Williams strives to be a place “where concern for the needs and ideas of other people is not only an educational, but an ethical, imperative” (Williams College Mission). Accessibility is an effort to ensure that all students, regardless of disability, face as few unnecessary barriers as possible to their educational experiences. There are robust legal and technical standards for accessibility, and no brief guide can offer a comprehensive overview. We recommend speaking with the Office of Accessible Education for in-depth conversations about accessibility.
GLOW (Canvas) provides standard features so that faculty can build digital content meeting accessibility guidelines. This guide highlights some impactful practices, and the corresponding GLOW features, to easily incorporate accessible design into one’s standard course-building workflow. Accommodations are an important, and legally binding, part of accessibility; but many faculty also prefer to be proactive, and implement universal design principles, so that all students can participate fully without the need for ad hoc or retroactive accommodations. Your department’s Academic Technology Consultant can be an excellent partner in implementing your specific pedagogical designs in the GLOW environment.
GLOW Quizzes enable faculty to easily provide extended time and/or extra attempts for individual students:
The Accessibility Checker is a per-page editing tool, available in the Rich Text Editor, for faculty to identify, and fix, several common types of accessibility issue. Launch the Accessibility Checker by clicking its icon below the editing box. The Accessibility Checker panel will open, flagging any of the following issues if found on the page (as well as options for immediately resolving them):
- Alt text. Every image should have an alt-text field describing its content and purpose. (Writing effective alt text.)
- Descriptive hyperlinks. Every hyperlink should be informative text, not the target URL. (Writing informative link text.)
- Headings. True headings should be used, not ordinary text with inflated font size. (Using headings for page structure.)
- Lists. True lists should be used, rather than ordinary text characters such as "*" for bullets or "1)" for numbered lists. (Using true ordered and unordered lists.)
- Tables. Every table requires a caption, header row, and header columns, and should only be used for data, not for page layout or visual alignment. (Creating accessible tables.)
- Text emphasis and color contrast. Bold, italic, and underlining styles communicate emphasis accessibly. Avoid using color alone to communicate emphasis (e.g. red text). (Using color, contrast, and emphasis.)
Two further accessibility issues often arise in GLOW, but are addressed with tools outside of GLOW:
- Captions. All videos must have accurate captions to be considered accessible. Panopto (the Course Media Gallery) provides automatic captioning, as well as the ability for faculty to manually edit captions. (Captioning in Panopto [Course Media Gallery].)
- Files (documents and presentations). The built-in accessibility tools in Microsoft 365 apps (e.g. Word, PowerPoint) and Adobe Acrobat Pro can help faculty ensure their documents are free of barriers.
N.B.: The legacy practice of scanning paper documents produces inaccessible PDFs, unless additional steps are taken. Many academic resources exist in native digital form; your department's liaison librarian can help you locate accessible materials. If a resource is available no other way than by scanning paper, you can use optical character recognition (OCR) in Adobe Acrobat to convert your scanned PDF into an accessible one.