May 14, 2019

GAAD Series - Designing with P-O-U-R

"We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability."

Stevie Wonder, 2016               


Global Accessibility Awareness Day is Thursday, May 16. The purpose of GAAD is to get people talking about designing online content and interactions that are accessible to a broad range of abilities. As mentioned in our last GAAD Series blog post, Grant Wood AEA will be rolling out "It's as Easy as A-B-C" to broaden staff awareness of designing online materials with integrity. The "A" in A-B-C stands for accessibility.


There are a number of accessibility standards that help web developers understand the critical components to designing online content with accessibility in mind. These standards are the Web Content Accessibility Standards (WCAG) and were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Unfortunately for educators and families, these standards are quite technical and can become a barrier to teachers and educators as we design learning materials with accessibility in mind. Fortunately, our friends at the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM Center) with CAST, as a project with the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) with the U.S. Department of Education, have provided us with educator-friendly design considerations that align to these technical WCAG standards.


Dr. Luis Perez, with the AEM Center, provides users with an introductory video on "Designing for Accessibility with P-O-U-R." Take a look!



The remainder of this post will offer insights into each of the four areas of P-O-U-R. If you wish to dig deeper, the AEM Center has dedicated an entire section of their website toward Designing for Accessibility with P-O-U-R.


Illustration of a series of media representing varied ways of feeling, seeing and hearing content, including reading a braille book, adjusting type size and contrast setting on a tablet, viewing captions on a video, listening to alt text of an image on a smart phone.

When content is perceivable it is presented in a way that can be accessed by a variety of senses. For example: offering text in print form, but also audio formats. Using closed captions on videos. Presenting content that is perceivable in a variety of modalities allows for learners with disabilities to perceive the content, but also those learners who may be trying to access content in less optimal environments. Have you ever 'read' a book while driving? I do it everyday through audible and use my ears to read.



Flexible navigation opportunities allows content to be operable to a range of people's abilities and needs. Designing content that is operable provides clear structure that is easy to visually 'skim'; descriptive hyperlinks so you know where that link will take you. Presenting content that is operable provides for clarity in a webpage that makes it easy to navigate. For people with physical or visual differences, designing with operability in mind is the only way to access the content on that website effectively and efficiently.

Illustration of a series of media representing various ways of interacting with the same content on a range of tools, including a text book, a tablet, desktop computer, and smart phone.



Illustration of how content can be represented, conveyed, and translated on a variety of devices, including braille, digital text on a tablet, language translation software on a desktop, and audio book on a smart phone.


Ensuring content is understandable is supportive of two mechanisms of the design process. First, a predictable or logical flow of information. This allows users to be able to easily navigate information instead of spending time and energy attempting to figure out how the website works. Second, designing content that is understandable requires consideration of the language being used. This includes things like reading level of the audience; reduction in the use of jargon; and expanding acronyms to their full name. Designing content to be understandable is considering the broad needs of a variety of users, including those learning English and those with cognitive difficulties.



Designing content to be robust simply means you've checked your work. As we do with math equations, the only way to ensure we've met guidelines is to perform an accessibility check and to test our content on a variety of platforms. Microsoft has included an accessibility checker in their platform. Google offers an add-on in Slides, Sheets and Docs to perform these types of checks called Grackle. Once you've "grackled" your content, an easy way to test robustness across platforms is to pick up a mobile device and see how things look from that new perspective.

Illustration of how content can work well across multiple technologies with varied input devices, including keyboard, mouse and switch.


The content and images in this section are courtesy of the AEM Center, 2019. Images have been altered to reflect Grant Wood AEA colors.


Creative Commons represented by CC in circle; By represented by a person in circle; No Charge represented with line through dollar sign in circle.

Content created by Grant Wood AEA staff member Maggie Pickett and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. This Creative Commons license does not apply to third party content.

Category: The Linker