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Bb Accessibility Tip: Lists

by Janice Florent

This blog post will continue my series of accessibility related tips that are intended to provide you with things you can do now to make your course accessible even before you have a student with a disability.

My fifth tip in this series focuses on lists. A list is a set of items that share a purpose and/or have common characteristics. Lists are great from an accessibility standpoint because they provide structured order to content in a linear fashion.

bulleted list

Properly structured lists help to identify order and hierarchy in documents and web content. Lists that are properly formatted allow all users, especially those using assistive technology, to identify and navigate through a related group of items. List items that are not properly formed or grouped may not be translated properly by assistive technology.

Unordered (bulleted) lists should be used when there is no order of sequence or importance. Ordered (numbered) lists suggest a progression or sequence.

Compound lists contain multiple levels of classification. For example, a compound home improvement list would have items organized by category (e.g. electrical, hardware, flooring, plumbing.) With compound lists, relationships are shown visually using indents and different item markers (i.e., bullets, numbers, letters, etc.).

Compound lists may be difficult for visual users to decipher if the visual cues are insufficient. Also, compound lists may be disorienting for nonvisual users. Use a simple list structure whenever possible.

As with headings, lists should be used correctly and for the right purposes. Lists should never be used for merely indenting or other layout purposes.

When lists are formatted using asterisks, hyphens or images to create the look of bullets in a document, users of assistive technology are not able to detect the hierarchical structure and relationship of the list items. You should never rely on indentation to provide a visual list, use the proper structure instead.

Lists should be created using the built-in tools for ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists. Without using these tools, a list is not really a list, which makes the content more difficult for assistive technology users to fully understand.

Creating lists in MS Word and PowerPoint:

  1. Select the text that you want to add bullets or numbering to.
  2. On the Home tab, under Paragraph, select the appropriate bullet from the list.
create list in MS Word

Creating lists in the Content Editor:

  1. In the Content Editor, select the text that you want to add bullets or numbering to.
  2. Select the appropriate bullet from the list.
create list in Content Editor

You will remove significant barriers for users of assistive technology if you take these suggestions into consideration when creating course content. An added bonus is that if you include properly structured lists when creating your course content you will be ahead of the game in the event you do have a student who requires the use of assistive technology.

Additional information about lists can be found at:
Creating bulleted and numbered lists in MS Word and PowerPoint
Working with lists in the Content Editor

Photo Credit: bulleted list by ijustwanttobeperceivedthewayiam / CC BY SA 2.0

1 thought on “Bb Accessibility Tip: Lists

  1. Pingback: CAT FooD » Blog Archive » Accessibility is for Everyone

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