ADA Compliance


The Department of History is dedicated to Universal Design and making all of its documents and web resources accessible to all—in all meanings of that word—for everyone, regardless of ability or need. We believe accessibility is not an implementation that can be finished and done, but rather a way of thinking and working that can—and should—always be improved. We strive to make the Department, its public face, and its courses, easy to access, and ADA-compliant, and work in conjunction with the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to ensure accessibility.

Key Links

  • MSU Web accessibility is Michigan State University’s primary portal for ADA Compliance.  They have many templates and resources, including a good basic checklist for Online Content Accessibility.  Michigan State University aims for WCAG 2.0 AA
  • To build an accessible course, it is good to think about accessibility from the beginning — see Accessibility and D2L
  • MSU D2L also uses Spartan Ally to help you to check your course content to accessibility.  See Spartan Ally: What you need to know.
  • See College of Social Science Online Teaching site
  • Accessible U.  The University of Minnesota has created an excellent resource that includes many videos and templates.
  • Webaim is a very nice general introduction to  web accessibility.  They have a very good tool, WAVE, for checking web pages for accessibility.

Making Accessible Media

It is more important than ever that as we post media from and for our classes that it be accessible.  The media should have captions and if possible a transcript.  Fortunately, at MSU we have two routes for making our media accessible.

  1. After recording a Zoom lecture or making a video for class, we can upload it to MSU MediaSpace and order machine generated captions.
    1. Instructions for doing so can be found at Ordering Machine Captions.
    2. A nice video showing the full process of How to order and edit caption on MediaSpace.
    3. Unfortunately, automated captioning is only about 80% accurate (can be better or worse depending on quality and voice) so you will need to edit your captions.  This may be difficult for so you can opt for option 2.
  2. Once you have completed your video you can have a third party do the captioning.  MSU has preferred vendors for doing so — check out Hiring a Third Party Captioning Service at MSU Web Access — check with your department for their preferred solution.

Making Accessible Documents

Documents: Most of us do not think we have a role in accessibility — that is for web designers.  But that is simply not true.  We make documents every day that we put online for our students.   Creating accessible documents (MS Office, Google Apps, PDFs) is key to accessibility for all.  It not only makes our work more useful but it can save us time.  Think about updating your syllabus.

MSU Web Access provides a number of helpful tutorial about Making Documents Accessible.

For us accessibility is all about Universal Design.  That is, while accessible design helps students with disabilities, in reality, it helps all students.  Universal design is inclusive design “and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.”

As noted above, MSU has a good resource, Web Accessibility, that explains the importance of accessibility that includes tutorials, templates, and resources, but you can also contact them for help.

The University of Minnesota has an exceptional, media rich, well done site, Accessible U, that can be very helpful.  It has a nice section on making an accessible syllabus.

Check out a revised version of MSU Web Access syllabus for History: Online Course Syllabus Template.

While many consider the most important aspect of accessibility to be web sites, actually one of the most important areas is the everyday documents we distribute to students (e.g., MSword documents, PowerPoint slides, Excel spreadsheets, PDF documents).

You should be using Spartan 365 — all the new programs have accessibility checkers (see

MS Word and MS PowerPoint in Spartan 365 has Accessibility Checker built in — always use it!  Check out Make your content accessible to everyone with the Accessibility Checker for Office 365.

Basics of Web Accessibility 

Images:  You should add appropriate alternative text to every image, regardless of how it is coded. The alt text should describe the content or function of the image. Purely decorative images should have empty alt text.

Headers: Headings should be consistently used because they make the structure of your documents accessible to screen readers while improving both scannability and maintainability.

Contrast: Ensure a strong color contrast between foreground and background on every document, slide and web page. Always use color plus another visual indicator (for example, color plus boldface type or color plus size to communicate important information.

HTML and CSS: HTML is for communicating basic content. CSS should be used to style the content and control how the information is displayed.

Onfocus: The active area of the web page is the area targeted by the keyboard or activated by mouse click, and users should be able to tell what area is active through some sort of visual cue. Onfocus indicators included in some browsers are inconsistent, so you should be sure to add it via CSS.

Responsive: Able to shift size of font and responsive to different platforms, from desktop to smartphone.  Find responsive and ADA compliant WordPress Themes and use WP Accessibility Plugin or the Web Accessibility Helper plugin

Tables: Use tables to display data and CSS for page layout. Use the table tag <table> to define all tables, and the table caption tag <caption> to summarize the content displayed in it. Use the table heading tag <th> to identify cells that are either row or column headers.

University of Minnesota Apples
Name Season Introduction year
Beacon Early 1936
Haralson Late 1922
Sweet Sixteen Mid 1977

ARIA: Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) is a set of attributes that define ways to make Web content and Web applications (especially those developed with Ajax, JavaScript and more recent web technologies like Bootstrap) more accessible to people with disabilities. For example, ARIA enables accessible navigation landmarks, JavaScript widgets, form hints and error messages, live content updates, and more.