Accessibility @ the LTC


Below you will find more information on how D2L can assist you in making your course accessible and some best practices for developing rich media that is accessible. Considering accessibility of your course should begin in the design stage. There are simple steps that you can take in developing your course site and your rich media to help ensure access. If you have any comments or additional information, please e-mail us at LTC@uwm.edu.

Rich Media Accessibility Best Practices

At the LTC, we have implemented several best practice strategies for providing accessible rich media content delivered online.

First, related to web-based narrated PowerPoint presentations, we strongly recommend that instructors choosing to deliver audio/image content in through Adobe Presenter also provide students with a text transcript of the material. The transcript is usually written before the narration is recorded. It is then included as text in the Adobe Presenter presentation. It is also distributed as a PDF document which includes PowerPoint slide images and the text transcript.

Second, related video distributed over the web, there are two possible solutions for video obtained from VHS or DVD. The first option is only applicable if the DVD has an English language track included. If so, this can be turned on during the capture process. The text which appears on the screen will be “recorded” as the video is captured. Unfortunately, this process will not work with VHS tape and will only work if a language track is included on the DVD, which is not common for many discipline specific DVDs.

The second option for video captioning uses an additional piece of hardware that will collect closed-captioned text from VHS or DVD. However, the material must already include closed-captioning, which the majority of video materials do not. In addition, the closed-captioning collection process does not include timecodes; it simply collects the text itself. Timecodes are necessary to synchronize the text with the video. Without the timecodes, students must watch the video and read a separate text document; in essence the students must “guess” which dialogue applies to the action in the video.

Synchronizing the collected text with the video for display on-screen is an incredibly time consuming process for instructors because the synchronization must be completed line-by-line. Timecodes would help to streamline the synchronization of text and video, but even then an elaborate process involving the manipulation of computer code is required to provide an onscreen display of the text transcript as the video is playing online. As of yet, there is no simple, automated process for captioning video delivered over the web. At this point, this type of process is best completed using professional equipment by a trained specialist. It is not practical for the average user.

Resources for Issues in Online Learning Accessibility

National Center on Accessible Distance Learning (AccessDL) Resources

National Center on Disability & Access to Education

Accessible Opensource Content Management System Reviews

IMS Global Learning Consortium - Accessibility

Beginner Barrier-free Web Design 

Test Access: Making Tests Accessible for Students with Visual Impairments: A Guide for Test Publishers, Test Developers, and State Assessment Personnel

Test Access: Guidelines for Computer Administered Testing

Postsecondary Students With Learning Disabilities: Barriers To Accessing Education-based Information Technology

What Color Is That Comment: The Mechanics Of Online Collaboration From A Blind Student's Perspective

Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work With Screen Readers

D2L and Accessibility

The UWM learning management system, Desire2Learn (D2L) has undergone extensive testing for compliance to accessibility standards.  Those efforts have been documented by the vendor, and are available for your review at:


Tools instructors and students may find useful:
•    Special Access – In quizzes, surveys, and dropbox folders, the instructor has the option to override the availability and timing settings for users with special needs due to technological, physical, or cognitive issues.  In quizzes, individual students can be granted unique start and end dates, time limits, grace periods, and submission requirements.
•    Preferences -- Individual users have the ability to set their own preferences, including:
o    Font
o    Font Size
o    Secondary windows (show as pop-ups or as dialog boxes – helps screen readers and other assistive technologies separate the content of the secondary window from the main window)
o    HTML Editor (Turning off the HTML editor replaces it with a text box where the user can enter plain text or HTML coding.)
o    Discussions
-    Show discussion topics list (list of topics displayed in left panel)
-    Message List style (show titles only or titles with message text, in the main page)
-    Show preview pane (show message in a frame at the bottom of the page or in a secondary window)
-    Reply settings (include original message in replies or not)

Selected tips for designing with accessibility in mind
•    Use discussions rather than chat or instant messaging, for user participation and reflection.
•    Use the Content page to create an overview for each week or major project.  Including links to relevant documents, discussion areas, dropbox folders, quizzes, etc. will provide screen reader and keyboard users an easy way to jump to relevant materials.
•    Use the Content area for readings and course materials.  Simple layouts are easier for all users to read and understand, easier for assistive technologies to interpret and present, and easier for mobile and handheld devices to resize.
•    When possible, provide text-only alternatives to graphics, tables, videos, and audio recordings, to supplement these delivery methods. Text-only materials are also easier for students to print and use as study aids.
•    Use vertical layout in quizzes, with only one answer option per line, which is easier for all users to interpret, especially those using screen readers and magnified text.
•    Include alternative text descriptions (alt text) for all graphics. Use double quotes as alt text for purely decorative elements. If the graphic is a link, begin the link alt text with “Link to ….”
•    Use the same text on-screen and in the alt text for links. The text should be descriptive of the action that will occur.  Never use text such as “Click Here” as the link.  Screen reader users often use a list of links to quickly navigate actions on a page; this is not possible if links are not descriptive.