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Quick Reference Guide for PreK-12 Teachers on Accessiblity Best Practices


From: Lorie Jessup
Date: Oct 6, 2017 9:25AM

Hi All,

I have been asked to put together a Quick Reference Guide for my staff in
my school district that they can refer to when working on their website
that has the top points they need to consider when making their website

We use a software application, Schoolwires, which is owned by Blackboard,
as our website creation tool, but some of our staff still put up some of
their own content and therefore need to make sure that content is

I have borrowed some of the ideas from Blackboard and started the Quick
Reference Guide. I would appreciate the forum to let me know if you agree
with my list and suggest any additions or eliminations.

Thank you in advance for your input!

Lorie Jessup
Oswego School District 308
Oswego, IL

*Here is my Quick Reference Guide so far:*

Evaluate all content for the following elements:

- Use Descriptive Headings
- Images have alternative text
- No images of text or blinking images and animations
- Do not scan and save pages as images to post on your website
- Use Lists over Tables
- Word and PowerPoint documents are properly structured
- Make hyperlinks descriptive
- PDFs are tagged for accessibility
- Videos are captioned
- Instructions are clear and succinct
- Color choices have proper contrast
- Tables are not used for layout

*Simple ways you can make your content accessible!*

1. Use descriptive headings to organize content. Headings are
critical when creating accessible content. They provide the ability to
directly jump to content and can save assistive tool users hours of time.
Keep it simple and use the heading styles provided by the tool you are
writing in.

2. Don't use font styles alone to indicate importance. Screen readers
don't identify font styles such as bold and color. When you need to give a
strong visual cue, make sure that you use an accessible alternative. For
example, use an exclamation mark at the end of your sentence if it is
important. Screen readers intonate exclamation and question marks. Meaning
it will not read "question mark" but will give a questioning tone to a

3. Add alternative (alt) text to your images. First ask yourself what
the purpose of the image is. If you don't know the meaning or purpose of
the image, don't use it! It is clutter and will be overwhelming to those
with learning disabilities. Next, add alt text that is simple, succinct,
and describe exactly what the image is. For example, alt="photograph of a
Cell Dividing". If the image is a diagram that conveys more complicated
information a long description or textual format of the material is

4. Make your links descriptive. Every link should describe what the
user can expect to find when they click it. Web addresses or URL's are not
considered informative and should not be used. Tell your users when links
are going to a new window as new windows can be disorientating.

5. Use lists over tables when you can. Tables can be made accessible
but screen reader users need to know advanced keystroke commands to
navigate and understand them. If you do use tables, use column headers.
This causes the screen reader to re-announce the column heading for each
cell as the user navigates through. This gives the user context for each
content. Consider how each cell will read when naming the columns and
adding information to the cell.

6. Include descriptive captions to your videos. Including descriptive
captions to your content ensures users with hearing impairments are able to
consume it.

7. Format your files to be accessible. One of the top complaints
heard from students with visual impairments is the inability to consume
attached files. Format any attached documents with appropriate headings to
ensure they can be properly consumed by screen readers. Use the "Formatting
and Style" options available in Microsoft Office, Adobe or other word
processing tools when creating your documents to define appropriate
headings and lists.

8. Tag PDF files. Attached PDF files need to be properly tagged to
ensure their structure can be read by screen readers. Simple methods for
"print" or "save" to PDF create a single image of the file. While the
document will look like it is properly structured the screen reader will
not be able to interact with or read any of the material. For details about
making accessible PDF documents, see

9. Provide students with clear expectations, instructions, and
directions for all assignments and tests. Students with cognitive
impairments or learning disabilities can have trouble focusing on even
simple tasks. Clear directions and understandable expectations can help
them focus, making them much more likely to succeed.