Accessibility and Third-Party Materials

Any third-party materials used in a course must meet the same accessibility standards as self-created material. Users of third-party materials are considered to be responsible for selecting accessible materials. As many materials created by publishers, educational technology companies, and general users on the web are not accessible, this can pose an interesting dilemma. 

Potential third-party accessibility issues

There are a number of possible accessibility issues with third-party material, such as (but not limited to):

  • Uncaptioned or automatic captioned videos.
  • PowerPoint slideshows without proper formatting, such as slide titles, alt tags for images, font sizes, and more.
  • Publisher systems and resources that do not conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA standards, posing issues in multiple aspects – typically including mobile device access.
  • Tools that cannot be accessed by keyboard only.
  • Ebooks that are unable to be read by screen reader devices, or even viewed on mobile devices.
  • Outdated technologies, such as Adobe Shockwave, Adobe Flash, and Oracle Java, that are incompatible with modern web browsers, mobile devices, and accessibility tools.

Potential solutions to third-party accessibility issues

There are possible solutions to third-party accessibility issues.

  1. When working with a publisher or their representative, be sure to ask about the accessibility of their materials and systems. Publishers working with higher educational institutions should be aware of accessibility standards and have made content or content alternatives to meet those standards. If their materials or systems are not accessible, or only partially accessible, ask for a timeline of when they will be completely compliant. Remember: it’s possible to ask a publisher about accessibility for any material provided for instruction – including PowerPoints, images, quizzes, systems, and more.
  2. In the case of a an external system or tool (including a publisher’s tools), you can also ask for a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). The VPAT is a report of a company’s accessibility level and can give quite a bit of information about the accessibility of their products. For example, Instructure has posted a VPAT for Canvas on the open web to demonstrate their accessibility compliance.
  3. For video and audio, check if the original creator has an accessible version. If not, it’s the user’s responsibility to provide captioning and/or a transcript. It’s also worthwhile to search for an alternative resource that can provide similar information. The Moraine Vally Library can help in finding accessible alternatives.
  4. Images and tables, including those within a PowerPoint, must be checked for alt tags. If they are not present, it is the user’s responsibility to add the tags. If it is from another source, including a publisher, ask if there is an accessible version available – this may save time and effort that can be covered by a phone call or email.
  5. Check any media, content, or tool for accessibility. Attempt to use the keyboard, including the TAB key, to navigate a tool. Run an accessibility check on documents and presentations. Watch a video with the captions enabled. Consider running screen reader software when working with a tool, like NV Access.
  6. If you are not sure or are in doubt about an accessibility concern, ask for help! The Center for Teaching and Learning, among other departments, are willing to help. Contact us!

Questions? We can help!

Check out our upcoming calendar of accessibility workshops!

Want to know more about accessibility? Contact us.