Over the last couple of years I have become increasingly aware of accessibility issues in online education. I admit to previously not giving much thought to how people whose hearing, sight, physical mobility or cognitive abilities are different to my own, interact with digital media. However by meeting and discussing with people involved in this area, I have gained a few insights into accessibility questions and a whole new world has opened itself to me.
An article on the Webinar blog, Webinar Slides And Text-To-Speech, highlights the issue of writing to facilitate text-to-speech applications. If we follow some simple guidelines we can make sure that all our digital resources are more accessible. Instead of making alternative accessible versions, why not make accessibility default?
In a perfect world, we would make a version of presentation materials that are optimally designed for a sighted audience listening to a narrator, along with a second set of hardcopy materials that can be referenced by a larger and more physically diverse audience. But there are practical considerations for how much time and effort presenters can dedicate to their materials. If you can only make one version, why not make it accessible to everyone?
- Write numbers manually in bullet lists since the automatic numbering is not picked up by the text-to-speech apps.
- Dates should be written using the name of the month rather than combinations of digits (11 March 2018).
- Times should use a colon instead of a stop to separate hours and minutes (10.30).
- Put stops in acronyms, otherwise the app may say it as a word (U.S.A. or e.g. would be best).
- Use styles to show headings or sub-headings rather than bold normal text.
We all have so much to learn!