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An Instructor's Guide to Accessibility

This guide provides the 'why' and 'how' of accessibility of instruction

Creating Accessible Documents


Where do I start?!

  • Set realistic goals. Think about the number and type of documents that you post in Canvas per course. Work on 1 or 2 courses per semester until they are complete. Meanwhile, any new documents you create will be less work if they are created using the Accessibility Checker as your guide.

  • Word documents really are the easiest to remediate because of the built-in Accessibility Checker. 

  • PowerPoint files. After your Word documents are complete, start working on your PowerPoint files. PowerPoint also has an embedded Accessibility Checker, but you really have to watch your reading order to make sure the content on the slide is being read in the correct order. See WebAIM PowerPoint Accessibility for more information. 

  • The most accessible version of text is HTML and then Word. Any text that is copied into a Canvas page becomes HTML so this is a simple way to convert some of your content. Canvas also includes a built-in accessibility checker.

  • Avoid the use of PDF documents when possible. These are difficult to remediate and require the use of Adobe Acrobat Pro. Not everyone has access to this software program so that provides a challenge. Even if a document is 100% accessible in Word, it’s still not 100% accessible after saving it as a PDF. Headings and alt text may not transfer. If you would prefer to not post a Word document in Canvas, copy/paste the information into a Canvas page as noted in the above bullet. Students cannot download or change the information, but they can still print it. 

  • Do not scan documents or book pages because it becomes an image and cannot be read by screen readers. Please work with the SRC librarian to secure a digital copy of the content you would like to use in your course. 

  • YouTube Videos have a caption component that simply needs to be clicked to turn on captioning (cc). Remind students of this feature. Additionally, you can edit the auto-captions in YouTube to improve accuracy. Click on Closed Captioning of Videos in the left menu to learn more. 

  • When purchasing content from publishers, ask for accessible versions. (The more faculty who ask, the more we hope that publishers will listen.) Not only can an institution be held liable, but individual faculty members can also be held liable for choosing to use content that they know is not accessible. 

Create and Save a Custom Universal Design Theme for Word

If you open the below document in Word and follow the steps outlined in the file, you will save a Universal Design Theme to your computer for use in future documents.

View a Short Video Tutorial

The following 4-minute video will briefly cover 3 tools to help make your documents accessible: 1) alt text, 2) heading and paragraph styles, and 3) Accessibility Checker.