Building Accessible Content

Creating content that is accessible to all students.

On this page:

The Importance of Content Accessibility

Because of the diverse needs of your students, course content must follow certain formatting guidelines to be accessible to everyone. Although students can request reasonable accommodations from the University’s Accessibility Resources Office, the instructor’s role is to design and share content that is accessible, equitable and inclusive. It is challenging to anticipate all the learner variabilities that might be present in your classroom, however, there are several accessibility practices you can include in your course that will support all students.

Building Accessible Content

Below are course elements you should review for accessibility. Take small and purposeful steps to improve existing content while applying these best practices to new content. If you already have course content, review one or two elements for their levels of accessibility. Choose ones that will have the most significant impact on your students. If you are developing a new course or new content, you can easily apply the accessibility elements below as you build your course. While there are many accessibility elements, it is vital to review and consider each to ensure that you have a high-quality accessible course.

Accessibility features and functions will differ depending on your

  • Device (e.g., desktop, laptop, or tablet)
  • Operating system (e.g., Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Chrome OS)
  • Applications (e.g., Word Doc, Pages, Google Doc,)
  • Learning Management System (LMS) (e.g., Brightspace, Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle)

For UB faculty using UB Learns, the Brightspace link below will help you access the guides and tutorials needed to build an accessible course.

Course Organization and Navigation

Course organization and navigation helps students learn when it has a systemic structure that is explicit and consistent, regardless of the course delivery mode. Below are best practices to keep in mind when building or revising your course.

Create an organized, consistent and easy to navigate course.

Break content into manageable chunks.

Provide explicit instructions and examples.

Review for use of proper grammar, punctuation and spelling.

Design and Layout

The readability of text affects how well students can understand content, especially for students using assistive technologies. For example, refrain from using bolding, highlighting, or underlining as these features are not differentiated by screen readers. Instead, use the formatting features within the software to identify headings or important information. This is a subtle adjustment that is easy to do and has an enormous impact.

Use text that can easily be read by all students and pre-formatted styles which can help simplify and improve readability.

High contrast between text and background

Color contrast between slide backgrounds and font colors. Use either of these checkers to easily review the accessibility of the colors used in your content.

Format text with titles, headers, and pre-formatted styles

Plain text font that is at least 12 point

Accessible Content

Accessibility refers not only to finding content (e.g., layout and navigation, see above) but being able to read and navigate within content. Regardless of the content you are using (e.g., charts, documents, images, graphics, tables) each must be accessible. Take time to review the categories below and then build or review your content accordingly.

Alternative Formats

Alternative formats of documents improve accessibility because different types work better with assistive devices, and because many students may have access to devices with limited features. In UB Learns alternative formats are created automatically by Ally. For example, you may upload a PDF of a reading and Ally will create an electronic publication (ePub) version, allowing students to read the file on any device, including smartphones and tablets.

When posting content online, convert your documents into PDFs and then check for accessibility (see below). This is because PDFs can be opened on all devices without automatically downloading. On the other hand, documents in Word or Google must be downloaded for students to access them and are not always easily accessible and readable on mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets).

Provides detailed information about alternative formats in UB Learns.

Text is in an accessible format and easily read by screen readers.

Review Accessibility

When reviewing content for accessibility use the accessibility checker in the program that you have created the content in. Then, if appropriate, turn the content into a PDF and check it for accessibility again. If you are teaching an online course, the last step should be uploading the document into UB Learns and using Ally to run a final accessibility check. Make revisions, as necessary.

Overview of the purpose and functions of Ally and how to configure Ally for your course.

For UB Faculty looking for information about Ally.

Use this accessibility checker for any of the Microsoft 365 programs. It provides information for Windows, Mac, and Web users.

Use this accessibility checker to help you create accessible PDFs.

Reviewing your Content for Accessibility

The following steps will help you improve accessibility in your course. If you are building new content consider the above strategies, and steps below, when you build content on the Content Development page.

  • Step 1: Review content in your unit plan, determine its accessibility, and make the appropriate revisions using the information above. If applicable, upload content into your UB Learns course and review with Ally. Make appropriate changes.
  • Step 2: Review your course syllabus for accessibility. Make the appropriate changes.

Next Steps

When you have finished reviewing your content’s accessibility, the next step is to build content.