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Free Tools to Help You Improve the Accessibility of Online Courses

Originally for the Instructional Technology & Design Network (via D2L)
By: Barry Dahl, Teaching & Learning Advocate, D2L

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So as a primer … I sat in on Barry’s presentation “Five Free Tools to Help You Improve the Accessibility of Online Courses” on February 16, 2021. He gave us permission to share the contents of his presentation, and this content is specifically from his “handout” that he gave us. So, I am sharing as this material is highly relevant to the audience of my site (YOU)! Many of the tools he shared with us do not even require you to use D2L… however, there are some tools that are specific to the D2L system. But if a feature interests you, I recommend you go out and research the LMS you use at your institution. There is a high likelihood that they will have a similar feature as well.

Note: this presentation is one of several #A11y presentations that [Barry] has created. [He] would not consider it to be “the starting point.” However, nothing in this presentation is particularly difficult, so it should be useful to accessibility beginners and the more advanced.

Here’s a good starting point:

Blog posts:

Recent webinar: Fifteen Myths about Accessibility of Online Courses

Tools covered in the webinar on Feb 16, 2021

  1. Color blindness simulator.
  2. Accessibility toolbar for Microsoft Word.
  3. Described videos.
  4. Embedding audio files accessibly.
  5. Speech-to-text converter.
  6. Screen reading platforms.

#1: Color blindness simulator

Android apps in the Google Play Store (search in Google Play on your phone)

Apple Store apps (Search in Apple Store on your phone or iPad)

#2: Accessibility toolbar for Microsoft Word

#3: Described Videos (with Audio Description, or AD)

#4: Embedding Audio Files Accessibly

Step-by-step instructions for adding accessible audio player using Brightspace HTML editor

  1. Create your audio files
  2. Add new audio files to Manage Files in Brightspace (drag-n-drop)
  3. Suggestion: create a special folder for all your audio files
  4. Add audio file to the appropriate place in the course
  5. For example, in an Announcement, a discussion, a content page, a quiz question, etc.
  6. Use Insert Stuff to embed a selected audio file in an accessible audio player
  7. Save and test the file in the audio player

#5: Audio File Transcripts

By using speech-to-text applications, you can capture text for a transcript file at the same time that you are recording your audio file.

#6: Free Screen Reading platforms

JAWS by Freedom Scientific is the gold standard for screen reading platforms. Cost: $90 and up, depending on the license.

  • 40-minute free trial use (restarts each time you reboot your computer)

Free options:

Bonus Stuff: try it or not, your call

Check out Accessibility OZ for lots of great resources

Trace Research and Development Center

More about Seizure Risks

Lots of Google Stuff

Again, I would like to thank Mr. Barry Dahl for giving us permission to share this material with others so we can help make education as accessible as possible for everyone!