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Brightspace Accessibility Tip: Lists

Brightspace, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

I am writing a series of accessibility related blog posts that will provide suggestions on how you can make small changes when creating course content to make it accessible. This is the sixth tip in my series of accessibility related blog posts and it 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.

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.

bulleted list

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 2013:

  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 Google Docs and Slides:

  1. On your computer, open a document or presentation in Google Docs or Slides
  2. Click a page or slide where you want to add a list
  3. In the toolbar, choose a list type. If you don't see the option, click More ...
  4. Start typing your text for the list

create list in Google Docs

Creating lists in the Brightspace HTML Editor:

  1. In the HTML Editor, select the text that you want to add bullets or numbering to
  2. Select the unordered list or ordered list button

create list in HTML 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 here:
Learn how to create lists in Word 2013
Learn how to create lists in Word 2016
Learn how to create lists in PowerPoint 2013
Learn how to create lists in PowerPoint 2016

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