Tips for Creating Accessible Course Materials

Providing Accessible Material

By proactively creating, finding, and using accessible digital course content in your course, you will help create more accessible, inclusive learning opportunities and environments for a diverse student population.

Using accessible documents, accurately captioning videos and incorporating some Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into your course content removes barriers and allows all learners the opportunity to access course content equally and independently. You will also be prepared by having established alternative solutions when a disability related accommodation is requested.

Providing accessible digital material can be a new challenge. However, by incorporating at least one digital accessibility tip provided here into your course materials now, you can begin to build accessibility into your regular design process. Doing this will benefit both you and your diverse student population!

The accessible learning material information and resources provided here does not include all the accessibility standards, but provides some basic tips and resources to get you started in making learning material more accessible and inclusive.

Digital documents—materials that are uploaded, attached, or linked to web pages, Learning Management Systems (e.g., Canvas), email, social media, etc.—include, but are not limited to, MS Word, PDF and PowerPoint.

In digital documents text and image content must be accessible so people using assistive technology can equally access the content. This is especially necessary for individuals using the keyboard only, or a screen reader and/or text-to-speech software to navigate and access the material.

Accessibility Tips

  • Before scanning journals, articles, books, etc. to create a PDF, do a quick web search to see if the material is located somewhere on the web. Often with a quick web search you can find the material is already available on the web.
  • When adding course content to Canvas, try to avoid uploading digital documents (PDF, Word, etc.) to create your text content. Instead, add the text content directly in Canvas, using the provided HTML style text editor.
    • For example, instead of uploading a PDF or Word version of assignment instructions, create the HTML page within Canvas.
  • Avoid providing PDFs that are scanned as an image. You should be able to copy and paste text in a PDF. Otherwise, the PDF text is an image and is not accessible.
  • Document accessibility should begin in a native document format. So, if you need to provide a PDF, start with a MS Word document and utilize the accessibility checker in Word before converting your document to a PDF.
    • If possible, upload a Word document instead of a PDF.
  • Use the built-in style or text editor found in Word, PDFs, PowerPoint, and in Canvas, to create headings and lists.
    • Avoid using bold and/or larger text size to represent a heading. Instead use the heading styles.
    • You can create ordered and unordered lists using the content editor bullet and numbered list styles.
  • Headings should follow a logical sequence, similar to an outline.
    • Heading 1 (use only for document or web page titles), Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.
  • Provide alternative (Alt) text description for all images, graphs, diagrams, etc.
    • Alt text descriptions should sufficiently describe what is being presented visually.
  • Link text should describe the link destination.
    • Avoid using link text such as “more information,” or “click here.” Also avoid providing the full URL.
  • Use appropriate color contrast ratio between foreground and background colors so content is visible to people who are colorblind.
  • Avoid using color alone to convey information or show emphasis.
    • Use bold, or an asterisk or symbol to indicate emphasis.
    • Underlining should only be used for links, not to show emphasis.
  • If available, use the authoring tool’s accessibility checker.
  • MathML should be used to create accessible math equations.
  • For a more detailed explanation of accessibility tips provided for digital documents, review Fundamental Principles for Creating Accessible Digital Documents (pdf).


Live and recorded videos (e.g., lecture videos, linked or embedded YouTube videos) used in a course should be closed captioned, and audio only content (e.g., audio feedback, podcasts) should have a transcript. This is helpful to all audiences, especially when the content may be difficult to follow, or if English is your second language, or if you are trying to listen in a noisy environment. This is especially necessary for those with limited to no hearing, and for those who have approved disability related accommodations for captioning and/or transcripts.

Captions and transcripts should replicate (word for word) the audio spoken. They should be punctuated and be at least 99% accurate.

Accessibility Tips

  • Zoom: Synchronous live Zoom meetings must be live captioned to meet the needs of students with approved captioning or transcription accommodations. For assistance, contact Wendy Steele at
  • Panopto: Asynchronous recorded Panopto videos must be closed captioned to meet the needs of students with approved captioning or transcription accommodations. For assistance, contact Wendy Steele at
  • Embedded or linked to videos: Use videos that are already accurately captioned.
    • Search Google for closed captioned videos:
      • Type the title plus (+) closed captions or transcript.
    • Search YouTube for closed captioned videos:
      • Enter your keywords in the YouTube search Then select the Filter button, then select Subtitles/CC.
    • Check if the WSU Libraries carries a closed caption version:
      • A closed captioned version may be found at the WSU Libraries Kanopy video streaming service (
    • Check if a closed captioned version can be rented or purchased (e.g., through Netflix or Amazon).
    • Use videos from sites that accurately caption their videos. For example, TedTalks and Khan Academy.
  • Review automatically generated captions to ensure they are accurate. Edit captions if they are not accurate.
    • Automatic captions are used in YouTube and can be enabled in Panopto and Zoom video recordings.


If Accessible Version Not Available (video might be too old)

  • Ask the creator if they have created a closed captioned version or a transcript.
  • For assistance, contact Wendy Steele at

How to Create Accessible Version

For assistance, contact Wendy Steele at

Third party content includes any digital content that is provided by an outside vendor. This can include linking to videos, articles, and websites from your course. It also includes specific software (e.g., Math software) and web applications (e.g., Top Hat, textbook publisher’s login website, an open textbook, an OER, etc.) that you require students to access as part of your course.

Accessibility Tips

  • Simply ask if vendor can provide information about how their site is meeting digital/web accessibility standards.
  • Ask the vendor to provide their Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) – a self-disclosing document produced by the vendor, which details how the product meets web accessibility standards.
  • Commit to using products that are fully accessible.


UDL is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. Universally designed courses have built-in features that proactively anticipate the needs and preferences of a diverse group of learners. Incorporating these principles are especially helpful when content is presented in a digital learning environment.


  • Present course content in multiple ways to depict the same concept. For delivering the content, try to use a combination of text, audio, video, and/or images.
  • Engage students in learning in multiple ways, and provide various options for students to interact with the content, with each other, and/or with the instructor.
  • Provide options for students to choose how to demonstrate their knowledge of content.

Recorded Trainings