Create accessible learning content
Accessibility is the practice of making your content usable by as many people as possible. People often think that making content accessible is aimed at helping people with disabilities, but the practice of making content accessible aids everyone, including those using mobile devices, those who may have slow network connections, those with learning disabilities, aging populations, and so many more.
By creating accessible content, you improve the experience for everybody. It helps to broaden your reach so that more people, including those with disabilities, can access your content.
Accessibility is often overlooked during the video content creation process and it’s assumed to be costly for production. However, this is not necessarily the case.
We’ve provided some general recommendations in two parts for making your course more accessible:
- Video content considerations
- Course content considerations
Video content considerations
In this section we’ve broken accessible video content into two parts:
- Audio Content
- Visual Content
It’s important to recognize that many students may only be listening to your course without watching at all. Also, many students will listen to the course on mobile phones, and will rely on audio instruction to enable them to have more flexible access to their courses. Students who are blind or have low vision may not be able to view the on-screen content, and may only be listening to the audio. Students who have hearing difficulties or are Deaf will be placing much of their focus on the output of your audio, in the captions. To make your course as accessible as possible, and usable by these populations, you will want to ensure that your course content is conveyed effectively through audio content and captions alone.
Making your audio content as strong as possible, and able to stand on its own, is also a great practice in instructional design as it allows some students who are following along to see the image and also hear about it to increase their comprehension. There are three methods you can use to make your video audio content accessible:
- Explain slide visuals
- Speak plainly and simply
- Provide captions
Explain slide visuals or what you’re doing
When visual content is not decorative, explain what is on the screen. Always state the title of your slides when you start speaking or integrate it into your first few sentences on the subject.
Instead of: “Just read the slide or the text on screen.”
“As you can see, these reviews of my course are quite positive, and one person even mentions how they were able to get a job after taking it!”
When explaining images, avoid words that rely on sight such as using color or direction. (e.g., “click on the square”, “the box on the left side of the page”, “The big blue text”).
Instead of: “So I just go like that and it’s easily fixed”, be precise and clear:
“I select the entire paragraph with my mouse, then I hit the `Left Align’ button to fix it. I also could have found this choice under the Format menu.”
Instead of “I’ll want to go line by line here, and boom, now I’m in the routine!” , be precise and clear:
“I’m going to step through this code by choosing F7 after I hit the breakpoint in that routine. I could also have chosen the Step Into Button, right here on the panel.”
Speak plainly, and simply
As a rule of thumb, assume that two-thirds of your students will know your language as a second language. Figures of speech can be hard for non-native language speakers to interpret. Make the language of your audio script clear and avoid idioms to support this population of students.
Speak slowly and thoughtfully using plain and simple language. Take time to introduce new topics which will help all students especially those who may require more time to understand the content, read text, and who may be new to the course concepts.
While Udemy provides auto-captioning and transcripts for courses in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, there is room for error. It’s best to ensure that everything is correct after the captions are generated. Captions should reflect exactly what was said in the videos:
- Ensure that any proper names, special jargon, and technical language has been output and spelled correctly
- Include fillers and stumbles, as correcting these in captions can create cognitive dissonance for users who are listening to the audio and reading the captions.
Learn more about Udemy’s Auto-Generated Captions, here. Pay attention to proper names and key content words that are unfamiliar to be sure they are correctly captioned. Videos and live audio with captions will also have a transcript generated by Udemy.
For courses in which automatically generated captions are not generated (all but English, Portuguese and Spanish), learn more about how you can upload your own captions.
Summary of best practices for audio content accessibility
- Try to make your audio script stand on its own like an audiobook. When possible, do not have your script dependent on visuals
- When visual content is not decorative, explain what is on the screen.
- Allow time to consume your content. Speak at a measured pace that is not too quick. And pause to allow time for students to consume your content, both audio and visual.
- Use plain language. Keep sentences and paragraphs concise.
- Use common words and avoid overly casual or colloquial language, abbreviations and jargon, and avoid complicated metaphors and idioms.
- Be clear, precise and redundant in your language on essential points to emphasize key points. Saying the same thing in different ways can be helpful to your students’ comprehension.
- Provide accurate captions for all of your spoken content.
Many instructors focus a lot of their time on the visual aspects of their videos. While presenting polished and cohesive visual content is significant, we have put together some pointers to help instructors maintain the usability and visibility of their content for all. Visual impairments range from well-known nearsightedness/farsightedness and red-green color blindness to full loss of color vision and very low, blurry, or tunnel vision. By following a few basic principles, we can ensure that visual content is accessible to as many people as possible:
Font style & font size
- All caps can be difficult to read. Try to refrain from typing in ALL CAPS.
- Remember, many students will be taking your course on mobile devices. Ensure the font size is large enough to be seen on smaller screens. We recommend using at least a 12pt font, but ideally 14-16pt.
- Think about the way you use color. For those who have partial sight or are color blind, they may have difficulty viewing a video or resource which depends on colors or has poor color contrast. Try to always indicate content in a way that does not depend on someone being able to differentiate between colors. For example, you can use text labels in addition to color to differentiate terms.
- Use bright / neon colors sparingly. Bright colors can make understanding the content more challenging for cognitively-impaired users.
- Keep things simple. Some people might find a complex visual scene confusing. They may not be able to focus on the subject of the video.
- Fast flashing content should always be avoided as it can cause seizures. Especially avoid red flashing content.
Summary of best practices for visual content accessibility
- Avoid using ALL CAPS.
- Always ensure that any text and graphics on your screen are large enough to be read by people with partial vision. Use adequate font size, no smaller than 12 points.
- Use colors should be easily distinguishable from one another and have sufficient contrast between content and background.
- Always avoid using color alone to convey information. This is especially important when using charts and graphs in your videos. Imagine your graphics printed in black & white. Would everyone be able to understand the graphic?
- Use colors that are not too bright.
- Keep the background uncluttered.
- Use clean layout and design. It should be clear how to navigate your content.
- Use illustrations, icons, etc. to supplement text, but not replace it.
- Avoid fast flashing content. To avoid seizures, do not use more than 3 flashes in a 1 second period.
- Check spelling, grammar, and readability
Course content accessibility considerations
On Udemy, your video content and course content will go hand-in-hand: reinforcing what you’ve taught, and adding new skills. If your course content is not accessible, then your course is not accessible.
In this section we’ve broken accessible course content into four parts:
- Organize your content
- Meaningful document semantics
- Alternative text for images/media
- Color contrast
Screen readers will access content more readily if the content is created with semantic markup. Correctly formatted lists and tables for example will be read by a screen reader in a way that provides an expected level of context.
It is also important to know what makes things more difficult for a screen reader. Merged cells for example in a table can be harder to navigate and understand the organization when using a screen reader. Additionally, when formatting is done in a way that is not semantic, screen readers may deliver confusing information. For example, bullets created with an asterisk and a tab may be read as the screen reader will read “tab” or “asterisk” instead of “bullet point”.
Organize your content
Keep your copy organized and break the content into shorter paragraphs with distinctive headings. It will make it easier to scan the content and more readable for all users.
For all documents, provide a table of contents at the beginning, or a summary (in a sentence or two, or in a bulleted list) of what’s to come.
Additionally, we recommend including a glossary of terms and their definitions as a downloadable resource to help users as they go through the course. When possible, it’s also ideal to include a downloadable resource or link to any slides you may be using.
Always check your spelling, grammar, and readability. Find a buddy to read over and try out your course content and exercises as an extra precaution!
Meaningful document semantics
For low-vision and blind users especially, the semantics, or the meaning, of the different parts of a resource are critical. The semantics are the difference between understanding if something is a heading or a piece of plain text, or if something is in a list or a paragraph. Many people will use screen readers (such as JAWS, NVDA, or Voiceover) to access content and they will be more readily able to do so if the content is created with semantic markup. Correctly formatted lists and tables for example will be read by a screen reader in a way that provides an expected level of context.
It is also important to know what makes things more difficult for a screen reader. Merged cells for example in a table can be harder to navigate and understand the organization when using a screen reader. Additionally, when formatting is done in a way that is not semantic, screen readers may deliver confusing information.
This section will only brush the surface of adding semantics to a digital resource, but we’ve included lots of resources at the end of this document to help you add semantics to the specific program you might be using to create resource content.
Organize your content using true headings (sometimes labeled as “H1” or “Heading 1”, in editorsetc.). The document title should be a first-level heading, the next level should be second-level, etc. Avoid skipping heading levels (e.g., jumping from first-level to third-level headings).
Headings are one of the best ways to make your content more accessible. The use of true semantic and visually-conveyed headings makes content more scannable for both sighted, and non-sighted users.
True bulleted and numbered lists
Avoid using the tab key or an asterisk to create your list. Use real lists with bullets or numbers.
Simple table structures
Be careful with spanned rows or columns and avoid multiple levels of table headers. This is columns or rows that have been merged. If possible, avoid using tables for visual layout.
Ensure links are descriptive
Avoid phrases like:
- “Click here”
- “More information”
- “Read more”
Avoid using using URLs alone as links, such as www.abcde.com.
Alternative text for images/media
Provide clear and context-driven alternative text for images in your documents, slide presentations, etc. This text will be read aloud to those using a screen reader, or other assistive technologies
- Many tools allow you to provide alternative text for images. These boxes are sometimes labeled with phrases like “alt text,” “alternative,” or even “image description.” If present, use this field to provide alternative text for the image.
- Alternative text should present the content and function, not necessarily a description of an image. If you had to remove the image, what text would you put in its place? Alternatively, if you had to describe the image to someone over the phone, think about what you might mention to them and allow that to inform your image description.
- If an image has no relevant content or function or is decorative, or the alternative text is provided in nearby text, then the image should have empty alternative text if possible (some tools have an option for “blank” or “empty”).
- Avoid words like “picture of,” “image of,” or “link to” as assistive technology will take care of this and let users know they are on an image!
- Use the fewest number of words possible without losing clarity or context.
Default Alt Text (name of image): kids-tech-revised.jpg
Many times, the copy will default to the image file name which may not be helpful.
Modified Alt Text: On a couch sits a boy on a smartphone, a girl on a tablet, and a girl on a laptop.
Use strong color contrast
Make sure that color contrast is strong, especially between any text and the background it’s on. This is also goes for images that include text.
If you use color, refer to the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker to ensure you’re using adequate color contrast and accessibility-friendly colors.
Please note, it’s best to use the contrast checker for your specific use-case. Below we have checked the colored text against a white background.
Here are some examples of colors that fail the checker and should be avoided (their score is under 4.5:1):
The colors below are good choices as they provide good contrast: (4.5 to 7)
You’ll definitely want to use the colors listed below as they provide the best contrast: (Over 7)
Be careful using data tables
- Use the simplest table structure possible. Be careful with spanned rows or columns and avoid multiple levels of table headers. This is columns or rows that have been merged — these can be confusing to explain to students and for screen readers.
- If possible, avoid using tables for visual layout.
Summary of best practices for accessible course content
- Try to keep your copy organized and break the content into shorter paragraphs.
- For all long documents, provide a table of contents or a summary.
- Include a glossary of terms as a resource.
- Check spelling, grammar, and readability.
- Avoid using ALL CAPS.
- Use semantic markup.
- Use true bulleted and numbered lists.
- Use the simplest table structure possible.
- Organize your content using true headings.
- Ensure links are descriptive.
- Avoid using URLs as links, unless the document is intended to be printed or if the URL is relevant content.
- Provide appropriate alternative text for images in your documents, slide presentations, etc.
- Use strong color contrast.
Resources on document accessibility
We strongly recommend using Microsoft Office Suite programs (such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint) to produce the most accessible word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations which can also be editable by screen reader users and other assistive technologies. The Google Workspace (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides) is generally not as accessible for assistive technology, especially for editing purposes.
Web Aim accessible document resources
- Creating Accessible Documents (with current and older versions of MS word)
- Converting from Word Document to Accessible PDF
- PDF Accessibility with Adobe Acrobat
Microsoft Suite accessibility resources
Google Doc or Slides accessibility
Adobe PDF accessibility resources
Additional resources on accessibility
- General Accessibility Design Guidelines – Instructure Community
- What is accessibility? – Learn web development | MDN
- Creating Accessible Electronic Content
Please also visit our Accessibility Statement for information on Udemy’s commitment to accessibility and how to contact us with any concerns or suggestions related to the accessibility of our services.