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Faculty Teaching Toolbox: Universal Design

The Faculty Teaching Toolbox is a resource for faculty and staff that provides an introduction to some of the many instructional support services offered by Austin Community College.

Accessibility Checklist for Blackboard

According to a federal study in 2012, 11% of post-secondary students may need accommodations for learning. While this is a small percentage of all students using your Blackboard course or sitting in your classrooms, it is important that all students have equitable access to the instructional materials you create.


 Accessibility may have different meanings according to different disabilities, such as these examples below:

  • Learning-challenged: extended time needed to take tests, notetaker may be needed, read text, may use screen reader, may use text to audio software or app
  • Visually impaired/Blind: large print may be needed, screen reader may be needed (JAWS, Window-Eyes) or Braille
  • Deaf/Hard of hearing: interpreter needed in classroom, notetaker may be needed, access to printed copies of presentations for PowerPoints needed, captioning for auditory media
  • Mobility: access to physical spaces, planned spaces for group work


Provide Alt Text for Images: All non-text elements:  images, graphics, tables need to have accompanying descriptions 

- Example of how a screen reader is used for alternative text

- Use concise language, no need to write “image of”

- Alt text provides context for images which fail to load

Closed Captions for Videos: All videos have accurate captions 

- Simultaneous reading and hearing the content helps focus attention and reinforce learning

- Captions are necessary for a variety of audiences

- Check for accuracy

- Captioning should synchronize with video

- Automatic captioning available in YouTube and VidGrid software

- Permission may be needed from copyright holder to caption videos

- ACC has a media captioning department

Transcripts for Audio Files: All audio-only content has transcript

- Transcripts are separate files that users can refer to without playing the audio

- Transcripts benefit all users as they create a searchable version of content

Provide Text Identifiers:

- To highlight information that is color-coded for emphasis

- To identify frames or boxes

- To label headings in data representations

Make Tables Accessible:

- Include a Header Row to assist screen readers in table navigation

- The Header Row or labels should describe the topic or table purpose

- Avoid using merged or split cells

- Avoid blank cells, if possible

- Avoid using screenshots of tables or provide alt text for the table

Accessible Headings:

- Headings are a special type of text style formatting recognized by screen readers

- Using bold or colored font will not allow screen reader to recognize text as a heading

Use Heading Hierarchies:

- Heading 1- page title or main content heading

- Heading 2 - major section heading

- Heading 3 - subsection of Heading 2

- Never skip a heading level; for example, do not jump directly from Heading 1 to Heading 3.

Contrast, Colors, and Background:

- Use high contrast between text and background colors. Avoid colored text on a colored background. Insufficient contrast can cause a readability issue. 

- Avoid using only color to convey information; for example, using red font to indicate important information.

- Red-green color blindness is the most common type of color blindness. Red text also has a low contrast level between text and background colors. If red text is used on a white background, use dark red to ensure contrast.

- Font styles such as color, bold, underlining and italics are often meaningless to screen readers. Use of formatting alone to convey a key piece of information is not accessible; add text that accomplishes your goal (for example: Important - etc.)

- Colored or patterned backgrounds can be painful to read over long periods of time. 

Descriptive Links:

- Here is a short screen reader example demonstrating the difference between the experience of a screen reader encountering a URL and a descriptive link

- Avoid saying, “Click on ____” as the user on a mobile device does not have a mouse. 


Creating Accessible Document Files:

Make Work documents accessible

Make PowerPoint presentations accessible

Make Google Docs accessible 

Make your Word documents accessible

Make PDFs accessible

Scripts, Applets, Extensions and Plugins:

- These are small, web-based applications that add specific features to your webpages. Examples include Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft Office 365.

- Be mindful that the student opening your file may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader to read your pdf or a Microsoft application to read a Word document

- Provide links to downloads, if needed, such as Download Adobe Acrobat Reader

Web Accessibility: 

- Provide text alternatives to non-text content (charts, infographics, etc.)

- Provide synchronized alternatives to media (closed captioning)

- Ensure that content can be separated from presentation

- Make foreground and background contrast so that each may be distinguished

- Functionality must include keyboard access

- Allow users use and control over time limits on content (reading or media)

- Avoid presentation formats that may cause seizures due to photosensitivity

- Structure navigation should be easy for user 

- Text content must be readable and understandable

- Support compatibility with accessible software

- Provide accessible alternatives or make content accessible

Universal Design for Learning Framework

From CAST (2018).  Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http: //

Access from Universal Design for Learning Guidelinespart 2 - Build and Internalize UDLGoal of UDL from

Accessibility and Online Meeting Platforms

Information shared May 2020 from Ginger Bennett, ACC Director of Interpreter Services:
 1. Blackboard Collaborate - will be retired Summer 2023
2. WebEx is unable to handle the volume of usage which leads to poor video quality and freeze frames. I spoke with a WebEx manager and was told the reason for this is because they suspended the HD feature for their video output due to the volume of users. Also, two interpreters cannot be pinned at the same time and stay visible for the duration of a meeting. The deaf participant has to pin one and then when they switch, unpin the first one and pin the second one. This goes on about every 20 minutes until the meeting ends. Again, if everyone turns off their video except for the presenter, deaf participant, and interpreters then it works. 
3. Google Meet is much the same as WebEx. Pinning is possible; however, with a large group the windows become so small that it is difficult for the deaf participant to see the interpreter. One positive here is the auto-caption feature. The captions are actually pretty good even though they're generated by AI. 
4. Class for Zoom is the best one yet. It is user friendly and for the most part, intuitive. Pinning is easy and works. Video quality is stellar. With the new security features in place, it is less likely to be hacked. At this time, auto captioning is not available but a 3rd party vendor can be included if needed. 
With all of that being said, no matter what platform is used, our interpreters will do whatever is needed to provide communication access as smoothly as possible. Our Media Captioning Specialists will caption all videos of presentations either before or after they are used depending on when they are available. 

ACC Resources

More Info on Universal Design

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