Assistive technology opens a new world for many people with disabilities. Computers, especially, provide ways to make all kinds of content accessible to people with a wide variety of disabilities. For best results, however, careful set-up is required. Just as physical accessibility takes some care, and reaches beyond the obvious, so does technological accessibility. It is as much an art as a science, and requires practical tests. Here we offer several resources to assist in making the most of these tools.
United Methodist Communications offers resources on the general use of technology, as well as resources specifically for communication. These include articles, classes, and webinars. Most are focused on general principles. Be A Disciple, hosted by UMC-related Southwestern College, offers the course “Make Your Digital Content More Accessible.” Federal government standards and suggestions for social media, which reach a wide variety of audiences, are available from digital.gov. The Southwest ADA center and University of Arkansas offer the Explore Access website with a variety of guides, and the Office of Civil Rights offers a series of videos about accessibility. Another, wide-ranging course is available from Deque, which offers its Digital Accessibility courses free to people with disabilities. The American Library Association offers a wide range of information on accessibility topics related to printed and electronic media in its October 2012 Journal.
Websites: People who are Deaf cannot hear sound clips. Some people cannot use a mouse or keyboard. Color-blind users will misinterpret color cues . Blind users will never see visual cues or photos (see Adapting… for Low Vision for further information). Users often deal with limited connection speed. For a comprehensive view and step toward “able bodied” understanding of the topic, this article explains how people with mobility disabilities use the internet and other technologies. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has issued guidelines for web sites. Basic standards for accessibility can be found at the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This site is frequently updated, and readers can subscribe to an RSS feed to be notified of updates. We also believe that all church websites should have an easy-to-find accessibility statement. This should include descriptions of accommodation for parking, entry, passageways, restrooms, sound system, and developmental disabilities. For an example, see La Crescent UMC’s statement.
Photographs and illustrations (including text printed as images) on websites and social media need an “alt-text.” Many apps provide automatic texts, but they are often not very useful. See Inclusive Publishing for guidelines. Here are instructions for Facebook (official), Facebook (Lireo Designs), Meta Business Suite, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Captioning and ASL: the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries offers a number of captioning resources on their Assistive Technology page. These deal with videos, television, and an article about live captioning at conferences from The Voice.
Listening Systems: the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries offers a downloadable book, Breaking the Sound Barrier in Your Church: Ministry and Mission With People who are Hard of Hearing or Late-Deafened (2011 edition, Adobe PDF-A), along with articles about installations in various churches and related technologies, on the Congregational Resources page at their web site.
E-mail accessibility is important for newsletters and outreach materials, and some attention is desirable for anything beyond a basic text message. A more detailed list is also available here.
Video: Audio Description is used for low-vision and other conditions, see a description of accommodations and their uses and an explanation in “What is Descriptive Audio?” of how this technology is used to enable people with visual difficulties to follow videos. “About Audio Description” provides instruction in its use. A list of tools for making a wide variety of visual materials is available from Describing Visual Resources. Instructions for making audio described YouTube videos are offered here.
Document Accessibility assistance is available from WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind). They also offer instructions on the little-known Microsoft Accessibility Checker. The Acrobat PDF format requires careful attention, but the basics can be accomplished relatively easily and routinely: Creating Accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word. or the state of Minnesota’s Accessible PDF Training. Presentations also need to be accessible, such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides. Perkins School for the Blind has resources for using Google documents.
Some of the material on this page was originally developed by GBGM as “Making Your Web Pages Accessible.” Updated December 2022.