Accessible Instructional Material

Instructional Materials (IM) are considered to be forms of communication and must therefore be delivered in a manner that is equally effective for persons with disabilities.
Equally effective means:
  • Comparable in quality to those received by students without disabilities
  • Comparable in timeliness of delivery and availability
  • Provided in a manner and medium appropriate to the significance of the message and the abilities of the person receiving the material
  • Providing universal design access
This section provides step-by-step guides for designing and creating accessible materials. Covered topics include:
  • Setting up accessible formatting for text and tables
  • Creating Accessible Word documents and PowerPoint presentations
  • Reconfiguring PDFs to maximize accessibility
  • Creating or uploading accessible content to Canvas
  • Using Ally to make course content more accessible
  • Hosting and captioning video
Please remember, CETL does not provide services to convert instructional materials to accessible versions; however, ITS does run a document remediation service.

For a quick-start overview of things to watch out for when ensuring the accessibility of instructional materials, please consult Ally's Accessibility Checklist.

Although the Canvas web interface is accessible, it is the responsibility of each instructor to ensure that any content created or uploaded onto Canvas is also accessible. The Canvas Rich Content Editor has an Accessibility Checker to check if page content is accessible. Furthermore, Ally is an Accessibility Awareness tool integrated into Canvas, and it can help you make your uploaded files and images more accessible.

When posting written content, whether in a Canvas page or in uploaded documents, make sure that the text is formatted in an accessible way. This means using proper heading structure, using built-in bullet or numbered lists, and creating tables with proper header rows or columns.

Any documents and files uploaded to Canvas, including Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and PDFs, should be made accessible. Ally, which is integrated with Canvas, can help identify which files are accessible or not.

With PDFs that are created from Word documents or PowerPoint presentations, make sure that the original document is accessible. You may also make a document remediation request through ITS to ensure the accessibility of PDFs and hard-to-fix documents.

When uploading images to Canvas or embedding them in documents, make sure they have descriptive alt text. Any videos shared should have accessible captions. If videos are uploaded through Panopto or Canvas Studio, you can request automatic captions and manually check to make sure they're accurate. If posting a YouTube video, try to find videos where the channel posts their own captions.

Note: Because Panopto is a more reliable and capable video communication platform, Canvas Studio will be gradually phased out and replaced by Panopto. Instructors should start to use Panopto in place of Canvas Studio for the recording and hosting of video.

For more information on accessibility in Canvas, visit Canvas's page on general accessibility guidelines.

For training on Microsoft Office, including Word and PowerPoint, please contact the ITS Training Staff at [email protected]. You may also visit the ITS Training Program page, which has self-paced training resources for Microsoft Office.

The ITS Accessibility page has many resources to help make accessible instructional materials, including guides on specific programs, and a document remediation service.

For more information on meeting the specific needs and accommodations of students with a disability, please contact the Office for Students with Disabilities at [email protected].

CETL runs the Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Workshop several times a semester for all faculty as a part of the TEACH program. To complete the workshop, (1) instructors attend a live webinar and then (2) submit a deliverable, namely a Syllabus with Heading Styles.

Please check our latest workshops and register for the Accessible Instructional Materials Workshop if available.

An important component of designing a course, either online, hybrid, or in-person, is to ensure that the instructional materials are accessible for students with disabilities. In this workshop, we will demonstrate several practices instructors can implement to ensure accessibility of their course materials.

By the end of this workshop you will have accomplished the following objectives:

  • Explain the importance of accessible materials.
  • Structure text documents with Heading Styles.
  • Add a text-based description to an image (alt text).
  • Assess closed captioning quality in online video.