How Do I Know? Easy Checking as a First Review

How many times have you needed to get a gift for someone, but you weren’t sure what to get.  So you head off to your “go to” places where you typically locate that perfect gift for that friend or relative.   Not knowing what you’re really looking for at first, it may take some time to get started in the right direction.  The first stop may not yield anything, but as the process unfolds, ideas of what to look for next and where to go will become more apparent until the right thing comes along.

Knowing what to look for in a document or web site to evaluate for accessibility is a very similar situation.  If you don’t know exactly what to look for, it is pretty overwhelming.  And as we talked about in a previous post, the checker may make it seem like the file is accessible, when it may still have accessibility barriers.

Here are some tips on what to review to get an idea of whether or not the document or web page is accessible, even before using an automated tool.  These can also help you begin to think about design changes to make when creating new content.  They can also help when looking at content from other sources.  As these questions become more familiar, reviewing documents and web sites will be less foreign and overwhelming.  Hopefully.

Are there images in the document?  If so are they described? 

The description will be available if you right-click on the image, and then locate the alt text area (alternate text). If there is a web address or a file name, it will need to be deleted and the description added.   There might also be a “d” (description) under the image; that looks like a link.  If so, then there is more information available that will describe that object when the “d” link is selected.

Does the document have headings and structure?

One Heading 1 is used per page, usually for the title.  If the ribbon in Office and the Headings in the ribbon was used, then the document will have headings and structure.  The headings and structure allow screen reading software used by persons with disabilities to “scan” the document to review it and explore it in further detail.  HTML editors like those in D2L also have heading tools.  An easy way to check is to try the Tab key and see if by tabbing through the text of the document, the text flows in a logical order.

What about audio and video?

Is there a written transcript that shows the audio word for word?  If a transcript is provided it may not be accurate.  Try turning the sound off and reading the captions to see if they make sense;  usually the first few seconds will let you know- you’ll see confusing words or lots of misspellings if the transcript was created using built in tools, and not “by hand” by someone who listened to the audio and typed it accordingly.  The transcript may need to be cleaned up.  Try turning off the monitor and listening to the video to simulate what a blind person perceives.  Is the content understandable without any additional descriptions, such as scene changes, background action or changes in presenters?  Or does the video talk about something that is not presented?

Is there color in the document?

Blind people, of course, cannot perceive color. Take a look at the color in the document and tell if there is contrast or not.  If it’s hard to read by someone with average vision, then most likely the color ratio needs to be adjusted.  It can be easily changed to something that is more likely to have sufficient contrast like black text on a white background in a Word document.   There is an automatic tool when adding images to D2L that will check it.  Or use a colour contrast analyser to truly be sure it meets the WCAG 2.0 standard.

If the color graphic was printed on a black and white printer, would it be understandable?

Also, if color is used to ask for a choice or to give information, there needs to be another way of marking that information in addition to the color, such as an asterisk or the word “required” or using conventions like a web link that is always also underlined.  What you are looking for is if the color used makes the document easier or harder to read for persons who may not be able to perceive color.

Are there links to other information? 

Look to see if there are words that describe the link; words will give an idea of where the link will lead and what type of content can be expected if it is selected.   If the entire address is listed, or if words like “read more” or “click here” are used instead, then it will be difficult to know which link goes to which content, especially when there are multiple links to choose from.

Can the text be manipulated?

Try highlighting some of the text as if to copy it to another file.  Then try copying and pasting it.  If it cannot be highlighted, copied or pasted, it is most likely locked and means that the text cannot be selected which allows it to be read by screen reading software.  Just because something is digital does not make it open for reading with other tools, such as text to speech software.  Try enlarging the text as well, and make sure that when it enlarges, that the font does not make the text difficult to read due to distortions from enlargement.

Is it text or an image?

Especially when looking at scientific or math notation, it will be hard to tell if the item represented is presented in a way that it can be deciphered by different users.  Just because the text can be highlighted does not make it accessible in this case.  Superscripts and subscript characters will not be read appropriately.  Math and science use symbolic language that must be written using additional technology tools such as an equation editor or specific HTML 5 code.  As we discussed earlier, the checker cannot detect whether the information can be read properly.  This is a challenging process due to the complexity of translating math and science notation into an item that is readable by screen reading software.  It is an area that is receiving a great deal of attention related to accessible materials, and not only for those with visual impairments.

Check the blog post, “Testing 1,2,3”  for additional information on using automated checking to determine if materials are accessible.   Tip sheets and Resources are also available that walk you through what is involved in creating accessible materials.

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