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Barrier-free digital teaching - information for instructors

Dear TU Berlin instructors, 

Digital materials play a valuable role in being able to study successfully, particularly in this age of online teaching. 

By considering just a few things when implementing your digital courses, you can ensure all our students have an equal opportunity to participate. In the list below you will find important organizational and technical information on preparing and making online materials available on ISIS, TU Berlin’s electronic learning platform.

1. Quality of recordings

Please ensure, as far as possible, that your lecture recordings are of good audio and picture quality without a disruptive background. Avoid distracting backgrounds (e.g. movement in the background, loud patterns or bold colors), flickering or glaring light sources, as well as disruptive sounds such as background music, static, and sounds from nature/birds chirping, particularly when someone is speaking. 

The face of the person speaking should be clearly visible (facing the camera) and evenly lit. This enables students, such as those who are hearing impaired or whose native language is not German, to read your lips and facial expressions and thus better understand you.

When using a mouse to point to or explain content in your presentation, use an easily visible mouse pointer that contrasts with the background, so that students with visual impairments can follow the movement. You can change the color and size of your cursor in your computer’s system settings. You can also invert the cursor so that it more strongly contrasts with the background. Below are instructions on how to change these settings in Windows 10 or Mac OS:


Select “Adjust mouse and cursor size” under Settings - Devices - Mouse. There you can change the pointer size and color. Alternatively, you can go to Settings - Devices- Mouse - Additional mouse options and under “Pointer options”, select “Windows Inverted (system scheme)”.

Mac OS

Select “Display” under System Preferences and Accessibility. There you can change the cursor size. 

Note: Only you as the user benefit from the settings available under “Display” and “Color Filters”. If you share your screen with others, they will see your screen in the standard settings, even if you have, for instance, selected “Invert colors”.

2. Accessible teaching content

Ensuring your lecture materials are accessible benefits all students. However, this is essential for students who are hearing or visually impaired. Please follow these tips wherever possible:

Provide students with a written copy of any information addressed in the recorded lectures. Possible formats include transcripts, lecture notes, a written “chalkboard” recording, presentation slides, graphics, diagrams, and tables in good resolution. Many students depend on these resources as they are unable to simultaneously listen and take notes, are unable to understand all speech due to acoustics, and/or can only see content under high magnification.

Text: Content must be presented with high contrast. Black text against a white background is optimal. Please use a sans serif font such as Calibri, Verdana or Arial and at least 12 pt font. Avoid writing entire words or lines in CAPITAL LETTERS and/or in italics.

Links: If you include links, please name these clearly, such as “Here you can find information about academic adjustment” instead of “Information about academic adjustment is available here.” Links which stand alone and are clearly identified allow students using screenreaders (language assistants) to navigate to the desired link. Do not only link words such as “here,” “click,”, or “download.” If a link refers to a file (for example PDF), a reference to the file format should be given in the link, e.g. Information for Instructors (PDF).

Images: All images must have high resolution so that they can be magnified (proportionally scaled). Ensure that there is sufficient contrast between individual elements.  Doing so makes it easier to differentiate between images and text fields and to understand the image when in black and white. Some students use a screenreader, requiring images to include an alternative text explaining the purpose and content of the image. The alternative text should be as brief as possible and as long as necessary, particularly if the main body text further explains the image content. To edit the alternative text, right click on the image and select “Edit alternative text”. A brief description is sufficient for decorative images, such as “blue sky over the Main Building”. Note: An image caption (under the image) is visible to all users. To ensure that students using language assistants do not receive the same information twice, make sure that the caption and alternative text are not identical.

Tables/diagrams: If possible, avoid using colors in diagrams to differentiate between elements. Instead use patterns, such as a checkered pattern, to more clearly differentiate. Care should be taken to ensure that all numbers, characters, and text in tables, diagrams, and graphics can be read by text-to-speech software. This is possible if you use, for example, scalable vector graphics, LaTeX documents or Excel spreadsheets instead of pictures/screenshots. (If you do use an image, please follow the instructions under “Images.”) If you are providing values, it can be helpful to include a table with the values in addition to the diagram and/or graphic. 

Language: Use language that is as understandable as possible with simple words and short sentences. You can find a 15-point checklist in German in the Leitfaden für Verständliche Sprache.

Overview/Outline: Design your presentations as clearly as possible, so that the reader can maintain an overview even when the screen view is magnified. Tip: Outline Word documents using headings. Use the formatting tools for outlines as well as those for creating tables and lists available in Word, so that these can be read by speech output programs. 

Below you can find additional tips, instructions, and tools for digital accessibility:

Berlin Standards for Digital Accessibility – includes information about designing Word documents and PowerPoints [Source: Office of Digital Accessibility and Usability - Senate Department for Interior and Sport]

Accessible PDFs – Instructions, examples, and test [Source: Bundesfachstelle Barrierefreiheit. Deutsche Rentenversicherung Knappschaft-Bahn-See]

Handbook for accessible online videos – Includes information about subtitling with and without YouTube [Source: Projekt BIK für Alle. DIAS GmbH]

Principles of digital accessibility (in German) [Source: Dr. Björn Fisseler, 08.09.2020, Hochschulforum Digitalisierung]

3. Academic adjustment

Please note that students continue to be entitled to their approved form of academic adjustment to modify their study and exam conditions. Clarify with students early on how academic adjustments are to be individually implemented, particularly for examinations. We recommend informing your students at the start of the course of possible academic adjustments and who to contact in the academic chair to request the adjustment. You can also refer students to our advising team.

4. Asynchronous online formats

If you are holding courses with web conferencing and other formats requiring attendance, please offer alternative options for “active” participation (e.g. meeting recordings) and completing coursework to the following:

  • Students with children and care responsibilities who are unable to arrange supervision to participate in the course at the specified time
  • Students with disabilities and chronic illness who have approved academic adjustments from the examination board
  • Students abroad, especially those in locations with a significant time difference to Berlin

5. Availability

Please leave resources (recorded lectures and lecture notes) online until at least examinations and repeat examinations have taken place.

Zusatzinformationen / Extras

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