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An Instructor's Guide to Accessibility

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

Common file accessibility issues and why it's an issue 

  • Creating titles and sub-headings by increasing the text size and bolding text instead of using the built-in Headings styles available in Word
    • Why is this a problem? A screen reader can't recognize that direct formatting (e.g. bold or large font size) identifies a heading. Screen readers used by people with vision impairment recognize headers as "separators" and can group information more easily for the user. They can also search a document using headers much like a Table of Contents.    

  • Adding images or tables without alt text
    • Why is this a problem? A screen reader relies on the alt text to explain to the user what type of element is there. For example, someone with a visual impairment cannot see a photograph of Abraham Lincoln. An alt text label would simply state, "photograph of Abraham Lincoln". If it is simply a portrait, it does not need to include a lot of detail. However, if it is an image showing Abraham Lincoln giving a speech, you should explain what the image shows... is he standing on a platform? Who else is with him? Etc. If you use tables for data, summarize the table to aid reader comprehension. It helps all students to know the high points of a table.

  • Creating a table of text without specifying the header row
    • Why is this a problem?  There are certain formatting guidelines for data tables, which are too specific to go into here, but one simple suggestion is to identify the headers (first cells) in the rows and columns. Header information can be used by screen readers to identify important information.

  • Using vague descriptions for hyperlinks, such as "Click here"
    • Why is this a problemHaving proper link titles is a major accessibility requirement since the term ‘click’ is irrelevant to many assistive technologies and isn’t descriptive enough for screen readers. Instead, it’s better to label the links with something that describes what the user is clicking to, so that distinguishing between the links becomes easier.


  • Sharing videos that don't include closed captioning
    • Why is this a problem? Captioning is necessary for people who are unable to hear the audio in a video. It’s also helpful for people with cognitive impairments, as well as for developing literacy, both in children and adults. Additionally, research has shown that captions can also improve comprehension when students are not able to turn up their sound or they just prefer to read rather than listen. 

Short descriptions of how to make text, images, audio, and video accessible