Day 16: Headings and Other Fomatting Features

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When reading a newspaper, magazine, or even a textbook, I rarely read these types of text from the beginning to the end, word for word. Rather, I really on text features like titles to capture my interest and let me skip to that particular article. I use Table of Contents to provide navigation to exactly what I am interested in. Within a larger article or textbook chapter, I may scan the headings and subheadings to find the text to read more closely depending on my purpose for reading.  I may not read the paragraphs preceding a list detailing the top 5 habits to boost productivity but rather the list of numbers visually draws my focus and attention. As a classroom teacher, I taught my students to be strategic readers as well. Today, much of this type of text is available online but the reading behavior remains the same. I still look for the titles, headings, subheadings, lists, and more to be able to quickly find what I am looking for.

Now imagine, if you are blind or have low vision, the appearance of the titles and headings may not stand out for you or a screen reader unless you create accessibility. Our students and even some readers may type the title of their story by using the tab key or the even the space bar to center the text, then increasing the size of the text, and maybe even making the text bold. A sighted person may recognize the text as a title but a screen reader will not differentiate that text. Same goes with headings that are created by just changing the font size and position. This formatting will not provide the navigational input that will allow a screen reader to "skim" content similar to how I might visually scan an article and only read the paragraph under the heading I'm interested in.  Formatting matters for accessibility. Students can easily be taught these habits beginning very young as they create content using Docs, Slides, Sites, and even blogs.  You'll find these formatting features very similar across different platforms and using them ensures increased accessibility.

How to Create Accessibility

The recommendations below are for Google Docs. The tools are consistent throughout G Suite but you'll find slight differences within Google Sites.
  1. Create numbered and bulleted lists format button on tool bar when creating lists, instead of manually typing 1), 2), etc. and using tab and space bar to create desired look
  2. Use Headings, to help split up your document or webpage to help those using keyboard shortcuts to easily navigate. You can customize the look of your headings in Google Docs by visiting Format > Paragraph Styles.  
  3. Beyond Headings, use the other text styles to format your text to include titles and subtitles as appropriate for your document. These can also be customized by visiting Format > Paragraph Styles
  4. Drop Down Menu listing Title, Subtitle, Heading 1, Heading 2, and more
  5. For longer documents, other text features such as page numbers, headers, and footers will help users navigate your document.
  6. Use alt text for images. Look for several posts this week and next dedicated to just alt text within images.


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