Making Digital Teaching Accessible

Digital teaching must be designed so that courses are fully accessible for students with disabilities.
Students with hearing or vision impediments are particularly dependent on digital accessibility. 
Students with dyslexia or other reading disabilities, autism, certain psychological impairments or social difficulties, or students whose first language is not German may also benefit from accessible digital teaching. Precautions should be taken to compensate for potential sound issues, small displays, lack of technical equipment, or unstable internet connections.
Ultimately, teaching content should be transparent and benefit all students through mediation using various senses and alternative forms of participation.

Keeping this in mind, we encourage you to take accessibility into consideration when planning your courses. Instructors should also inquire about any special needs at the beginning of the course in order to develop solutions based on these needs.  We are happy to support you in implementing these solutions!

Often times, digital accessibility requires only small adjustments. Below are some important factors to consider. Digital accessibility concerns, but is not limited to:

Learning and Teaching Materials

Learning and teaching materials include primarily Word documents, PDFs, and PowerPoint presentations. Screen readers are based on word processing or presentation programme formatting. 
Scrollable texts (continuous text, headings, lists) allow screen readers to navigate and display texts correctly.

When creating texts:
- Meta information (title, author, language, keywords) should be included in the document properties.
- Include a cover page and outline and use formatting templates.
- Following these guidelines and storing all important information that requires technical aid in the document properties will allow the creation of accessible documents.
- Make titles and headings short and create concise hyperlinks.
- Avoid unnecessary spacing and paragraphs.
- Use tabs, page breaks, or paragraph breaks in your layouts.
- Use clear contrast for colours, formatting (bold, underlining), and font.
- Choose a sans serif font.
- Use the Slide Master tool in PowerPoint presentations so that headlines, text, and graphics are recognizable.

When creating charts or tables:
- Use clear and simple formatting. 
- Include column headers.
- Avoid having too many empty cells.
Consider whether a table is actually necessary.

When using images, graphics, and non-text elements:
- Include text descriptions for images that convey important information.
- Include subtitles for audio components. 
- Avoid animated and moving components.
- Provide a written transcript or content summary of relevant content of audio or video files.

When creating PDFs:
Create a Word document using style sheets for accessible PDFs. PDFs should be created by clicking on »Save as« and exporting in PDF format or by using the Acrobat add-in under »Create PDF«.

Checking Accessibility: Microsoft Word and PowerPoint offer an »accessibility check«. The Georg-August University of Göttingen provides further information, as well as examples, explanations, and a checklist for creating accessible documents in Word. In addition, you can find examples and explanations, as well as a checklist for creating accessible PDFs. Accessible PowerPoint presentations can also be proofed with a checklist. The University of Kassel offers a guide for creating accessible documents. Have a look at DIAGRAM for information on text descriptions for graphics, maps and images. The website offers helpful information on planning accessible video-conferences, incl. live transcription

Synchronized Teaching Formats

Synchronized teaching formats include live lectures, live video conferences, and so on. Below are some important factors to consider when using these formats:

  • Identify means of synchronized communication that may be problematic.
  • Allow students to familiarize themselves with presentations, materials, and discussion questions by providing them in advance.
  • If necessary, provide an assistance programme so that students can better follow live lectures.
  • Provide descriptions for images in presentations, or have students describe them.
  • Provide scripts, supplementary materials, or recordings of the lecture, if permitted (preferably with subtitles).
  • Creating transcripts may be assigned as student tasks. Once they have been graded, instructors can then make them available to all course participants.
  • Limit the use of parallel written chats as they may not be available on all screen readers and they may divide participants’ attention.
  • When using chats, provide additional information (links, articles) afterwards in a standard format.
  • Be sure to speak clearly so that all participants can follow the course of the conversation.  
  • Provide the opportunity to compensate for missed attendance.

Unsynchronized Teaching Formats

Below are some important factors to consider when using unsynchronized teaching formats:

  • Use the two-senses principle and make information available via at least two senses.
  • Provide descriptions and explanations of purely visual information, such as illustrations, graphics, drawings, sketches, or tables (for instance via audio description).
  • Provide videos with audio transcription (spoken text and relevant sound) provide optional subtitles.

Further information on creating accesible Audio and Video Media.




Collaborating in Virtual Teams

Below are some important factors to consider in virtual collaborations:

  • Establish clear guidelines for the chosen form of collaboration.
  • Replace groups responsibilities with individual tasks.
  • Offer alternatives for certain tasks. For instance, substitute synchronized tasks (e.g. live tutorials) with equivalent unsynchronized tasks (e.g. written tasks).
  • In general, avoid parallel written live chat forums.
  • Do not use the chat function to transmit information that is important for all participants.
  • Provide additional links or documents in advance.
  • Offer chat discussions or chat information after the event in an accessible format.