Course Development

Accessible courses, designed with accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in mind, are beneficial to all students, not just those with a disability. Designing and building your course right the first time, saves time in having to rebuild it later on.


The Big Questions

  • Accessible courses, designed with accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in mind, are beneficial to all students, not just those with a disability.
  • Designing and building your course right the first time, saves time in having to rebuild it later on.
  • Use accessibility testing tools to test resources and content.
  • Make the recommended adjustments so that the course is accessible.
  • Identify the accessibility obstacles in your course.
  • Design your course with accessibility in mind.
  • Create accessible course content.

Creating Accessible Content

  • Use Sans Serif fonts such as Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, and Tahoma.
  • Use heading styles to create levels in text.
  • Do not use font color alone to convey meaning.
  • Use a dark font on lighter backgrounds and lighter fonts on darker backgrounds. You may check the color contrast by using the Color Contrast Checker on WebAIM’s website at WebAIM: Color Contrast Checker .
  • Hyperlinks should be descriptive and concise. Include where the link is going and why.
  • Avoid using phrases with directional terms. (“click here,” “click for more information” or “use link below”)
  • Examples:
    • Use – You may download a trial copy of Office 2016 from the Microsoft website.
    • Don’t use – Click here to download trial.

This PowerPoint presentation covers five key steps to making your online courses accessible.

Microsoft Word for Windows

  • To add alternative text in Word 2010 documents:
    1. Right-click on the image and select Format Picture. A dialog box will appear.
    2. Select the Alt Text option in the sidebar. Enter the appropriate alternative text in the Description field, and the Title field.
  • To add alternative text in Word 2013 documents:
    1. Right-click on the image and select Format Picture. A dialog box will appear.
    2. Select the Layout & Properties icon and choose Alt Text.
    3. Enter the appropriate alternative text in the Description field, and the Title field.
  • To add alternative text in Word 2016 documents:
    1. Right-click on the image and select Format Picture. A dialog box will appear.
    2. Select the Layout & Properties icon and choose Alt Text.
    3. Enter the appropriate alternative text in the Description field, and the Title field.

Microsoft Word for Mac

  • To add alternative text in Word 2011 documents:
    1. Right-click on the image and select Format Picture. A dialog box will appear.
    2. Select the Alt Text option in the sidebar. Enter the appropriate alternative text in the Description field, and the Title field.
  • To add alternative text in Word 2016 documents:
    1. Right-click on the image and select Format Picture. A dialog box will appear.
    2. Select the Alt Text option in the sidebar. Enter the appropriate alternative text in the Description field, and the Title field.

For more information on adding alternative text to Microsoft Word documents for Windows and Mac, visit WebAIM: Microsoft Word – Creating Accessible Documents.

  • Audio files should include a printable transcript.
  • Video files should be captioned and include a printable transcript.
  • All web pages, including external links, should be accessible to all students. If you are creating your own web page, be sure to follow the recommendations on the WebAIM handouts – Quick Reference: Web Accessibility Principles and Quick Reference: Testing Web Content for Accessibility.
  • WAVE – The Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, by WebAIM, tests the accessibility of a single web page, HTML code or a file. You may also download the WAVE toolbar for Mozilla Firefox. The WAVE tool will display your web page in text only and outline formats and identify any accessibility errors on the page. To open the WAVE tool , visit WAVE Web Accessibility Tool or to download the toolbar, visit WAVE Browser Extensions.
  • aDesigner – aDesigner, developed by IBM, is a disability simulator that helps Web designers ensure their pages are accessible and usable by the visually impaired (excerpt from website). It is available for download on the Eclipse website by visiting aDesigner.
  • Use built-in formatting styles to create headers and lists in documents. When using styles, it is critical to use them correctly. Use the appropriate style for its intended purpose. For example, the Heading 1 style should be used for top level headings. The Heading 2 style should be used for the next level. Do not skip from Heading 1 to Heading 3. You can customize the look of the headings if needed. Use the Outline View to see how a screen reader will interpret the formatting styles.
  • Office 2016 has a built-in accessibility checker in applications. This tool is located by clicking File, then Info, then Check for Issues, then Check Accessibility. The accessibility checker will check the document for potential errors and provide information on how to correct any potential errors. For more information on the accessibility checker in Office 2016 for Windows and Mac, visit Accessibility in Microsoft Office 2016. You may download a trial of Office 2016 at Try Microsoft Office 2016.
  • Start with an accessible Word document and convert to a PDF.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro 11 or Acrobat Pro DC is the preferred method for creating and testing, but accessible PDFs can be created from accessible Word documents.
  • To convert to PDF for Office 2007:
    1. Locate the Acrobat Tab on the Ribbon.
    2. Select the Create PDF option and Save document.
    3. Before converting to PDF, check the preferences to ensure that Create Accessible (Tagged) PDF file is selected, and that a language has been selected.
  • To convert to PDF for Office 2010:
    1. Locate the Acrobat Tab on the Ribbon.
    2. Select the Create PDF option and Save document.
    3. Before converting to PDF, select preferences from the Acrobat Tab on the Ribbon and ensure that Enable Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF is selected.
  • To convert to PDF for Office 2013/2016:
    1. Locate the File Tab on the Ribbon.
    2. Choose the Save As option.
    3. In the Save As dialog, choose the PDF option in the Save as type field.
      1. When you select PDF, you will notice that some new options appear below the Save as type field.
    4. Before saving the document, first open the Options dialog by selecting the Options button.
    5. In the Options dialog, be sure these check boxes are checked in the Include non-printing information section:
      1. Create bookmarks using: Headings
      2. Document Properties
      3. Document structure tags for accessibility
      4. Note: that if the Create bookmarks checkbox is not selectable, that means your document does not contain any headings. If that is so, go back and add headings to your document, as appropriate.
      5. You do not need to change any other options.
      6. Click OK to save the options and return to the Save As dialog.
    6. If you wish, you can change the File name.
    7. Finally, click the Save button to create the PDF document. Your new PDF document will be saved using the file name and options you selected.
The Georgia Institute of Technology Research on Accessible Distance Education (GRADE) offers a free tutorial on creating accessible online content through their website at GRADE: Accessible Distance Education and Universal Design for Learning.

Downloadable Resources

Accessibility in Online Content (PowerPoint Document)

Accessible courses, designed with accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in mind, are beneficial to all students, not just those with a disability.

ADA Memo: November 2014

ADA Compliance for Websites and e-Learning Content

ADA Symposium: Solving the Puzzle of Online Accessibility

Announce NCCCS’s five year accessibility goal (specifics regarding the goal were not addressed)

Creating Accessible Documents in PowerPoint 2013

Produced by the VLC, this is a guide, complete with screen captures, walks you through how to make your Powerpoint presentations accessible to all students. Includes “how to’s” on slide…

Creating Accessible Documents in Word 2010

A handy “how to” guide, complete with screen captures, walks you through how to make objects such as tables, hyperlinks, images, and structure of your Word documents accessible.

VLC Five Year Plan Guidelines.pdf

About the VLC

The Virtual Learning Community is a collaborative effort of all North Carolina’s Community Colleges to increase the quality and availability of online learning and support services.

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