Consider accessibility as you begin every project. Even if you have limited time, take on just one aspect now, and tackle others later. That way you may not have to retrofit materials upon request, which ultimately can take more time, resources, and money.
If your digital materials are not accessible, students and users may need to request accommodations on an as-needed basis.
You may not be alerted to the need until shortly before a project is published or a class or event begins. Retrofitting your materials will take time, resources, and perhaps money. It may be more than you can afford on short notice.
Begin making accessibility part of your planning process now, and it will become smoother and faster with each project, class, or event. When you see how many people benefit from the changes you make, you may wonder why you didn't do it sooner.
Dos and Don'ts
Include Accessibility in Project Scope and Objectives
When planning your project, whether it is widespread or small-scale, consider accessibility from the start.
As you determine your project scope and objectives, think about where accessibility is impacted. Ultimately, the scope and objectives of your project will vary; making an accessible website is a very different project from creating an accessible PDF.
- Start by using or purchasing an accessible technology to publish your digital content.
- Include accessibility in your kickoff meeting agenda.
- Research accessibility best-practices regarding the task at hand.
Identify Resources and Gaps
To determine potential resources or gaps in accessibility, consider the following questions:
What new skills do you need to learn to make your project accessible?
- Seven core skills
- Web design and/or development
- Learning new technologies
What resources do you need to help you?
- Websites, such as Accessible U
- Self-help guides
- Instructions about how to use the tools
Who could you add to your project team to assist you? Who do you contact if you get stuck?
Consider Providing Information in Multiple Formats
Information can come in many formats: printed text and graphics, audio, video, digital text, and so on. But no format is accessible to everyone. The University of Minnesota Accessibility of Information Technology policy requires that we make alternative formats of the information we are trying to convey available to those who request them, including:
- Video captions and transcripts and audio descriptions
- Any document that is created properly in digital format, such as Microsoft Word, Portable Document Format (PDF), PowerPoint, or Excel
- Large print text that has a minimum of 18 point font size
In addition to benefitting those with sensory disabilities, alternative formats may benefit others.
- Second-language learners may benefit from being able to see captions as they listen to audio or watch video.
- Digital audio may allow some users to access a document at a time when it cannot be read, such as while driving or exercising.
- Some individuals may find a video tutorial very helpful, but others might prefer a text-based step-by-step document; some may like an infographic, but others may find it overwhelming and get more from a text-based description.
Consider providing information in multiple formats when you plan projects. That way you can provide information to more users in a format they can use effectively, and avoid having to retrofit materials when people request alternative formats.
Develop a Realistic Project Timeline and Plan
Designing with accessibility in mind can take longer, especially if you are new to the process or need to reach out to others for assistance.
Be realistic with your timeline; identify how long you need to learn and use new skills, and plan accordingly.
If your project timeline is limited, start small and consider taking on just one aspect of accessibility (e.g., one of the seven core skills).
- What pieces of your project can you make accessible given the available time?
- What tasks are best done from the beginning?
- What materials are easier to make accessible retroactively?
Evaluate and Improve Accessibility As You Go
Evaluation is an ongoing process that begins as you start planning and developing your materials and continues throughout the project or task. Because technology rapidly changes, accessibility needs also change. For example, a website may need to be tested for compatibility with a screen reader when new browser versions come out.
How do you evaluate course materials, websites, tools, and other digital content for accessibility? While accessibility evaluations will vary based on your materials, consider the following in your evaluation:
- Do you provide a smooth and equitable experience for users with different abilities?
- Are you following the seven core skills outlined on this site?
- Did you follow Universal Design principles in your design and development?
- Will users with varying level of abilities test your materials and provide feedback?
- Can you or someone else on your team evaluate your project with a screen reader? If not, who else might you reach out to for help?
- What tools can you build into your digital materials or course to gather feedback on accessibility to identify problems that you may have overlooked (e.g. surveys or feedback forms, course evaluations, etc.)?
Improve Accessibility As You Go
After you evaluate and reevaluate the accessibility of your project, materials, content, etc., commit to making improvements based on your findings. Whether you are developing new courses, websites, or digital materials or editing existing content, take the opportunity to ensure you are following current accessibility best-practices.