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When using images and graphics, be thoughtful about the purpose they serve and the information they convey. 

  • Images should include a text alternative, unless the image is purely decorative, like a decorative section divider or background texture. Alternative text (alt text) should describe the image within the context of the page. 
  • Don’t include “picture of” or “photo of” in the alt text, unless the specific medium of the image is important to the meaning of the image. Also, don’t include the file extension in your alt text. See these guidelines for writing effective alt text from WebAIM
  • Data visualizations, such as graphs, should be accompanied by text that explains the intention of the graph and what inferences a reader might visually draw from the visualization. Data visualizations should also be accompanied by a properly formatted table of the data used to generate the visualization.
  • Infographics present particular challenges for accessibility, because they fuse text and image in order to create specific effects and reading pathways. A good text equivalent will capture the intended reading order of the infographic, along with the text and the meaningful visual information, in a logical way. Read more about access and infographics from CSUN
  • Avoid using unnecessary or decorative, blinking, flashing, images, or distracting features.
  • Avoid images with text overlay (text that is a part of the picture), if possible. Alt text should include an exact transcription of the text included in the image. For example, include the alt text “Introduction to Theatre” if your course includes a banner image that reads, “Introduction to Theatre” superimposed over auditorium seats. .

For more information, please visit the Web Accessibility Initiative's tutorial on Image Concepts

Videos and Other Multimedia

If using videos in your courses, please consider the following:

  • Video needs to be included in such a way that an equivalent experience is provided for students if they are unable to hear the video, *or* if they are unable to see the video.
    • Videos that demonstrate a process need to contain enough description that the process will be understandable for students with low or no vision. Beware of phrases like, “Click over here.” Instead, try “Select the Submit button.”
    • A recent trend in video production has been to provide dynamic visuals that include text passages and phrases with no audible equivalent. Be aware that these videos won’t be accessible for some students. 
    • Video that includes speaking or narration needs to include captioning if the spoken track depends on coordinated timing with the visuals. Again, process videos are a good example.
    • Videos that are simply lectures that don’t rely on coordination with visuals can be accompanied by a written transcript, and do not necessarily require captioning. 
  • Consider providing both captions and a written transcript. Transcripts make it easier for students to locate specific information when searching. 
  • Check automatic captioning for accuracy.
  • Closed-captioning should be synchronized with the video images and audio track of the video. 
  • Minimize blinking, flashing, or other distracting features in videos.
    • If videos have blinking, flashing, or other distracting features, the ability to pause the video is a necessity.
  • Avoid using autoplay features that start videos as soon as a web page opens.
  • For Zoom sessions: Record your session, enable transcribing, and share your recording with the transcript after the meeting. Visit Zoom’s how to Transcribe Your Session Automatically.

For more information, please visit: 


When choosing a font for online course documents, consider the following.

  • Fonts should be sans serif having squared edges without having decorative elements such as hooks. Some recommended fonts include:
    • Tahoma
    • Verdana
    • Arial 
    • Helvetica
    • Courier (if a serif font is required, Courier is a good choice because it is widely available and is a monospace font, which can improve readability) 
  • Avoid decorative and cursive-style fonts, like Papyrus, Copperplate or Chalkduster. A special note about Comic Sans: you may have heard that this is a good font for people with dyslexia, and while that isn’t wrong, Verdana and Arial may be just as good. See this research from Rello and Baeza-Yates.
  • For body text, keep the font size between 11 and 12pt. Point sizes for PowerPoint or slide presentations should be no smaller than 18pt.
  • Make sure to use heading styles in your documents. Headings should be applied in a hierarchical order, like a formal outline: Heading 1 for main topics, then Heading 2 for sub-topics under Heading 1, and so on. 
  • Avoid italics for body text or emphasis. Reserve italics for the requirements of your discipline’s citation method requirements. 
  • Avoid underlining for emphasis. Underlining should be reserved for link text only.
  • Links should be underlined and the link text color should be blue.
  • Avoid using font color as the only way a specific meaning is conveyed. If you want to use red to convey emphasis, use an additional design affordance, like bold, in combination with color change. Color differences are not perceivable by all readers.
  • To ensure text is legible to all people regardless of ability, make sure there is a high level of contrast between the text and  background colors of pages. We recommend black text color against a white background. Avoid black text on a red or green background.  Check the accessibility of your color choices with WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checker
  • Whenever possible, text should be kept as text. Do not include essential text within a picture or a graphic. Provide a text alternative for any text included in a graphic.

For more information, please visit WebAIM's Advice on Fonts

Attached Documents and Files
  • All fonts and images within file attachments and any file linked to the Learning Management System (Canvas) should follow the previously mentioned guidelines above.
  • Content is more accessible when included in native web formats. For Canvas, this means Pages, rather than PDFs or Word Docs. Embedded Google Docs, or Google Docs linked into Modules in Canvas are also good choices, since they’re also native HTML content. 
  • PDFs may present significant obstacles to access, because of the wide range of conversion processes.
    • If you are scanning a document to PDF, make sure that the PDF is structured, machine-readable text, by running optical character recognition (OCR) and making sure that the PDF is appropriately tagged, with a reading order that makes sense.
    • If you are converting Microsoft Office documents to a PDF format, ensure the material is accessible. Please visit how to convert office products to PDF format to ensure accessibility. 
  • Many document formats, including PowerPoint and InDesign, have special requirements for accessible design, because they use content containers in a layered structure, which impacts the reading order of the document. For more information on designing accessible PowerPoint, refer to PowerPoint Accessibility from WebAIM.

For more information, please visit: Word and PowerPoint Accessibility Evaluation Checklist

Online Courses and Accessibility 

Since the Americans for Disabilities act of 1990, it has become commonplace to see handicapped accessible parking and ramps, bathrooms and checkout lines in stores. However, some discrimination against people with disabilities can be easily overlooked. The Web, for example, offers unprecedented access to information and social interaction, but most websites have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to make use of the tools and information there.

In designing and delivering courses the law requires colleges to make gradual progress toward full accessibility. Web accessibility for online learning is required under Title VI, of the Civil rights Act of 1964; Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Equal Educational Opportunity Act (EEOA) 1974; the Americans with Disabilities Education Act 1990 and the 2008 amendments to the Act. 


Accessibility and Student-Centered Learning

We have a legal and ethical responsibility to create accessible online courses. A student with a disability has the right to an equally meaningful learning experience. Beyond that, there are added benefits to accessible course designs. By meeting accessibility requirements, we allow all students a better opportunity for learning, not just those with an identified disability.

For instance, a student who is not visually impaired may benefit from audio content by listening to spoken text while walking or driving. An example of an accommodation that became widely used by the general public is discussed in a 2006 study from the United Kingdom. The study noted that 7.5 million people in the UK used subtitles while watching TV, but 6 million of those did not have a hearing impairment (United Kingdom Office of Communication, 2006).

The goal should be learner-centered instruction that includes multiple teaching modalities that are accessible for students with disabilities and easily digestible for all learners.

Intellectual Property Concerns

Referring to the Association on Higher Education and Disability's Position Paper, the changing of the format of text materials solely for the use of a student with a disability is covered by the fair use and Chaffee Amendment provisions of U.S. copyright law.