Before You Begin

Consider the following question before you read further:

What would make the following instructions more accessible:
Watch the following video on cats


When you use videos (your own or others) as part of your content you should consider the following as part of making the content accessible:

  1. Look at the at content and made sure it is relevant to your students.
  2. An alternate format to the video should be available either as transcripts or closed-captions.
    Transcripts are meant to be stand-alone documents that provided a written description of what is said. Transcripts can be printed Closed-captions appear on the bottom of the video. Today with the advent of computer programs that convert speech to text the two often end up the same with a video program just playing the automatically generated transcript as the closed caption. We should note that automatically generated material can range in quality from very poor to excellent. It is up to you as the person selecting the content to review any transcripts to ensure they are accurate. Transcripts can be used by many people to review or preview the material. If an automatically generated transcript does not do a good job, the next step would be to review the text, make adjustments and then provide the updated transcript to your students.


Images include photos, hand drawn graphics, diagrams, flow-charts and graphs. Screen readers can pick out these elements independently within your content. Like hyperlinks there is a visual component and a hidden component. The visual component is the image while the hidden component is the “alternate text” field. It is the alternate text field which both a screen reader reads and that a visual reader sees if your image does not load. You should consider the following when placing images within your content.

Is the image there to add visual interest to your content or is it necessary to convey information about the topic?
This is an important distinction for someone who needs to navigate your content via a screen reader.

Visual Interest

These type of images are often called decorative images. They add nothing to your message. The best practice is to limit the use of these types of images within your content and if you are going add them then your alternative text should indicate “decorative” so that someone using a screen reader knows they can safely skip them.

Conveying Information

An image that conveys information is adding to your explanation of the content and can come in different forms. As you add this type of content to your material you should consider the following:

  1. Have you numbered the image so it can be easily referred to and does it have a title which clearly states what image is about?
  1. Does the basic alternate text give a sense of what the content is about?
    Alternate text fields often have length limits so you may not be able to get a full description of the content into that field.
  1. Have you provided guidance in the surrounding text about what the student should be looking at in the image, for example, trends in the graph, description of pathways etc. The image should not stand alone, it should be supported within the text and with a caption.
  1. Are there clear labels within the image?
  1. Can the information be provided in an additional format?
    A good example would be a graph which could also have data provided in either a table format or a list format within the document (not within the image!)

Note: the above practices can be helpful whether your student is using a screen reader or not. The presence of an image is only as helpful to a student as the information you provide to guide them through it.

Test Your Understanding

Now that you have read the Videos & Images material answer the following question: