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Written by Rob Carr, Oklahoma ABLE Tech IT Accessibility Coordinator
In last month's newsletter, ABLE Tech wrote about 3 of 6 little things that you can do to start to create more accessible content. These are things that you can do in pretty much any authoring tool out there: document tools like Microsoft Word, Content Management Systems, Learning Management Systems, and more!
This month, we finish up with the last 3 little things.
Disclaimer: these techniques are just a start. There is more to making your content accessible than these things, but this is a good place to start.
So cozy up next to your favorite authoring tool (like Microsoft Word, your content management system, or your learning management system) and let’s make some more accessible content!
Tables are a great way to present data points. Class schedules, research data, and sets of important dates can all fit into data tables.
In keeping with the theme that what we do visually needs to count behind the screen too, it's important to be sure that table headers (the cells that identify what data is in a row or column) are identified using more than a bold font.
This is one where the authoring tool has everything to do with how you create table headers that know that they are table headers.
Microsoft Word 2010 only lets you identify one row of column headers in a table. So to create an accessible table in Word, you really should keep it as simple as possible. If you have more than one row of column headers, then consider using the PDF format, or HTML, to publish the table. Either of those formats let you work with more layers of headers, such as row headers.
It is pretty straightforward to identify the row of column headers, though:
This makes sure that the Word document knows that the row you selected is made up of headers for the columns in the table. And, as the checkbox label says, it also makes sure that the header row repeats at the top of each page that the table appears on. This makes it easier for everyone to use your table!
Acrobat Pro lets you create more accessible tables that have more than a single row of column headers. You can create accessible tables with row headers, and you can even create more accessible tables with header cells that are nested in the table itself.
There is a little bit more to creating accessible tables in Acrobat Pro than in Microsoft Word. That's also true in Content and Learning Management Systems. This is because these tools typically support better table accessibility.
There are a few concepts to mention before we go on:
You can get quite a ways with the scope and span values, but there are sometimes tables that have nested headers and are generally difficult to read. That sort of complex table is beyond what we're talking about here.
Manipulating the scope and span values in Acrobat Pro requires the use of the Table Editor tool. The Table Editor lets you set scope and span values for table header cells individually, or as a group of header cells. Fortunately, the Table Editor is pretty well documented in a few places:
Here, your mileage will vary. Most CMS and LMS platforms let you identify table headers, assign scope and span attributes, define table summaries, and handle complex tables. How you do that depends on the system. Look for those attributes, though, in your user manual or in on-screen menus that appear when you create or edit tables.
There are a couple of things to remember when you use color: contrast between text and background colors, and using color to convey meaning.
It is really important to make sure that your font color contrasts enough with the color behind it. The good news is that you don't have to limit yourself to just using black font on a white background. But there is a pretty big difference between this:
If you can read this then you may have had to lean toward your display and squinted.
If you can read this more easily then I've improved the contrast.
There are some good ways to quantify how much your font color contrasts with its background. Your authoring tool may have a contrast checker built in. There are several that let you check in either web pages or documents, or both.
Sometimes, we use color to convey important meaning. Maybe we say that all required fields on a form are indicated with a red font. Maybe we use colors to distinguish between the different lines on a line graph.
If the only thing that we use to convey this meaning is color, though, then we keep anyone that can't perceive the differences in color from being able to see what is what.
The solution? Well, it's not avoiding using color to convey meaning. Please do. For a lot of people, it's a great way to make content more meaningful. Just remember to add something in addition to the color.
So, if you indicate required form fields in red, then add an asterisk next to them as well. Or go one better and include the word "Required" in parenthesis so that it's easier for everyone to tell.
What about those charts and graphs with different colored lines? Most authoring tools let you add shapes or lines to the different colors to help to distinguish them from one another using something other than color. This will vary in your authoring tool, but look for something about adding markers to lines, or patterns to bars or sections of a pie chart.
In the end, instead of this:
You want this:
We frequently use links to provide extra information in our content. Believe it or not, the way that we create those links can make a big difference when it comes to accessibility.
Have you ever come across a link that looks like this?:
Not real easy to tell what in the world will happen if you follow that link. If you read the whole thing, then you may pick up on some clues.
What if the link looked like this instead?:
Well, that's much more helpful. I can tell just by reading that link text that, if I follow the link, then I'll go to a webinar evaluation form.
Both of those links actually point to the same page on the internet. But how I create the link makes all of the difference.
The key is to use link text that will tell someone what to expect when they follow the link. You don't want to make the link text a paragraph. A few words is the goal. But you create more accessible and usable links if you think for just a few seconds about what your link text should say.
A few more things about links:
Oklahoma ABLE Tech
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888.885.5588 (V/TTY) | Email: email@example.com