On June 29, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education sent out a "Dear Colleague Letter" (DCL) to college and university presidents across the nation.
E-texts can have embedded audio, video, and other multimedia content. To meet accessibility standards, each type of content needs to be presented in multiple modes (for example, auditory material must be augmented by a viewable transcription). Introducing multimodal information, such as captioning for videos, requires permission from the owner under applicable copyright laws.
E-texts may contain scientific formulas and mathematical equations. To be understood by assistive technology, the formulas and equations must be presented as readable text. Fortunately, most authoring software can provide text equivalents for formulas and equations.
Tables are designed to convey a two-dimensional array of data, but should not be used merely as a layout tool. Making data tables accessible is tricky, in part because each authoring tool has its own limitations in terms of table attributes. The key objective is to use whatever attributes are available to help users of assistive technology properly navigate through the table.
Charts help readers better understand quantitative information, by illustrating the relationships among data or showing trends over time. Making charts accessible can help not only people with disabilities, but also non-visual learners.
Descriptive images need text equivalents in order to be accessible. Text equivalents (also called "alt text") are phrases or sentences that describe an image's visual appearance and provide any additional useful information. Depending on the audience and the author's motivation for using an image, the text equivalents may also describe what the reader is expected to learn from the image, instructions on how to take action (such as clicking an arrow image to navigate through online help), or how the image relates to the adjacent text.
Proper formatting, accomplished through heading markup, makes the document's navigational structure understandable to screen readers, refreshable Braille, and other assistive technologies (whereas merely using a larger or bolder font to indicate a section heading makes the document appear to be one long paragraph). Proper formatting makes the hierarchical relationships inherent in the content readily apparent to all readers, with or without disabilities.
E-texts have the potential to give students with disabilities unprecedented direct access to textbooks. By following a few well-defined guidelines, authors can produce e-texts that are accessible to these students, and more intuitive for everyone.