Today’s tools for accessibility and creating accessible content

There are more resources for universal design and accessible content creation than ever. More people are starting conversations about accessibility earlier in the development process
By: and | November 22, 2019

Patrick Turnage is the assistive technology coordinator for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

In the past, creating accessible content was typically an afterthought and required in-depth knowledge of accessibility best practices. That’s not the case today—more tools than ever exist to help create accessible content.

There are a variety of integrated solutions, standards, guidelines, accessibility checklists and tools that can help you ensure that you reach the widest possible audience including students with disabilities.

Using these resources, you can develop content that is not only accessible by students with disabilities but by everyone.

Built-in accessibility features

Integrated accessibility solutions are already built-in to most modern platforms. These resources help people with any number of disabilities have equal access to content, apps and settings. The specific accessibility tools vary by operating system and version, but most include:

  • A screen reader that speaks items on the screen for people who are completely blind.
  • Screen enlargement that magnifies the screen content for people with vision impairments.
  • Adjustments to colors, cursors, and pointers to help people who have difficulty with tracking.
  • Replacing audio with visual indicators
  • Ability to add captions for people who have trouble hearing.
  • Support for switches to assist those with physical disabilities or mobility issues.
  • Changes to the keyboard and mouse to help people who have disabilities that effect their hands.
  • Speech recognition to help accomplish tasks by speaking.

Where to find them

  • In Microsoft Windows, these integrated accessibility solutions are found in Settings→Ease of Access.
  • In Apple’s MacOS, these settings are in System Preferences→Accessibility.
  • In Chrome OS, iOS, and Android, accessibility features are in Settings→Accessibility.

For people who depend on assistive technologies for school or work, an assistive technology professional may need to conduct a thorough assessment to ensure that the best combination of accommodations, including commercial solutions, are being used to ensure the greatest opportunity for success.

How to check your content’s accessibility

School leaders and staff who are content creators have some additional tools available to validate the accessibility of their content. For instance, Microsoft Office now includes an Accessibility Checker. This handy tool examines the content and structure of your document and makes recommendations to help you correct issues that might impact the accessibility of your content.

Adobe Acrobat Professional also has built-in tools to help you create accessible PDF documents. Check with the company who developed the software that you are using to see if they have any resources that can help you create accessible content.

In 2019, there are more resources for universal design and accessible content creation than ever before. More people are starting conversations about accessibility earlier in the development process. Most major technology companies have webpages for people with disabilities who use their platforms, as well as services for developers and creators who are tasked with ensuring that their content can be access by everyone.

To learn more, you can follow the hashtag #a11y on Twitter and attend an accessibility session at DA’s FETC.

Patrick Turnage is the assistive technology coordinator for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. He will be a featured presenter at DA’s FETC 2020.

Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference®.