Quick Guides - Running accessible online lectures
Why make online lectures and seminars accessible?
As with your Moodle course, it is best practice to plan online lectures with diverse learners in mind.
Not only do we need to consider accessibility to ensure that we are meeting legal regulations, but inclusive digital resources can lead to better learning experiences for all.
How can I ensure my online lectures are accessible?
- If a student asks a question in the chat, read the question aloud before answering.
- Similarly, if you are hosting a hybrid lecture with some students attending in-person and some remotely, ensure any questions are read aloud for all to hear before responding.
- Magnify your mouse pointer so it’s easier for students to follow. Instructions for Windows users / instructions for Mac users.
- Don’t use ALL CAPS.
- Use headings and titles in any shared documents.
- If you are using Microsoft Office software to create content for lectures, use the Microsoft Accessibility Checker prior to using and distributing to students.
- Use the ‘who can use’ tool to check colour combinations.
- Make sure that the PowerPoint template you use has sufficient contrast.
- Do check the Reading Order on complex slides.
- Do use images to support your text-based information, but don’t use an image instead of text. Don’t use images as slide backgrounds.
- Limit the amount of text per slide in PowerPoint presentations. No more than 5 bullet points.
Interacting with students: audio
It is important that all learners can hear you clearly. Test your microphone before the online lecture starts to check that audio levels are sufficient. You can do this by starting a test meeting in Zoom or with a colleague or member of the TEL team.
For the best audio, use a USB microphone or headset. This should help to keep feedback from impacting the lecture and will make captions more accurate. If you hear yourself as an echo, mute your microphone, then turn down your volume.
It is easy to turn on transcripts in both Zoom and Teams. If you will be providing live captioning, let your audience know this in advance. This information will help your students, particularly members of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (D/HOH) community, know that they will be able to fully participate. Once activated by the host, all participants can choose to turn it on or off. Read more about this here.
On the Zoom toolbar the Live Transcript can be activated by clicking the 'CC' icon, highlighted below:
In Teams, the option to turn on live captions is listed in the settings, as highlighted below:
Read the University of Bath CLT blog on how to improve the quality of captions in Re:View (Panopto) and Zoom for further advice on equipment, pronunciation and settings.
Using Zoom with a screen reader will help a visually impaired user navigate between different functions, but some content and tasks may still be inaccessible. They can use keyboard shortcuts in conjunction with their Screen Reader to get to the mute button, or accept a Breakout Room invitation, or answer a question in a Poll. If there are technical difficulties or compatibility issues, participants who cannot join breakout rooms could use the main room as an alternative space for discussion.
Interacting with students: visuals
If talking directly to the camera before sharing any slides or other documents, hide clutter, blur your background and set up with your face well lit.
If you are sharing your screen, visually impaired learners will not know anything about your content, unless you describe it for them verbally. A shared screen is interpreted by a Screen Reader as a video stream. There are no navigable elements to interpret. However, there are two ways you can provide an accessible version of your shared slides:
Option 1: Send a the PPT file or an accessible PDF of your slides (or other handouts) beforehand, so visually impaired learners can use their Screen Readers to interpret the slides before your event. Where you describe data verbally in a lecture, add more description in the reference copy of PowerPoint.
Option 2: Verbally describe every slide and image you share visually. Just as adding alt text to an image that we display on a website, verbally describing what is visually displayed will help those with visual impairments to understand what you are trying to communicate.
Creating Accessible Resources
- PPT Templates: If creating PowerPoints from scratch, you can choose a template from Microsoft which has been designed with accessibility features, such as appropriate colour combination, recommended type and size fonts, and a structured organisation with titles and subtitles. This will save you time! As illustrated below, click on New >> find the magnifying glass and type ‘accessible template’ or visit the Microsoft Accessiblity website.
- Fonts: Choose a single font type for titles and paragraphs. Round type fonts like Arial, Verdana or Calibri are recommended. To emphasise a phrase or an issue, use bold or change colour. Avoid using italics and underlining. Use sentence case. Check that the default font sizes are minimum 18pt.
- Colours: Having the right colour palette in a presentation is vital to avoid contrast issues, which makes it difficult to read and understand information. You can use a predetermined colour theme on Design Tab >> variants >> colours. To check your colour combination, visit contrast colour checker.
- Accessibility checker: This is a built-in Microsoft Office tool to find accessibility issues and suggest possible fixes. To run the Accessibility Checker in, go to Review Tab >> Check Accessibility.
- Share materials ahead of time. Send any materials you plan to display through screen sharing to your participants ahead of time. This allows everyone to access the materials and follow along even if they cannot see the screen share during the meeting.
Further Reading and Resources
- Beyond the technology: What next for accessible technology? - JISC podcast with Dr Simon Hayhoe.
- Accessible Technology 4.0, Inclusion 2.0: So, What Next? - PowerPoint presentation from Digifest, March 2021.
- Universal Design of Instruction (UDI) - Definition, Principles, Guidelines, and Examples from Dr Sheryl Burgstahler.
- D&A (Diversity and Ability) Resources.