Accommodation vs. Access
In course instruction, there is a concept of accommodation that many faculty members are aware of. The faculty member receives notification from Disability Support Services to a students need for accommodation. This means that there is content being given or received in the interactions of a course that need intervention for student's with an identified disability.
Human Resources is also aware of this concept as it applies to the needs of Faculty and Staff with an identified disability. Accommodations are typically an "after the fact" intervention, and can cause delay in the student or staff member receiving materials necessary for a course or for their work.
There will always be a need for accommodations, but proactive design and development of content can limit this need. This is where the concept of access comes into play.
Access takes into consideration a broad range of needs in the creation of content. This page will help the Loyola community to better serve our entire community by explaining top accessibility "blockers" and how to easily address them in the creation of digital content.
Top "Blockers" to Accessibility
Here are some common accessibility mistakes that are made when creating electronic materials for Moodle or SiteCore (Loyola's web page), using Word, PowerPoint, Excel or Adobe Acrobat Professional, and resources to avoid these mistakes:
Image Alt Tags
Alt Tags are important because a person who relies on a screen reader does not get the content that visual images provide unless they have Alt Tags.
Learn how to add Alt Tags to images in websites as well as Office documents:
Page or Document Titles
All online pages should have unique titles that describe the content of the page or document. This allows screen readers to distinguish pages from each other and also enhances other functions such as tab titles (web pages) and table of contents (PowerPoint). To learn how to add titles:
Headings and Subheadings
People with limited or no vision depend on screen reading software that reads the text on the screen aloud. If you bold normal text to create the look of a heading, a screen reader will just read it as paragraph text. Conversely, do not use a heading style to make text big and bold if it really is not a heading. The screen reader will read it as a heading and not properly communicate the emphasis you intended. For documents longer than 3-4 paragraphs, headings and subheadings are important usability and accessibility strategies to help readers both determine the overall outline of the document and to navigate to specific information that may need more of the reader's attention. Learn how to add headings, subheadings, and lists:
For more information on a general explanation of headings for HTML please visit Penn State's site:
Helping users understand the destination of links is an important step towards increasing the usability and accessibility of a document. Please visit the links to Penn State's site below to learn more about the importance of link text:
Table Headers and Table Titles (Captions)
When you design a form, a table, or a presentation slide, you have to ensure the information flows logically for assistive technologies (like a screen reader) and that the page is keyboard accessible. Learn how to create table headers and captions:
When we talk about the accessibility of forms, we are usually referring to their accessibility to people who use screen readers. People with other types of disabilities are generally less affected by faulty forms. It should be noted that everyone benefits from a well-organized and highly usable form, especially those with cognitive disabilities. Forms should be organized in a logical manner. Place the label for the form (e.g., First Name :) adjacent to the form element (i.e., text box, check box, radio button, and menu/list). Provide good and clear instructions about what information is desired. If any form elements are required, be sure to indicate so without using color. Make sure that the order in which form elements are accessed is logical and easy. This can sometimes be problematic if tables are used to control layout of form items. Learn how to create form labels:
Video captions benefit not only those who cannot hear the sound, but also non-native English speakers, people who don't have speakers on their computer, people listening to a video in a noisy room, or people who learn better by reading and listening to the content.
Loyola University Maryland owned videos should be closed captioned and anything else that is being presented at a public forum needs to be closed captioned as well.
As a member of the university, the first step would be to check to see if the video is closed captioned. If this is a streamed video look for the closed captioned symbol typically presented in the bottom right of the screen.
If using a media player you can also see if you are able to turn on the closed captioning feature. Here is a video from DO-IT that discusses turning on captions in different types of media players. Please review the video with the captions, do not automatically assume the auto caption feature on YouTube or other media players is accurate.
If you realize the video you are presenting is not closed captioned, there are several ways that the University can ensure it is. If your department is the owner of the video you will be able upload or edit a transcript to the video.
Since providing captioning or transcripts can be time consuming and expensive, when possible, individuals should try to post video that is already captioned. To find captioned videos on YouTube or Google see Searching for Captioned Media. To request captioning, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a handy guide on how to retrieve or request captioned materials at the LND Library.
Creating Accessible PDF's
Many of the above "blockers" apply to PDF's, but because PDF's can be generated from various tools, it's important to understand the different types of PDF's that can be generated.
Creating a PDF from Word (or other Office product):
The good news is, if the file was created accessibly in Word the PDF will be accessible if you create the file properly. You must "save as PDF". The "print as PDF" option will not always carry over the accessibility features. Please visit WebAIM's site for more information on creating accessible PDF's from Word.
Creating a PDF from a scan:
If you need an article or chapter scanned from a textbook or other material it is good practice to contact the LND Library for help. You can request a course reserve through their online form. You can also visit the course reserves instructions page for more information on the process. PDF's that are created from scans will typically be a series of images that are not accessible to screen readers. For more information please visit Penn State's site on PDF use.
Creating Accessible Moodle Content
The Moodle site in itself is accessible but this does not mean that all materials uploaded to it will be. Following the above steps for creating accessible Word Documents and PDF's is the first step in making your Moodle course materials accessible. For more tips, please visit our page on accessibility in Moodle.