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This guide is designed to provide an overview of how to ‘design-in’ accessibility to classes

Questions and Help?


Our Commitment

  • Universities must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. At UNC Chapel Hill, Accessibility Resources & Service is authorized to make these determinations.
  • The law does not require us to waive courses or other requirements, lower academic standards, or adopt measures which fundamentally alter a course.
  • Communications with Persons with disabilities must be timely, equally effective, and in an equally integrated manner as compared with non-disabled Persons.
  • Creating an accessible IT environment is a shared responsibility between the institution and the content creator.


  • All content should be made accessible when delivered to a group where the functional limitations are not known, or someone in the group needs an accessible version.
  • Planning for accessibility from the beginning is considerably easier, both in time and money, than fixing it after the fact.
  • It is the responsibility of the content creator to design accessible content.

Your syllabus

  • It is helpful if you include a clear statement about how students can seek accommodations.
  • Be clear about your attendance and participation expectations. Many instructors have an expectation that students attend all class meetings but is this an essential requirement in order for the student to be successful? For example, in a lab class, where skills and knowledge are iterative, then it is easy to see how attendance is essential. However, this is not the case in all classes.
  • Do you have rigid policies which prohibit students from taking advantage of ‘reasonable accommodations’ to which they have been deemed legally entitled? For example, a policy which states that students must start tests and exams at the same time or earlier than the class may be preventing a student from making the start time of a subsequent class. Be clear and transparent about the reason for which you have any such policies and about their necessity.

The following syllabus statement is suggested


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill facilitates the implementation of reasonable accommodations, including resources and services, for students with disabilities, chronic medical conditions, a temporary disability or pregnancy complications resulting in difficulties with accessing learning opportunities.

All accommodations are coordinated through the Accessibility Resources and Service Office, Tel – 919-962-8300 or Email –

Relevant policy documents as they relate to registration and accommodations determinations and the student registration form are available at:


  • Think about how you are intending to assess students’ progress and learning and if your proposed methods are sympathetic to the particular needs of students with disabilities. For example, if a student has testing accommodations and you are intending assessing through the use of timed tests and exams, are you able to accommodate this or will you need the assistance of ARS to facilitate this? In the event that a student cannot be present for a scheduled test or exam have you considered your stance regarding ‘make-ups’ or might it be possible to offer a ‘reasonable’ alternatives to a missed timed test or exam?

Class content


  • When creating video content, include the production of a transcript and captioning as part of the creation process.
  • When creating captions, make sure they provide sufficient contrast and size.
  • If captioning is automatic, via a third-party tool, such as YouTube, make sure the captioning is accurate, considering things like regional accents and lag time.
  • If a video relies on an abundance of sounds or music that is not captured in captioning, provide a document explaining a description of the audio.
  • If a video relies solely on images, without sufficient narration, provide a description of the video.
  • Make sure embedded video is clearly visible and big enough, so as not to require precise mouse control.
  • Use an accessible media player, like VideoJS or Mediasite for the Web, or QuickTime or Windows Media Player for desktop playback
  • You should be able to play, pause, fast forward, rewind, and toggle the captions for the video using only your keyboard.
  • Some content presented in the video may need to be re purposed in a textual format for people with visual impairments.


  • Provide transcripts of the audio files, that is, a text version.
  • Make sure any embedded audio files and specifically the ‘controls’ are big enough, so as not to require precise mouse control.
  • You should be able to play, pause, fast forward and rewind using only your keyboard.
  • If any audio file consists of solely of non-verbal content, such as music, provide a description of the audio file.

Microsoft Word

  • Microsoft Word files, either .doc or .docx, have become a near universal standard for word processing formats.  Fortunately, a Word document can be made mostly accessible quite easily providing some basic principles are kept in mind.
  • Before beginning, ask yourself if this particular document needs to be ultimately delivered as a Word doc, or could it be delivered as a more flexible and universal HTML file.
  • Video tutorial on using headings in Microsoft Word – from NC State.
  • Accessibility Cheat Sheet on creating accessible Microsoft Office documents.
  • WebAIM provides an in-depth tutorial for how to make accessible Microsoft Word documents.
  • Documents should be structured by headings, indicating main points and sub-points.
  • To aid readability use a non-serif font such as Ariel, Verdana or Trebuchet, keep to a minimum font size of N=14, use left justification only, do not use color to give meaning and keep underlining, bold and italics to a minimum.
  • Use the built-in styles like Heading Level 1, Heading Level 2, etc. to provide a semantic structure to your document.  This will help provide a consistent layout and make the document easier to for users of certain assistive technologies to navigate.  The default styles in Word can be customized.
  • Avoid using text boxes as they make it difficult for screen readers to read the contents of the text box in the proper context of the page.
  • When creating lists, use the built-in bulleted or numbered list feature instead of manually inserting asterisks, numbers, or tabs.
  • Images, charts, and diagrams should contain appropriate and meaningful alternative text.
  • Documents should not use textured or patterned backgrounds.
  • Any use of color should be used as an enhancement, not as the primary means for conveying information.
  • The use of text and page background color combinations should present significant brightness and contrast.
  • After a Word document is created, the Accessibility Checker tool should be applied, and then the document should be saved as a PDF. The following guidelines apply generally to PDFs:
  • PDFs should not contain images alone.
  • PDFs should not be created by scanning documents, and printing/saving them to PDFs.
  • Tags should be included in all PDF metadata.
  • All PDFs should be saved with language that accurately describes them with underlines instead of spaces.
  • DO NOT save as a Web page
  • In Office 2010 you can use the new built-in Accessibility Checker to check for common accessibility issues.  Some of the warnings it gives will be subjective, so discernment must be used in some cases.
  • The Institute of Applied Information Technology at Zurich University has created a Microsoft Word add-in to check for accessibility issues and create accessible PDFs.
  • Be sure to include a link to the free Word Viewer from Microsoft so users who don’t have Microsoft Word installed can view your Word documents.
  • Run the Microsoft Word Accessibility Checker. It will guide you through making it accessible.

Microsoft PowerPoint

  • PowerPoint headings (from templates) should be used for each slide.
  • All PowerPoint text should be included in the outline.
  • All images should contain descriptively accurate alt text.
  • All PowerPoint charts, tables, and graphs should be used via the template layout or “Insert,” not copied and pasted.
  • The fonts for PowerPoint should be sans-serif.
  • Bullet points in PowerPoint should contain punctuation.
  • Text boxes should not be used in PowerPoint.
  • Appropriate color schemes should be used in PowerPoint to reflect a sharp contrast between text and background.
  • Any videos in PowerPoint slides should be embedded and captioned.
  • Use the built-in slide layouts instead of drawing custom text boxes on the slide.  This will make a consistent design for all of your slides and make it far easier for users of assistive technologies to navigate your presentation.
  • Older versions of the Macintosh version of Microsoft PowerPoint do not have as many accessibility features as newer versions or the Windows version, like the ability to add alternative text to images. Only the 2011 version of PowerPoint on Mac supports this functionality.
  • If you want to create a Web based version of the presentation, do not use the “Save as Web Page” feature.  You will need to use another tool like LecShare Lite or the Virtual508 Accessible Wizard for Microsoft Office.
  • One of the easiest ways to share an accessible PowerPoint presentation with others is to simply provide the user with the original PowerPoint file.  This works if the presentation uses the standard slide layouts and other best practices outlined below have been followed.
  • In PowerPoint 2010 and 2012 (Windows only) you can use the new Accessibility Checker to check for common accessibility issues.
  • Be sure to include a link to the free PowerPoint Viewer from Microsoft so users who don’t have Microsoft PowerPoint installed can view your PowerPoint files.
  • WebAIM provides a tutorial on creating accessible PowerPoint presentations.
  • Accessibility Cheat Sheet on creating accessible Microsoft Office documents.
  • Run the Microsoft PowerPoint Accessibility Checker. It will guide you through making it accessible.
  • The Institute of Applied Information Technology at Zurich University has created a Microsoft PowerPoint add-in to check for accessibility issues and create accessible PDFs.

Microsoft Excel

  • Excel rows and columns should be clearly labeled.
  • Excel cells and cell values should be clearly labeled.
  • Any relevant Excel formulas and/or macros should be shared in a separate document.
  • Charts and graphical data should be described accurately via alternative text.
  • Descriptions of charts and graphs should be contained in the comment area.
  • Important Excel cells in data sets should be highlighted.
  • Parameters for Excel data sets should be defined
  • Microsoft’s Guide on creating accessible Excel files –
  • Run the Microsoft Excel Accessibility Checker; it will guide you through making it accessible.

Google Docs – note – ITS does not support the use of Google Docs

  • Use heading styles
  • For read-only versions of a Google Doc, export it to an MS Word document
  • DO NOT create PDF files directly from Google Docs
  • PLAN on some users not being able to edit documents online
  • For users with visual impairments, Google Documents will need to be converted into Microsoft Word documents. After conversion, use the process for “Microsoft Word”.
  • Use Grackle Docs – an accessibility checker for the Google suite of products and gives creators the option to export their accessible Google Docs file as an accessible PDF document. the product can scan Google Docs and PDF files in google Drive and check for accessibility errors

Narrated Presentations

  • Use screen recording software like Camtasia, or ScreenFlow –
  • DO NOT share the movie from the software’s export function
  • REPACKAGE the exported movie and caption file in another video player, like VideoJS
  • Follow the same process as “Video”.

Google Sites

  • Only insert text, links, lists, and images (with alternative text)  into Google Sites
  • Tables and other embedded objects cannot be made fully accessible
  • Some users will not be able to edit content within Sites
  • Follow the same process as “Web Pages”.


Web Pages

PDF Documents

  • PDF files are not typically created in Acrobat. They are usually created in another program and converted to PDF. There are dozens or probably hundreds of programs that can create PDF files, but very few of them produce tagged PDF files. If you are using Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, Writer, or Adobe tools such as InDesign, you can often create accessible, tagged PDF files without opening Acrobat. Of course, the accessibility of the PDF depends on the accessibility of the original document.
  • If a PDF has been created from a scanned document then OCR to Word should be performed
  • Use Adobe Acrobat Pro Accessibility Wizard to check document.
  • Fully determining the accessibility of a PDF document is challenging. The following procedure will let you get an overview of a document’s accessibility.
  • In Adobe Acrobat choose “Full check” under View, then Tools, then Accessibility.
  • Confirm the correct document reading order by selecting “Read Out Loud” in the View menu to have the document read to you.

Online Surveys


  • Use MathType  to help you write your equations in either the MathML, LaTeX, or TeX formats – speak to the student whoo needs this first to work out which format to use.
  • Use MathJax to insert those equations into Web pages
  • If you are delivering then in Microsoft Word, when you edit the equation in Word, the MathType equation editor should load.
  • If you are delivering them in a Web page, when you control click on the equation you should see an option for “About MathJax”.


  • If you are using clickers in any type of testing environment, special consideration will have have to be made for students who receive extended time on testing. In this situation, clickers are often used in the middle of class to assess the student and record their response as part of their grade. If a student is allowed extended time, this is problematic because to allow the student extra time would mean stopping the rest of class and drawing attention to the student. In this case, alternative and equitable ways of assessing either the individual student or the entire class must be made.
  • TurningPoint clickers can be used in accessible ways.
  • Some students with mobility impairments may benefit from using ResponseWare in conjunction with TurningPoint clickers.

Learning Platform – Sakai and Warpwire

Learning Platform – Sakai and VoiceThread