Accessibility Tools

person listening to text on cell phone

Digital course content must be accessible so that all learners have equal access to content at the same time. Learn more about accessibility at UAA. 

When creating new materials for your class, it is important to make them accessible from the beginning. You can accomplish this by learning to use software features to build a structure that is accessible to people using screen readers and other assistive technology. Designing with accessibility in mind allows you to provide usable material so that all students, regardless of ability or disability, can succeed. Use the Accessibility Checkers sheet on AI&e's Tools Comparison chart to compare tools. 

Best Practices

  • Build document structure using heading styles
  • Ensure hyperlinks are self-describing (not the full URL and “click here”) 
  • Use built-in menu options to create lists and other formatting
  • Keep table structure clear and simple
  • Use sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Tahoma, or Verdana at a minimum of 12 pt. size
  • Ensure adequate color contrast and never use color alone for emphasis
  • Add alt-text for all non-text objects
  • Ensure video content has accurate captions
  • Ensure audio content has an accurate transcript

Accessibility Checker Tools

Accessibility checker tools identify accessibility problems in existing files such as documents. Our main accessibility page has more on standards, policies, tutorials, and additional resources.

Go for better, not perfect. Start with higher impact items like your syllabus and high stakes assignments, then just keep moving forward with steady improvements. 

  • Blackboard Ally

    Blackboard Ally

    Blackboard Ally is a tool to help faculty identify accessibility issues with uploaded content and to enable students to convert attached files to other formats. Ally is built into Blackboard. Faculty see indicators next to attached documents and images within a few minutes of uploading them. Click on the indicators to learn more about the accessibility problem and how to fix it.

  • Microsoft Accessibility Checker

    MS Office Accessibility Checker

    Microsoft Office includes a built-in accessibility checker that allows users to check their documents for issues and offers suggestions on how to address accessibility problems.

  • Grackle for Google Docs/Slides/Sheets

    Grackle for Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets

    Grackle is an accessibility checker extension for Chrome used to check Google Docs, Google Slides, or Google Sheets for accessibility issues. 

    1. Install Grackle as an Add-on, then log in using your alaska.edu account.
    2. From Google Docs, Google Slides, or Google Sheets click the Add-ons menu and choose Grackle, Launch and log in using your UAA credentials.
    3. When the accessibility check appears, click an error to learn how to fix it.

    If you are logged in, Grackle can also export the corrected file to PDF. Some Grackle fixes (e.g., table tags) only appear in the exported PDF version.

  • Adobe Acrobat Professional

    Adobe Acrobat Professional

    PDF files are no longer the recommended file type for posting documents to Blackboard. Many experts agree that posting files created in productivity software like Microsoft Office or Google Docs is preferred due to the improvements in the accessibility of the tools, their accessibility checkers, and the ability for students to change fonts, increase size, or otherwise modify the document to be easier for them to read.

    Adobe Acrobat Professional is a full featured software application for creating, editing, and checking PDF files for ease of access. Due to Adobe's subscription service, UA can only provide an older version of the software. Navigate to UA OIT's software page and log in to download Acrobat XI Professional.

Captioning Tools

Multimedia options can be used in creative ways to reach students who may not be able to access materials in the traditional sense. Recording and sharing video presentations or demonstrations can be an effective way to deliver content or assess student learning. See AI&e's Creating Videos page for more information on these tools. 

All video content must include accurate captions. There are several tools faculty can use to caption videos. View the Captioning sheet on AI&e's Tools Comparison chart to compare tools.

  • Kaltura

    Kaltura/Blackboard My Media Captions

    Kaltura (My Media) was adopted by UA as a video streaming solution. Kaltura is a good option for captioning videos and sharing in Blackboard. Access Kaltura from inside Blackboard using My Media. On the Blackboard landing page (after you log in but before you enter a course), find the My Media module and click the My Media link.

    When you upload media (video and audio files) to Kaltura, it will be machine-captioned automatically (check back in an hour or so). Machine captioning is an excellent first step, but not good enough. You must edit captions when they have completed the automated process to be sure they are accurate. The edited captions will automatically appear in media you have already published in your Blackboard course. (Viewers must click the CC button to view the captions.)

  • YouTube

    YouTube Captions

    UA faculty, staff, and students can log into YouTube using their UA username and password because it is part of our Google Suite of tools. When you upload a video to YouTube, captions will be auto-generated within about an hour. You must edit the captions when they have completed the automated process to be sure they are accurate. The edited captions will automatically appear in video you have already linked in your Blackboard course. (Viewers must click the CC button to view the captions.)

  • 3Play

    3Play Captions

    AI&e is currently offering video captioning for instructional video through 3Play Media at no cost. First, upload your media to Kaltura. See the UAA Video Captioning Form for more detailed instructions. Allow 1-2 weeks for captioning.

    1. Log into Blackboard, click UAA tab
    2. Click My Media (Kaltura)
    3. Click Add New, Media Upload, choose video file to upload
    4. Name, add tags, and save

    Next, submit your request for captions using the UAA Video Captioning Form. AI&e’s funding for this service has been extended to Fall 2021.

  • VoiceThread

    VoiceThread

    VoiceThread is a Blackboard-integrated tool to hold asynchronous discussions on slides, images, or video presentations. As the name implies, users add voice comments in the VoiceThread. Automatic captions typically appear within an hour, but editing is necessary to make them accurate. Faculty are able to edit all captions in the VoiceThread. Users are only able to edit their own captions.

Other Accessibility Tools

TextHelp Read&Write supports users with reading, writing, and online research. TextHelp EquatIO assists with adding equations and graphs to documents. Instructions for using the UAA license are on the Core Tools page in the Speciality Tools tab.

Faculty Development & Instructional Support 
Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence, Academic Innovations & eLearning, and Center for Community Engaged Learning 
Library 213 • (907) 786-4496  uaa_ai@alaska.edu  Mon – Fri, 8a – 5p