Accessibility and Universal Design

Certain accessibility requirements must be addressed when developing learning materials for electronic dissemination to students. Online education courses, resources and materials must be designed and delivered in such a way that the level of communication and course-taking experience is the same for students with or without disabilities.



The 2011 Distance Education Accessibility Resolution by Foothill College Faculty Academic Senate strongly encourages faculty to familiarize themselves with the requirements specified in the Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines for Students with Disabilities and to take immediate steps to ensure that their online courses and materials are in compliance with these guidelines.

See Distance Education: Accessibility Guidelines for Students with Disabilities from the Chancellor’s Office California Community Colleges.

Still not convinced of the need to address accessibility? Watch this 11 minute video - To Care and Comply: Disability Access produced by Portland Community College.

Accessibility Guidelines

The most common accessibility compliance issues can be avoided by only using websites for instruction that
  • provide text-equivalents for non-text content (including pictures and audio)
  • use foreground and background colors that contrast sufficiently
  • provide captioning for videos
  • structure large blocks of information into more manageable groups
  • clearly identify the target of each link (do NOT use "click here")
  • avoid animation


Universal Design for Learning

  • UDL: A Concise Introduction (HTML | PDF)
  • How Do You Teach? A UDL Checklist (DOCX | PDF)

Websites and Etudes


Guidelines to Make Accessible Documents and Media - Step-by-step instructions for each media type (Portland Community College)

ED Accessibility Requirements for Electronic Documents - Key concepts, step-by-step instructions for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat PDF (all are .doc from U.S. Department of Education)

Image Description Resources from the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) - How to describe complex images, math images, tools for creating accessible math, and more


All images and photos must have alternate text.
  • Images best practices
  • Adding Alt Text to Images in Microsoft Word
  • Appropriate Use of Alt Text
    • Use empty Alt-tags - (example: " ") for all decorative and non-essential images
    • Alt-Tags - for all non-decorative images with alt-tags that describe the information you want the student to understand from the displayed image.
      • Example: Use “Joy of connecting with family while watching a movie” instead of more literal “Family sitting on couch watching movie”

Tables and Flash


Downloadable Documents

Microsoft Word

Information Hierarchy

  • Use Headers, shorter 3-5 sentence paragraphs, simple and communicative visuals
  • Use “bold” and “italics” sparingly

Color and Contrast

  • Only use color to convey meaning if you provide a written explanation
  • Use high contrast for text against the background

Captioning of Videos and Audio Recordings

Tutorials and Training

Accessibility Compliance Basics

Atomic Learning Tutorials

Create Accessible Learning Material

Creating Accessible PDFs Workshop Materials

Get Help

Learn how to make your online course and learning materials available to ALL students regardless of learning style or disability and then get assistance from staff.

Course Accessibility


State-funded grants are available to get professional captioning and transcription for video or audio content that you have created for your online and/or hybrid courses. In order to apply for funding please send the following to San Lu ( at the Disability Resource Center:

  1. Your name and contact info
  2. Course Number, Section and Title of course that will contain the video or audio (must be fully online or hybrid course)
  3. Quarter that you will use the video or audio
  4. Total number of minutes of the video or audio
  5. Type of media: video or audio

Accessibility Tools

Verification of Accessibility Compliance Tools

Evaluating Document Accessibility

Screen Readers

Additional Tools

  • My Web My Way - Tips for students about how to make the web easier to use
Last Updated February 03, 2016
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