Instructors, Improve Accessibility on Your Moodle Courses (3.10)

Most likely, your institution has a proactive accessibility plan for its physical campus and digital content. WCAG 2.1 digital accessibility compliance has been mandated or promoted at public institutions globally. Including accessible design into your digital content allows more people to use it and promotes a better experience for all. Teachers following sound accessibility authoring practices promote reliable organization of course elements, clear appearance, alternate/additional media modes and a consistent layout of learning objects on their courses. As teachers, there are many aspects of accessibility that are out of your control, including the institutional Moodle template, institutional documents and media such as videos. However, there are a few ways that you can nudge your courses towards digital accessibility compliance using Moodle (3.10) features.

Recently, Stuart Mealor introduced this community to the Brickfield Accessibility Starter Toolkit that debuted in Moodle 3.11. It allows teachers and administrators to identify any common accessibility issues on a course and to efficiently assess the overall accessibility of the course. This post discusses basic features that instructors, who create content, can use to raise the level of digital accessibility in their courses on their Moodle courses.

The suggestions below are things that you can do to move your course towards WCAG 2.1 compliance. WCAG 2.1 is a standard for web accessibility. Web accessibility development and design practices permit people with disabilities to use online digital resources by perception, comprehension, navigation and interaction with the Web as consumers and contributors. Online course accessibility considerations benefit everyone.

Disabilities that affect access to the Web, include:

  • auditory (hearing)
  • cognitive (thinking)
  • neurological (physical processing in the brain)
  • physical (movement)
  • speech (speaking)
  • visual (seeing)

Web accessibility benefits:

  • everyone using devices with small screens though alternate input and output modes
  • seniors with declining abilities such as sight and hearing
  • unfortunates experiencing temporary disabilities such as a carpal tunnel syndrome or misplaced glasses
  • individuals with circumstantial limitations beyond their control, for instance dark or bright lighting or in a loud location
  • folks with access to slow Internet connections, or who have limited or expensive bandwidth though mobile data plans
  • people experiencing fatigue such as eyestrain and headaches due to long hours on digital hardware
Moodle Web Accessibility Features

Course Accessibility block
The Accessibility block can be added to your Moodle courses. If it is available, it will appear in the Add a block list. Ask your administrator to add it to your server if it is not available. Course participants set the text size and text to background colour contrast to improve their LMS experience. These settings are saved for future sessions and can easily be reset to course template defaults or adjusted as required. Students altering the appearance of their courses provides them autonomy and an enhanced sense of ownership of their courses.

The accessibility block also offers the potential of the ATbar, if your administrator has made this feature active on your server. The ATbar offers additional accessibility features including Text-To-Speech and Dictionary lookup, see more at https://www.atbar.org .

Accessibility checker
The Accessibility Checker feature is found on the ATTO editor toolbar as an circular accessibility icon. This is the toolbar used to edit common Moodle features such as activity and resource descriptions, Page content, Labels, and Glossary term definitions. It is an automated accessibility checker which checks for common errors in the text, such as images without alternate (ALT) text descriptions, contrasts of font color and background color that do not meet WCAG 2.1 guidelines, long blocks of text are not sufficiently parsed with headings and tables missing captions and header rows. Errors are reported in a pop up window.

Screenreader Helper
The screenreader helper button appears on the ATTO Editor toolbar as an icon with a braille pattern. It opens a tool for screen-reader users. It provides a summary of what text styles, images, and links are used in the editing text box in a pop-up. The summary include the order of the names of items, what order the screen reader will encounter them and the content of what will be read as these elements are encountered. In order to add descriptive text to some of these elements, it is necessary to edit them after they are inserted into the ATTO editor.

Accessible Course Design
In addition to using Moodle’s accessibility features, teachers should consider basic accessibility course design practices. These include:

  • Using text headings consistently to allow screen readers a way to understand text hierarchy.
  • Using ALT tags to describe images in documents.
  • Ensuring that text colour contrasts with its background.
  • Making captions available for video and audio content.
  • Avoid using text styling to indicate emphasis as it will be missed by those with visual issues.
  • Provide descriptive hyperlinks that allow the end user to know where they are going rather than common terms such as click here.
  • Provide feedback or hints to add descriptions and notifications that may be read by screen readers.
  • Make links, buttons and controls large when possible.
  • Use plain language to limit passive sentences, visits to a dictionary and to avoid end user confusion.

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Final thoughts

Ensure that all media in your course is considered. This includes internal tools and media such as H5P, PDF documents, images, videos or slideshows. Each of these have potential accessibility options such as closed captioning or transcripts for online video, ALT tags images, and consistent structure and suitable fonts, text size, colour contrast and table headings for documents.

It takes more time and effort to increase course accessibility, however the rewards are a better end user experience, more potential users and more consistency. A consistent course is easier to maintain, upgrade or break up into smaller modules if required in the future. If you have any comments about Moodle and accessibility, please add them below.

Resources

ATbar, https://www.atbar.org

Brickfield Accessibility tool, https://www.elearningworld.org/moodle-brickfield-accessibility-tool

Colour contrast WebAIM Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool

H5P Accessibility Content Type Tracker, https://documentation.h5p.com/content/1290410474004879128

Improve Communication with Plain Language, https://www.elearningworld.org/improve-communication-with-plain-language

Moodle WCAG 2.1 Level AA accreditation, https://moodle.com/news/moodle-wcag-2-1-aa-accessibility-compliance

Moodle Accessibility Block Plug in, https://docs.moodle.org/311/en/Accessibility_Block

Moodle Accessible Course Design for Teachers, https://docs.moodle.org/310/en/Accessible_course_design

Meeting WCAG 2 (Quick reference), https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG21/quickref

WCAG 2 Guidelines, https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/#wcag2

John Allan
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John Allan

John is a Canadian who writes about learning object development and online facilitation from a teacher's perspective.

2 thoughts on “Instructors, Improve Accessibility on Your Moodle Courses (3.10)

  • blank
    13th July 2021 at 4:56 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for sharing! For me, sometimes it is a kind of uphill battle to try to help colleagues try (double “try” – no mistake) to understand that Moodle has much to offer (“all in one place”). While I care about Accessibility, and try to learn more about it so as to apply what I learn, trying to explain this issue with Moodle has not been that simple. You have made it simpler (and so has Stuart). I will keep trying Thnks again!

    Reply
  • 13th July 2021 at 11:49 am
    Permalink

    Really awesome post John – thanks so much !
    And thanks for the resource links – some valuable “go to” references there 🙂
    The thing that always hits me when I run a course around accessibility and usability (usually in Moodle) is how much teachers actual ENJOY learning about this and applying best-practice.
    I often find commercial Moodle site less interested in this, which is a shame, because as you point out it actually benefit everyone !

    Reply

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