Many faculty who are considering adopting, revising, and remixing open educational resources (OER) are doing so for their students--so that they can have access to high-quality learning materials without attached high prices. However, not all students access materials in the same way. Some have additional requirements due to a disability. By building in accessibility before you assign a text, you can make sure that these students have access to usable and useful materials on day one, the same day as non-disabled students. Open educational resources are especially suited to accessibility because they are adaptable. If they are not initially made accessible, you have the power to adapt them into a more suitable form.
Accessibility can be a complex topic, so let's explain it in this context. According to the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials, a textbook that is accessible would allow disabled students to "acquire the same information" as non-disabled students, "in an equally effective, equally integrated manner, with equivalent ease of use." So disabled students should not need to jump through additional hoops in order to get the information they need. Course materials should be structured with built-in accessibility, by considering the steps and resources below.
If this way of looking at accessibility seems confusing, you may be interested in considering the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines instead. These focus on a whole course's design rather than specifically on materials, but can still provide a good place to start.
In addition to making sure students can access your course materials, you may also want to consider how your course materials discuss disabled people. Looking at the Disability Language Style Guide may help you understand common concerns and preferences about disability language.
However you look at accessibility, it is important to note that it does not just improve the experience of disabled students. It also makes your course materials more available to students experiencing temporary impairments or situational difficulties. For example, captions are necessary for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students to access video material. However, captions can also be helpful for those with temporary hearing loss from illness, those who are learning the language of instruction, and those who are studying in a loud environment.
The following tips have been adapted to the guide to design for accessibility from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials.
To make your textbook understandable:
The University of Minnesota identifies core skills that can be applied to creating more accessible web-based materials.
The Council of Ontario Universities suggests the following guidelines for clear print:
Accessible Learning Across the Lifespan (National Center on Accessible Educational Materials, video series)
Accessibility Toolkit 2nd Edition (BCcampus Open Education)
Inclusive Learning Design Handbook (Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University)
Five Steps to Plain Language (Center for Plain Language)
The Accessible Image Sample Book (Benetech) shows options for creating accessible versions of complex images.
Ace by DAISY allows you to check EPUB files for publishing industry accessibility standards.
The Web Accessibility Guidelines handbook (Portland Community College) provides information on accessible materials in a variety of formats, such as D2L webpages, PowerPoints, and Google Docs. It also has specific information on math and science accessibility.
An article from Site Improve provides advice on accessible fonts online.
The American Council for the Blind has created Best Practices and Guidelines for Large Print.