1EdTech Guidelines for Developing
Accessible Learning Applications
version 1.0 white paper
10. Guidelines for Developing Accessible Authoring Tools
In the effort to open the learning experience to all, it is critically important to make content creation a simple and natural part of the authoring process. One goal of these guidelines is to assist authors who may have limited knowledge of accessible authoring practices. Ideally, authors who may not have any knowledge of accessible authoring practices should still be able to create accessible material using proper authoring tools.
An authoring tool is any software tool that can be used to create content that can be displayed in an online learning environment. Authoring tool accessibility should be approached from two perspectives:
- The authoring tool should support and encourage the author to create accessible content.
- The authoring tool should be accessible to authors with disabilities.
An authoring tool can support and encourages the creation of accessible content or learning materials by following several guidelines, delineated in the W3C WAI Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines
The Guidelines are accompanied by a techniques document that suggests how the guidelines can be implemented using various tools. In summary, an authoring tool should encourage the author to adopt accessible authoring practices and assist the author in checking and repairing content as it is being authored. The tool should not only offer mechanisms for creating accessible content, but should make these mechanisms easy to use. Accessibility supports should be seamlessly integrated into the look and feel of the tool and well documented in the help function and documentation supplied with the tool. Any content automatically generated by the tool or any choices made for the author by the tool, should also support accessibility.
It is critical that the authoring tool itself must be accessible to educators and learners with disabilities. Tool developers must follow platform-specific user interface accessibility standards. They must also provide supports for accessible navigation of the document and provide flexible presentation of the content to be edited (as discussed in both the W3C WAI Authoring Tool Guidelines and Techniques documents)
In a courseware development environment, these guidelines need to be applied equally to the interfaces used by the administrator, the educator or instructor and the learner or student. All three of these user groups are potential authors. The courseware development environment should also provide checking and repair tools to help detect and fix access problems in content authored using third party authoring tools. A powerful means of ensuring that learning content is accessible within an educational institution is to provide templates and models that are accessible.
- Reviews of common courseware authoring tool accessibility issues and solutions are available from the Special Needs Opportunity Windows (SNOW) website.