Is Your Course Content Accessible? 

Creating accessible content often doesn’t require special skills or software. Sometimes it only requires changing how you use the tools you are already using to create the document. Microsoft Word can be used to create fully accessible documents and PDF’s solely by using the tools available within Word. It doesn’t even require extra work in most cases. After a while, you develop a habit and start creating accessible content from the outset. 


Below is a checklist of items for various types of documents and content to serve as a guide. Remember, every little bit helps. 


Topics in this checklist include:

General Principles

myLesley/Blackboard

PDF Documents

Documents (Microsoft Word)

Presentations (Microsoft PowerPoint)

Multimedia

Help and Support



General Principles 

The following basic principles can be applied to all content whether created in myLesley, Word, Powerpoint, etc. 


Is your text legible? 

  • Your text should be at least 12 points for documents and 24 points for projected presentations. However, you may need to adjust depending on your delivery audience.  
  • Choose a font that can easily be read, such as Arial, Verdana, Lucida Grande (Mac)/Lucida Sans (Win). 
  • See Web Style Guide for more information on typefaces for use on the web.


Are you using color strategically? 

  • Using color as the only way to convey meaning can be problematic for visually impaired and color deficient users; use a second indicator as well, such as bold and italics. See Penn State's Accessibility article on Color Coding for more information.
  • For colored charts or graphics, provide additional information in the text. See Penn State's Accessibility article on Charts and Accessibility for more information.


Are you providing enough contrast between the background and foreground? 

  • Provide contrast between the background and foreground of your text or graphics. This will ensure that users with low vision and color deficiencies will be able to view your content properly.
  • The maximum contrast is black and white. Avoid a dark text on a dark background (red and black), light text on a light background (yellow and white), and the color orange (as it is neither dark nor light and difficult to contrast with another color). 
  • Avoid slides or backgrounds with texture (including a gradient), as it can also interfere with legibility. 
  • See Penn State's Accessibility article on Contrast or Luminosity/Brightness for more information.


Do your images have alternative text? 

Alt text is a short description of an image that screen readers can access. These descriptions are usually very brief. Using 20 words or less is a good guideline. Alt text also provides students with richer content and ensures understanding for global students. 


Do your tables follow a clear structure? 

Screen readers present information linearly, meaning that they read across one row, then the next. In order for visually impaired students to navigate the table with a screen reader, create tables using the Table tool within your application or text editor. 



Did you create your bulleted or numbered lists using the built-in formatting tools? 


Are you using simple, easy to follow language? 

  • Write for your audience. Use language that your audience understand and is comfortable with. When introducing topics, define and spell out abbreviations, acronyms, or jargon. 
  • Organize your information and lay your content out in a logical order.
  • Helpful information on writing in plain language may be found here: Federal plain language guidelines.



myLesley/Blackboard 

myLesley (Blackboard) is the university's learning management system and functions as your online classroom. Blackboard is, generally speaking, accessible to users. However, difficulties arise when adding certain elements in your course, such as images, documents, multimedia, etc. 


Are you using clear and consistent navigation? 

Set up your course with a clear, consistent flow. This will allow students to spend their time focusing on the content, not finding the materials.

  • Provide a basic, predictable structure. Organize your content into folders based on the week or the topic. Label all folders and modules clearly (ex Week 1: Topic Name).
  • Avoid an overabundance of folders within folders, as this creates a barrier for students trying to find the content.
  • Each folder or module should follow a similar flow. For example:
    • Weekly/topic overview
    • Learning objectives
    • Readings, videos, or other learning materials
    • Assignments, discussions, or other means of assessing student work


Do your images have alternative text? 


Do your tables follow a clear structure? 


Do your links make sense as standalone information? 


Did you create your bulleted or numbered lists using the built-in formatting tools? 


Resources for myLesley/Blackboard:



PDF Documents 

Two of the biggest accessibility issues with PDF files are scanned documents and untagged PDF’s. If you are converting a document or PowerPoint to PDF, it is easier to make your file accessible first, then convert.


Can your PDF be read with a screen reader? 

When you scan a text article, most scanners create images of each page. The resulting image is inaccessible to anyone using a screen reader. Additionally, the document cannot be searched, highlighted, or annotated for student notes. The text often looks off-center and can be difficult to read, slowing down reading and lowering comprehension.

  • If possible, find a digital copy of the original document. If you find a digital version online, link to it. Do not download the document and upload it into your course, as this may violate copyright.
  • If you cannot find a digital copy you will need permission from the author or publisher to share the work digitally or your usage will need to meet fair use standards. See Lesley's Use of Copyrighted Works Policy for more information.
    • If you are not the document creator or are unsure if you have permission to modify the document, contact a librarian. A librarian can help you determine fair use and copyright or help you search for an alternate accessible resource. Email asklib@lesley.edu for assistance.
    •  If you are the owner of the document or have permissions to modify it, be sure to use an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scanner or software to convert the scanned document to text. If you scan or convert your text you will still need to read through the document and update as necessary. For more information see Scan a Paper Document to PDF (Acrobat Pro).
    • If you need to make a PDF accessible to a student with a documented accommodation, email disabilityaccess@lesley.edu for assistance.
  • Avoid converting text with multiple columns into a PDF file. A screen reader may unexpectedly read text across columns. It will also result in additional scrolling as each column is read, particularly on a screen, making it harder to process.


Is your PDF tagged? 

Tagging your PDF provides a hidden structured, textual representation of the PDF content. Tagging allows screen readers to understand your file's reading order, where headings fall, and which objects in the document are tables, images, footnotes, etc.


Resources for Adobe Acrobat Pro



Documents (Microsoft Word)

You can easily create accessible Word documents by using the built-in tools and functionality within Word. This will also increase your productivity and create an easier workflow.


Does your document have headings? 

Use the built-in headings function to better organize your document and make it easier for users on screen readers to navigate. 


Does your document have a Table of Contents? 

If you have a long document, consider using a table of contents. A table of contents gives users an overview of the document's content and organization. It also allows readers to go directly to a specific section of your document. This is especially helpful for students using assistive technology.   


Do your tables follow a clear structure?


Do your images have alternative text? 

Did you create your bulleted or numbered lists using the built-in formatting tools? 


Do your links make sense as standalone information? 


Additional Resources for Microsoft Word: 



Presentations (PowerPoint) 

You can easily create accessible presentations by using the built-in tools and functionality within PowerPoint. This will also increase your productivity and create an easier workflow.


Did you create your slides using the built-in templates?


Did you set the reading order for your slide contents?


Slide Transitions and Animations

  • Avoid automatic slide transitions. Your viewers may need more time with the slide content than what is automatically provided. This may be especially true for users with cognitive challenges, learning disabilities, and English language learners.
  • If using transitions or animations, keep them simple. Complicated visuals can be distracting or overwhelming for some viewers.


Do your images have alternate text?

Are you using text, color, and contrast strategically?


Do each of your slides have a unique title?


Is your audio/video content accessible?


Do your tables follow a clear structure?

Do your links make sense as standalone information? 


Resources for PowerPoint



Multimedia Content 


Is your audio/video captioned?

Accurate captioning of audio and video content ensures that people who are Deaf and hard of hearing can understand the content. Additionally, captions are very useful to non-native English speakers, viewers watching in a sound-sensitive environment such as a library, viewers with learning disabilities or attention deficits, and can help all learners improve comprehension. 

  • Videos uploaded to Kaltura Media after August 6, 2018 will be auto captioned. For more information on editing Kaltura captions or to add captions to an older video, see Kaltura Media: Captioning Video Content
  • If you are using videos from Lesley's Streaming Media Resources, please view the Lesley University Library's Streaming Media Accessibility site for more information.
  • If you are using third party videos (ex YouTube, Learner.org, etc.), make sure that they are captioned or have transcripts available.


Can visually impaired users understand the content?

  • Provide a detailed description of any visual content that cannot be understood by audio alone. Provide a description of visuals such as images, charts, diagrams, and actions.



Help and Support

Lesley University’s support offices are committed to working with faculty and students to create university resources that are accessible to all learners. Questions related to the accessibility of teaching and learning materials should be directed accordingly:


Disability Services: 

Email disabilityaccess@lesley.edu to:

  • Provide accessible materials for students with documented accommodations


Library: 

Email asklib@lesley.edu for:

  • Questions regarding the accessibility of Library resources
  • Copyright/fair use questions


eLearning & Instructional Support: 

Email elis@lesley.edu for:

  • Help making your course content accessible
  • Questions about myLesley, Ally, or other technology for teaching and learning