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Digital Accessibility: Quick Tips

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many institutions online. Although colleges are now reopening, demand for online materials and resources remains. When creating digital materials, librarians must keep access considerations in mind. Digital accessibility is a complex subject, but here are a few tips to start improving access to your materials.

Headings

Have you wondered what all those different sizes and colors in the Styles panel of Microsoft Word mean? Headings give your document a hierarchical structure. Breaking text up makes it easier to read and understand, and headings also allow screen reader users to navigate between sections.

Learn to create headings in Word and create headings in Google Docs. If you don’t like Word’s default look, you can customize headings once the style has been applied.

Alt Text and Image Descriptions

Alt text provides a description of an image or graphic for screen reader users, as well as people with poor internet connections who may have trouble loading pictures.

Alt text should be applied whenever an image is not purely decorative. If alt text is not supported, include an image description below the image.

For more details, read a guide to alt text and learn how to add alt text in Office.

Descriptive Links

Screen reader users can navigate directly to links, meaning that link text should make sense without additional context. Link text like “Library catalog” rather than “Click here” ensures users are clear on the link’s destination.

Captioning

Video is becoming a common format for sharing information, and captions benefit Deaf people as well as other users who may not be able to or want to enable audio. Some video editors include captioning tools, but if yours does not, here are some free captioning tools available.

Color Contrast

Color can make your materials stand out, but it shouldn’t sacrifice accessibility. Use contrast checkers to ensure any text on a colored background is readable.

Accessible tagged PDFs

PDFs are a popular file format, but they’re not always accessible. To create an accessible PDF, save the document’s structure and tags during the export process. (Make sure you’re converting an accessible document.) If you’re working with an existing PDF, you can use Adobe Acrobat to improve accessibility.

Accessibility Checker

This may seem overwhelming, but there are tools that can help. Microsoft Office programs have an accessibility checker, which can spot some (but not all) issues.

These tips only scratch the surface, and they aren’t intended as legal advice, but hopefully they can start you thinking about how you can make your digital resources better for everyone.

Are your libguides, tutorials, and online handouts accessible? What tools and resources are you using to monitor or improve accessibility?

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