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Course Accessibility Guidelines

Goal of Checklist

The checklist is a helpful guide for faculty when attempting to identify common accessibility barriers in their courses. It will provide techniques and tips, on how to make the content more accessible, to a diverse audience.

  • Rationale:
    Using these techniques and tips facilitate compliance with Purdue University's Web Accessibility policy. They reduce course preparation time, should faculty receive notice, from the Disability Resource Center or student, regarding a documented disability.
  • Audience:
    The primary audience is faculty, who may only have minimal access, to accessibility support resources. The document could also benefit instructional design and support staff.

Checklist of Barriers

This checklist identifies the most prominent accessibility barriers, along with methods, to ensure accessible content. The techniques and tips are recommended to faculty, as they begin to proactively address barrier removal, to course content and environmental platforms.

If assistance is needed, please contact either Purdue Online, Disability Resource Center, Instructional Design, or Information Technology at Purdue.

Note: A student enrolled in any course, providing notice from the Disability Resource Center must receive the specified accommodations, regardless of whether the technique is listed in this checklist.

List of Barriers and Recommended Solutions

Mandatory: All course syllabi are REQUIRED to include the vetted DRC Statement on Accessibility and Accommodations. You will find the DRC Syllabus Statement at: https://www.purdue.edu/drc/faculty/syllabus.html

Benefits: All students become aware of the Office for Disability Services and the process for requesting accommodations.

  1. Audio files should be transcribed.
  2. Videos should be transcribed and captioned.
  3. Visual demonstrations need a text or audio description.
  4. Make sure media files don’t play automatically when a user enters the site.

Benefits: Captions also benefit non-native speakers or students experiencing audio glitches.

Transcripts or captioned videos must be provided to students requiring an accommodation. However, the distribution of the content may be restricted because of copyright.

See https://www.digitaleducation.purdue.edu/faculty-resources/accessibility.html for captioning information.

Ensure good color contrast for text/graphics/charts and backgrounds. Content should be legible in black and white. You will find helpful information, on Color Contrast, at https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/?showtechniques=141&hidesidebar=true#visual-audio-contrast-without-color

Benefits: This fix improves legibility for all students.

The following formats are recommended and are supported through Purdue's Assistive Technology Center.

  1. Web files (e.g. ANGEL HTML Editor, Sites @ Purdue, other HTML documents) can be the most accessible file type.
  2. Word and PowerPoint files can be made accessible as well.
  3. If you create a PDF, provide the same information in some other accessible format unless verified by screen reader.
  4. Tools which allow you to insert Flash content typically result in inaccessible content.

Benefits: PDF and Flash are not easily readable on mobile devices, so avoiding them will enhance mobile usability.

The content of any non-Purdue resource such as a Web site, PDF article from a journal, slides from external sources or other non-Purdue informational resources must be provided in an accessible format to students requiring an accommodation. In some cases, it is permissible to copy and reformat content just for students with a documented need.

For additional information on addressing different scenarios see Purdue's Assistive Technology Center or links elsewhere in this document.

  1. Use ALT text for all content images. ALT text should describe the meaning conveyed by the image in the context of the course material, and it should be up to 150 characters.
  2. Give the image file itself a descriptive file name.
  3. Include a descriptive reference to the image within the surrounding text.

Benefits: This allows any student unable to view the image to understand its content.

  1. A complex image requires ALT text significantly longer than 150 characters.
  2. For complex images, consider including a description in the text or a link to the description to the text in another location.

Benefits: Not all sighted students process visual information in the same way. When this is addressed, students are given the opportunity, to choose, what technology is best to process the data.

Avoid vague or repetitive link text such as “click here” or “read more”

Benefits: Improved link text is often more visible and increases student confidence in finding content.

Equations should be created with a technology such as LaTeX or an equation editor (e.g. MathType) which allows rapid conversion to MathML. To learn more about LaTeX, please view this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TairRxyy_Hs

Benefits: This will facilitate conversion of equations to MathML should an accommodation request be received.

  1. Documents with section headings should include semantically tagged headings
  2. Use descriptive heading text to enhance page navigation and readability

Benefits: Headings also enhance legibility and ability for all students to scan online content.

  1. Do not use tables for layout and design purposes. Restrict tables to presentation of data.
  2. Use the simplest table possible, preferably without merging cells. It is better to use several simple tables rather than a complex table with merged cells.
  3. Use table headers to identify row and columns.
  4. Use a caption to display the table title.
  5. Consider alternatives to tables such as lists for complex tables.

Benefits: Accessible table design includes additional information for all students to use.

Use Purdue technology options (e.g. ANGEL, Sites at Purdue) for course work whenever possible.

Note: See Purdue's Assistive Technology Center for information on specific Purdue tools.

Investigate the accessibility of all non-Purdue technologies or materials and make a decision about continued use based on your findings.

Benefits: There is more support for accessibility accommodations within Purdue supported tools and materials.

Print the checklist

Contact Us

Mel Edwards

Lead Instructional Designer
Email: meledwards@purdue.edu
Phone: 765.494.8307
TLT Team


Dean Brusnighan

Assistive Technology Specialist
Email: dabrus@purdue.edu
Phone: 765.494.9082
TLT Team


Randall Ward

DRC Director & Associate Director of Student Success
Email: ward176@purdue.edu
Phone: 765.494.1245
Disability Resource Center