Digital Accessibility and Visual Impairment

Around two million people in the UK have some form of sight loss. Technology can help to mitigate issues for visually impaired people by allowing access to tasks which otherwise require visual imput. Assistive technology such as screenreaders and mobile phone apps which describe images captured through cameras are readily available.

As Educators we can help visually impaired students by ensuring the content we produce is accessible to assistive technology.

In addition to visually impaired students, most of the following tips can make your materials more accessible to all students in various circumstances, for example when they only have access to a smaller screen, need a break from their screen, or might be a bit anxious when prepare for an activity.

Visual Impairment Quick Tips

Check your content for accessibility issues

  • Use accessibility tools built-in to the software you are using, e.g. MS Office tools, and then with Blackboard Ally, once they are in Blackboard.
  • Check for colour contrast issues by entering the background and text/ graphic colour values in a contrast checker.
  • Check what screen reader users can hear using the free screen reader NVDA.

Provide content early

This allows students to prepare in advance if they need to.

Give options

  • Provide alternative ways to access information: This includes adding captions/ transcripts to videos and alternative text to meaningful images and graphs, so someone that can't see them can still learn what they need from them. It also means not relying solely on colour to distinguish information: add the information as text on top, use patterns or other elements that visibly differentiate information in graphs. 
  • Provide alternative formats: Blackboard Ally can automatically provide alternative formats for some types of content, e.g. turn a document into audio. For math equations, ensure you provide a format compatible with screen readers, e.g. using Blackboard's formula editor.

Be Clear, Consise, Consistent

Make hyperlink descriptions clear (here is not clear), as screen reader users may access the links in a different context to what appears in the text - they need to know what they are clicking on. Make instructions, expectations, next steps clear.

Ask, don't assume

Ask students if they need something. Read out key points in your slides, or formulas as you write them. Don't assume that they can see what you see (or hear, understand, do what you do).

Visual Impairment Quick Tip Clips - AbilityNet