Free Tech Accessibility Checklist

Illustration of new technology and electronic device
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Published: Friday, September 25, 2020
Summary:

9 tips to help you determine whether a free technology you’re considering for your course is accessible. 

While Digital Learning’s InTech team supports several interactive and engaging instructional technologies for use campus-wide, you may have noticed that there is a plethora of free tech available on the web. One of the many benefits of using a campus supported technology is that our friendly InTech team is there to help you get started, dive deeper and troubleshoot along the way. We also take the time to vet all enterprise technologies on a variety of standards prior to acquiring and implementing them. 

One of those standards is accessibility, which is essential for leveraging the power of digital technologies that provide equal educational access and opportunities for all students. When a website or tool is accessible, it was designed and developed to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight and cognitive abilities. However, it is important to note that all users benefit when accessibility concerns are taken into account, because accessible design also addresses issues that impact individuals facing temporary or situational limitations, language barriers, unfamiliar technology tools and slow internet speeds. 

External technologies can be exciting and free, but they don't come with the same support and assurances. While you are welcome to experiment with and use fantastic freebies in your courses, we strongly encourage you to make accessibility a part of your technology evaluation and adoption decision making. Here are some tips to help you determine whether a technology you’re considering for your course is accessible. 

  1. Color And Contrast. The use of color and contrast on a website or tool can be a good indicator of an organization’s awareness of accessibility. High-contrast designs are better, but color should never be the only signal used to distinguish a setting or status; other visual (symbols, etc.) or text indicators are necessary. Learn more about choosing color with care at Color Contrast - Choose Color with Care

  2. Drop Your Mouse. Can you access all the functions of the tool by navigating with a keyboard alone? Can you access and operate all buttons, sliders, and other controls using only tab, arrows, spacebar, and enter keys? Can you tell where you are on the page (i.e. keyboard focus indicates which item is selected)? For more information, visit nomouse.org.

  3. Review Provided Content. Does the existing content on the tool, such as instructions for use, provide alt text for images and accurate captions for videos?

  4. Create Accessible Content. If you add or create content in the tool, is there a way to include alt text for images and captions for videos? If the tool offers auto-captioning for videos, which often contains errors, can you edit and correct the caption files?

  5. Mobile Minded. Many of your students may access your course and tools from their mobile device. What does the mobile version look like?

  6. Use Accessibility Tools. Many large vendors have built-in accessibility checkers, and there are many external tools, such as the WAVE (Website Accessibility Evaluation Tool), that will check a website’s accessibility.

  7. Ask The Vendor. If the vendor’s website includes an accessibility statement or a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), it’s a good sign that they’re aware of accessibility, but it still may not be a sure fire indication that the company has covered all of the bases. Feel free to ask the vendor how it approaches accessibility.

  8. Refer To Requirements. The University of Arizona’s guide for buying accessible tools can be found in the IT Accessibility website at Buying Accessible IT.

  9. Phone A Friend. For more information, visit the University of Arizona Disability Resources Center’s inclusive teaching and accessibility strategies guide at Inclusive Teaching and Accessibility Strategies.

Guest Author(s):
Sarah Mauet
Former Creative Director, Media and Technologies, Digital Learning