What to Look For When Selecting Accessible Educational Materials

It is very important to make sure that any digital course materials used by educators and students are properly accessible to people with disabilities and special needs. There are certain questions to get answered to make the right decisions about which online tools and materials to invest in. They should fulfill the accessibility requirements that are now in place and also allow for possible future guidelines.

Publishers offering digital course material should be able to provide specifics about the accessibility features of their products. This information should be readily available to anyone considering enrolling in a course of study.

Most large education/textbook publishers should have the following described features as part of their offerings, but some small specialized publishers might not. It is up to the educator to decide which products meet their needs while staying in compliance with accessibility laws and guidelines.

Some key features to look for are:

  • Captioned videos

  • Transcribed audio recordings

If transcripts and captions are not available in real-time, some publishers will provide them after the fact if requested.

  • All text that is displayed on the screen should be read aloud by text-to-speech software (TTS) and all images should be described using alternative text (alt text).

Assistive software such as a screen reader is often used by the visually impaired. Screen reading software can read digital text aloud, but it cannot interpret images or text presented in videos. Content presented as images or videos requires alternate text descriptions for the user to be able to access the information.

  • Interactive features on websites and in software, such as media players, quizzes, flashcards and all other interactive elements should be useable with only a keyboard.

Some disabilities preclude the use of a mouse. As an example, if an interactive exercise requires one to drag and drop items and there is no way to perform the task using only the keyboard, it is not accessible to all potential users.

There are many more specifics to consider before investing in an accessible digital solution for education and other disciplines. Much more information can be found at these two websites:

EPUB Accessibility Techniques

Inclusive Publishing