Hi Everyone -
Kathy Miles sent the following email to me regarding tips for meeting the needs of our blind students. I thought you would all be interested in it also as you make changes to your courses:
As reported by several chairs at our January A-Team meeting, we do now have blind students taking our online courses. This has ADA implications for how we list Web links in our course pages, which we need to begin addressing as we migrate courses into Vista and as we revise current courses or develop new courses. To meet ADA guidelines, please do your best when migrating, revising, and developing courses to create Web links with meaningful descriptions. Here's why, and what we need to be aware of:
Software readers for the blind "read" URL links (and other content) to a student when these links are encountered within the content on a Web page. These readers also are designed to place all URL links on that Web page in a list which may be "read" as the student scrolls through it for quick access to those links. This means that the links need to be meaningful to the student in terms of providing information about what the link will go to.
For example, what if a course page intends to tell the student that "to see research resources, go to this link"?
In our courses that link is generally specified in one of three ways within the content on a page: by telling the student to "click here" to see the site, by listing the complete URL for the Web site, or by specifying the name or purpose of the site itself as the link. So the list drawn up from a content page by the software reader might contain three links like these:
1. click here
3. how to conduct research and document sources
I think you can see that #1, when "read" in a list without any referencing context, is totally meaningless in terms of what it will go to. Likewise, #2 - while potentially less meaningless - nevertheless requires the student to remember and decipher a lengthy reading of letters, words, and symbols to make sense of the URL ("h-t-t-p-colon-forward slash-forward slash-owl-period-english-period-edu-forward slash-handouts-..." etc.). Only #3 provides a meaningful description of what resource the link goes to, when listed without its surrounding content.
In order to comply with ADA guidelines, therefore, I'm requesting that whenever possible as you migrate courses and/or work with faculty in revising and developing courses, please ensure that Web links on content pages are written in the format exemplified by #3 above (or re-written if they currently exist in a form like #1 or #2 above) - i.e., please use a Web link format which specifies the name and/or purpose of the site. In some cases this will require re-phrasing the context surrounding the Web link for that link sentence to make sense.
Along with content pages, the Resources page in particular often contains a list of URLs as links rather than descriptive links, and time constraints might limit your ability to change all of these in courses migrating for summer - plus we haven't done this in most of the courses we've migrated so far since I don't think any of us thought much about this issue before. So you may need to create a list indicating which of your courses have had all the Web links redone and which have not, for future reference. However, re-doing Web links for summer courses now whenever possible - and certainly in a course's content pages - will be a good start.
Please let me know if you have any questions or think of something I've missed. Thanks!