Even in times without a corona pandemic, digital teaching is generally a valuable format for diverse, inclusive teaching. Particularly students with special needs can benefit from digital teaching. However, it also poses certain challenges for this target group, which is why we ask you, as teachers, to continue to ensure the accessibility of digital teaching even in this particular situation, despite the potentially high level of stress that you all might experience now. In the following, we are particularly concerned with accessibility for students with hearing or visual impairments, but also, for example, for students with limited mobility (especially with regards to taking notes), impairments due to ADHD, dyslexia, mental illness, or impairments due to medication.
Keep in mind: Measures you take to increase the accessibility of digital teaching will benefit all students, who have to adapt to new teaching and learning formats during the corona pandemic!
PDF files are frequently used in day-to-day studies. For people with visual impairments or dyslexia, such files can only be read with the help of so-called screen readers, which convert textual information into verbal information. If PDF documents are not created barrier-free, the screen reader often cannot convey the files in a way that is understandable.
The charitable organization Aktion Mensch has dealt with the topic of creating accessible PDF files and created a short introduction to the topic and a checklist. It gives examples of typical types of PDF files and how they can be made accessible to a wide range of user groups. The checklist can be downloaded at the following link: www.einfach-fuer-alle.de/artikel/checkliste-barrierefreie-pdf/ (in German).
First Tips for Creating Accessible PDF Documents:
- Clearly structure documents so that screen readers can interpret them properly. This includes the consistent use of style sheets, especially for the assignment and hierarchical structure of headings, but also for (bulleted) lists, footnotes, tables, etc. (so-called “tags”).
- It is recommended that you structure documents in a linear way and add page breaks instead of successive blank lines. This ensures that the end of a chapter/section is clearly recognizable.
- In texts, you want to activate the “wrap text” function as “in line with text”. This adapts the arrangement of text blocks in accordance with the zoom level so that the text always remains completely visible on screen regardless of the zoom setting.
- Use descriptive internal and external hyperlinks and make sure they are active and lead to the proper page.
- Do not use any colored backgrounds or text highlights.
- Do not use any self-drawn tables. They are not recognized by screen readers.
- Add descriptive alternative text to images or charts.
In order to produce barrier-free PDF documents, the TU Dresden provides easy-to-understand instructions (in German) that explain in detail which steps are necessary to convert a Word or PowerPoint document to a perfect PDF file.
Instructions for converting a Word document to an accessible PDF document: https://elvis.inf.tu-dresden.de/dokumente/upload/737e1_anleitungword_2013.pdf?menuid=44.
Instructions for converting a PowerPoint to an accessible PDF document: https://elvis.inf.tu-dresden.de/dokumente/upload/01473_anleitungpowerpoint_2013.pdf?menuid=45.
All students can benefit from the use of suitable PowerPoint presentations. They visualize the course topics and facilitate a better understanding of the lectures or seminars. For students with a hearing impairment, it is especially important to be able to use this visual aspect during lectures. However, students with visual impairments can also benefit from PowerPoint presentations, provided that they are made available beforehand. This enables the students to prepare themselves for the class with the help of the appropriate software.
First Tips for Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations:
- Use outlines and headings on each slide.
- Use a plain font and high contrast for emphasis.
- Avoid the color combination red-green.
- Include no more than three to four statements on one slide.
- Add descriptive alternative text to chart/images/quotes.