  • All video presentations (DVDs, Panopto recordings, YouTube videos, or other video formats) are captioned.
  • If the top two are not possible, there is at least a work in progress to transcribe or add captions on course videos.

3. Web pages, Canvas, LMSs

  • There is clear layout and predictable navigation. Try to navigate through your Canvas course without using the browser “Back Button.” Keep it simple; if a student can’t find the information they want within three clicks, they can often become frustrated.
  • Meaningful links are used throughout the text. A good example of a link name: “Read more about Disability Access Services.” A bad example of link name: “Click Here.”
  • Text format uses headings and sub-headings style, and bulleted lists are used throughout the text.
  • No blinking and/or flashing content.
  • Avoid drag and drop activities that require the use of mouse.

4. Good use of colors and images

  • There is a strong contrast between background and text. For example, if you have a white background, use black text.
  • Don’t use the name of color for direction; and don’t assume that everyone can distinguish colors. For example, don’t use “See information in red” or “Click yellow button.” In contrast, use a meaningful description such as “Contact Information is found at end of the page.”
  • For images, graphics, and tables: Make sure you have a caption explaining what it is by including alternative (Alt) tags and/or long descriptions. For graphics that are purely decorative, include a blank Alt tag so the screen reader doesn’t read the image name.

5. Check your Canvas course for accessibility issues

  • Use Ally, a tool used to check common accessibility issues in files you upload in Canvas (e.g., Word documents, PDFs, and images). It scans those files, generates a report, and provides suggestions on how to fix accessibility issues. It also creates alternative formats (e.g., Audio, PDFs, HTML, and electronic braille).

6. Testing

  • Accommodate students requiring extended time for testing and/or provide alternative testing format as recommended by Disability Access Services.

7. Help, technology, and mobile devices

  • Have a training plan and/or self-help resources for students
  • Allow mobile devices in the classroom if they are for learning activities (e.g., taking notes, reading the textbook, and/or recording presentations.)

The course accessibility checklist is a promising practice in helping instructors create accessible digital learning opportunities. The clear and concise set of items can be reviewed before the start of each quarter, providing instructors with an easy to understand overview of some of the essential universal design elements and accessibility features to include in their courses.

For information on creating accessible distance learning courses consult the many resources linked from the AccessDL (the Center for Accessible Distance Learning) and AccessCyberlearning websites.