Accessible tools are a “must-have,” not a “nice-to-have” feature. Accessibility is a big topic for Moodle users since educational material today needs to be readily available and consistent to a wide audience. One of the biggest challenges’ organizations face today is finding accessible tools to use within their LMS. Moodle’s goal, as an internationally developed tool, is to be fully accessible for all users regardless of learning needs.
All non-text content in Moodle that is presented to the user has a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose. The Moodle interface is presented as a HTML application developed to comply with the WCAG AA standard for accessibility. All parts of the Moodle interface are either native HTML controls with correct accessible text descriptions, or advanced HTML controls that have been developed to comply with the WCAG 2.0 AA as well as the Section 508 standards and tested with a range of screen reader software.
Furthermore, the atto text editor that is default within Moodle provides many of the tools you need to design your course content with accessibility in mind. Some helpful functionality and features of the atto text editor include the ability to edit section headings, provide descriptions for activities and discussion forums, and compose an answer to a quiz question. The atto text editor also has a ‘Accessibility Checker’ tool that will scan the content of the text editor and alert you to a range of accessibility issues that may be found within the text.
In addition, there are plugins available to download and install in Moodle that will provide additional accessibility features beyond what is provided by a standard install. One example is the Accessibility block which allows you to increase the font size of all text and apply high contrast color schemes.
While Moodle itself is accessible and the tools for building courses in Moodle are designed to produce accessible content, content must still be created, organized, and formatted by teachers and training staff with some best practices in mind, including:
- Be sure that all components within your course are accessible to learners with visual, physical, speech, cognitive, auditory and neurological impairments.
- Font size is important. Ensure that the font is large enough to be read. Similarly, pay attention to colors and font styles.
- Design your course so that it’s accessible using a keyboard. Responsive design is becoming more important because tablets and phones don’t use a mouse.
- Avoid complex interactions. Use less animation i.e. drag and drop interactions.
- Navigation and Links should be descriptive. Every link should describe what the learner can expect to find when they click it. For example: Avoid using a generic phrase like ‘click here’ as a learner with a visual impairment won’t know that to move to the next screen they need to ‘Click the Next button’ unless the call-to-action is clear.
- Lastly, always put yourself in the learners’ shoes. Go through the course from the learner’s perspective. Can you follow the course instructions while seeing things from their point of view (literally)?
Important Tips for Accessible Course Design
Use existing header formatting tools within the Atto HTML text editor
Start with h3/s; h4/m; h5/l within your weeks or topics, as h1 and h2 are already in use automatically throughout the course site.
Provide alternative text for images
The alt text doesn’t need to include “image of…”, this becomes redundant based on the way the screen reader technology recognizes images and graphics.
Use descriptive links
- Give links a display name, instead of pasting an actual URL, as the screen reader software will attempt to read off the entire thing.
- If using images as links, the alt text should describe where the link navigates to, not what the image is.
- Also avoid creating “click here” hyperlinks…the user should be able to tell based on the text alone where it is going to take them.
Use Atto tools to create ordered/unordered lists
Create ordered/unordered lists so that they are properly formatted and can be appropriately recognized by screen readers.
Also, opt for lists instead of tables whenever possible. But if you do create tables, use captions and define table headers for columns and rows so that they are properly formatted and can be seen at quick glance and appropriately recognized by screen readers.
Use the Atto equation editor to construct equations
Use the Atto equation editor to construct equations with WYSIWYG editor buttons or copy/paste TeX notation. The MathJax filter is another great tool that can be enabled to enhance equation editing within Atto.
As you can see from the tips above, the Atto text editor that is default within Moodle provides many of the tools you need to design your course content with accessibility in mind.