Without even realising it, you could be excluding a good chunk of students, colleagues, and other people from the information you share online. It will not be the first time you have heard this phrase, but now more than ever, it is critical we keep our digital work accessible.
While our use of technology is allowing us to share information faster than ever, if we're not conscious about how we share knowledge, opportunities, and information, we could unknowingly be excluding people or making the lives of our colleagues and students much more difficult.
Avoiding this and mastering accessibility may seem like a mammoth task, but the opposite could not be more true. In fact, many of the tools and resources we're about to run you through can help make your life much easier, while also making sure that everyone who receives the information online can properly access it with ease.
1 - Use automatic accessibility checkers
The quickest way to check the accessibility of documents and presentations we share is to use the Accessibility Checker. Built into all Microsoft Office programs, this tool will let you know when you have forgotten to add alternative text, have uploaded a video without captions or have used a poor colour contrast.
To use the Checker tool in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or Outlook, navigate to the review tab and look for the Accessibility Checker icon. This will cause a checklist to appear on the right-hand side of your screen, highlighting ways you can make your content more accessible.
Get used to using the tool and before long you will be adding alt text and using accessible formatting everywhere!
2 - Use standard software and formats
Using University supported software, such as Microsoft Office, to share information online will allow students and colleagues with disabilities to become familiar with particular formats and become confident in adapting these flexible documents to make them as easy to understand as possible.
Built into these programs, there is a vast range of tools to help making your information more appealing, accessible, and digestible. By sticking to just one, standard software suite you will be able to learn the accessibility ropes much quicker.
Not only that, but students with access requirements will only have to learn to use one software suite too which will make studying much easier for them.
3 - Caption videos, the easy way
To those who have not manually captioned a video before, this may seem like a laborious task. Thankfully, with the modern tools available to us, artificial intelligence can do most of the work for us here.
Uploading a video to Microsoft Stream will allow you to generate captions, these tend to be more accurate than live captions but it's important that they match what you're saying - especially if complicated subject matter is being discussed.
Microsoft Stream also allows you to edit their automatic captions to make sure they are completely accurate, making it a very quick process and ensuring everyone can understand what you are trying to communicate!
4 - Provide effective alternative text
Regular use of the accessibility checker will have you trained to use alt text in no time! It is a simple addition to any image that will make a huge difference for anyone that uses a screen reader, but there is a bit of a knack to getting it right.
First, it is critical that the alt text describes what is important in an image, including any detail that is not fully explained in text. When writing alt text for a chart or data visualisation, specifics and numbers should be provided when they are not explained in text.
While providing this clarity, it is also important to keep descriptions concise so those using screen readers can make their way through materials efficiently. Microsoft Office recommends two to three sentences, but for academic charts and figures, this may need to be slightly longer.
Where images are simply decorative and do not add value to the material, most software programs let you mark them as such. This means that screen readers will simply ignore the image and continue through written content.