Making Multimedia Accessible
While Images, Audio and Video can be an engaging way to diversify your course content, these instructional devices have their limitations. Supplementing this media with additional forms provides accessibility for students with disabilities, while also giving learning options to all students.
Images and Alternative Text
Images can serve multiple purposes in instruction, but it’s important to understand that they are inherently inaccessible to the visually impaired. Depending on what type of information is represented, different steps can be taken to ensure accessibility.
For images that convey complex information, it’s important to include a detailed long description either as a caption, or within the content of the lesson itself. Charts and graphs, while visually helpful, are weak methods of conveying information if they are on their own. Screen readers cannot easily translate the information presented. More generally, by providing descriptive elements to graphs and charts, students of all abilities and learning styles will gain clarity and understanding. When writing a description of a complex image, consider whether or not the information presented is equivalent to that of the image itself. Perhaps the easiest way is to use sources which offer already-captioned complex images.
For simple images, the best practice is to describe them with alternative text, or alt text. Alt text is an easy and efficient application that is employed by most authoring tools (i.e. Microsoft Word, Power Point, etc.). For full instructions on how to add alt text, go to the NCDAE Cheatsheets, find the program you are using and scroll down to “Alternative Text for Images.”
Basic Guidelines for Alt Text
- Be accurate and equivalent – the alt text should present the same content, but also serve the same function as the image itself.
- Be succinct – Usually, no more than a few words are necessary. Sometimes a short sentence may be needed, but if a lengthy explanation is required, the image chosen might not be the best option for presenting your material.
- For decorative images – If an image does not convey any significant information, there is no need to describe it. Simply label it as a “decorative image.”
- Avoid irrelevant phrases – Generally a screen reader will already identify that the user has come across an image, so there’s no need to begin alt text with “image of…” or “depicted here is a picture of…”
Even more information on alt text can be found at WebAIM.
Captioning is a great method to ensure accessibility not just to students with a disability, but to all students. Obviously, students who are deaf or hard of hearing benefit immensely from captioned videos, but the same can be said of international (ESL) students, students new to the material and vocabulary, or simply students who learn better visually. The best and easiest practice is to use sources which offer captioned videos.
An Easy Way to Caption Using YouTube
If the video you have sourced does not offer captioning, or you have created a video of your own, an easy way to caption is by uploading to YouTube. With some minor correcting, you can efficiently add a caption, and then use the YouTube URL when uploading your video to Blackboard, or sending it as a link to your students’ email. Along with an instructional video from the NCDAE, a step-by-step tutorial is available on their Captioning YouTube Videos webpage.
When providing audio-only means of instruction, be sure to make available a transcript, or a text version of the information provided. This could be as simple as providing the lecture notes that accompany a recorded lecture, or utilizing transcript software. Not only do transcripts help our hearing-impaired students, it allows self-pacing, clarity and spelling accuracy for all students.