The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities that are like those provided to individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications. Learn more about protecting students with disabilities.

Universal Design & Accessible Course Materials

When creating an online course, you may have students with particular needs related to sensory, physical, and/or cognitive disabilities, so all course materials need to be accessible to those students.

Once you have provided access for all students in your course, contact TWU Disability Services (DSS) for any accommodations that individual students need.

Creating Accessible Documents

Online documents should meet the following guidelines to provide access to all learners. 


Links (hyperlinks) should incorporate descriptive text for screen readers. Here are some tips to help you create links (hyperlinks):

  1. Instead of click here to open a website or document.

  2. Use the name or description as the hyperlink, e.g. Click here for Document X

  3. Avoid leaving the link as the full URL, e.g.
  4. Instead, use links that show either the title of the article or describe the link’s content, e.g. Teaching and Learning with Technology Information for Faculty
  5. Do not use underlining for anything other than hyperlinks


Images must have text alternatives that describe the information or function represented by them. Alt text allows the content and function of the image to be comprehensible to those with visual or certain cognitive disabilities.

  • Avoid the use of descriptive phrases like “Image of…”, “Picture of…”

  • Alt text does not have to be verbose; simply write what the image is, e.g. an appropriate alt text description for an image might be “dog laying in the grass,” or “dog at the park”. 

  • Focus the detail written based upon how the image contributes to the meaning of the content.

  • If an graphic is informative, describe as succinctly as possible


Structure and styles communicate the organization of the content on a page. Web browsers, plug-ins, and assistive technologies can use them to provide in-page navigation. 

  • Headings should be in hierarchical, logical order (heading 1, then 2, etc.) do not skip numbers

  • You can change the style of the heading and apply the style to the levels throughout the document

  • Lists / bulleted lists /numbered lists help provide structured order to content that is linear.

  • Do Not use text boxes
Fonts should be readable. Remember 11 to 12 point is good and used Sans Serif fonts like Arial, Tahoma and Calibri)

  • Avoid using enter key for extra spacing. Use spacing in the styles or on individual paragraphs as needed.

  • Avoid using space bar for multiple spaces

Note: headings provide navigation points - both for screen reader users and for anyone using the “navigation pane.”


Tables are used to organize data with a logical relationship in grids. Accessible tables need a clear table structure and table headers to help guide a screen reader user.

  • An accessible table contains row and column headings and a table caption
  • Do not merge cells
  • Do not break rows across page
  • Use columns instead of tabs
  • Avoid using tables for page layout
  • Use the simple table configurations when possible
  • Creating an accessible table in Google Docs is not possible unless the table is very basic.

Color Contrast

Color Contrast between text and background is important on documents, presentations and web pages. It affects some people's ability to perceive the information (in other words to be able to receive the information visually). Everyone who can see, sees things in different ways.

  • Color contrast must be clear; foreground and background clearly differentiated
  • Black on white—good
  • Yellow on white—not good
  • Do not represent information ONLY with color, use bold or italics too
  • Use a combination of color and text/ symbols

Accessibility Checker

Accessibility checkers are sometimes built into products such as Canvas and Microsoft Office. They will help you identify certain accessibility issues:

  • Images with no alt text
  • Headings that are not in logical order
  • Tables have the header box checked
  • Tables that have merged cells or with empty cells
  • Large numbers of repeated blank characters

Note: Instructors should not solely rely on a product’s Accessibility Checker as it cannot identify all accessibility errors. For example, an Accessibility Checker cannot determine whether alt text provides an accurate description.


Adding accessibility tags to PDF files makes it easier for screen readers and other assistive technologies to read and navigate a document, with Tables of Contents, hyperlinks, bookmarks, alt text, and so on.
It is strongly recommended to create the document in Word first with all the accessible features utilized then convert the file to PDF.

  • Converting to a PDF
    • In Word, choose File and click save as Adobe PDF.
    • Select the options button at the bottom of the dialog box.
    • When the next dialog box appears, make sure the check box labeled “Document structure tags for accessibility” is checked.

PDF & Optical Character Recognition

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the electronic or mechanical conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. OCR conversion allows a PDF to be searchable (meaning you can highlight and search the text [pdf] within the document.)

  • The simplest way to check if a PDF needs to have an OCR performed is to try to highlight text with your cursor.
  • If you are unable to select the text and the entire page is selected instead or you are only able to drag a selection square across the page, this means the PDF is not accessible.
    • Use the “Enhance Scans” tool to recognize the text in your document
    • Open the document in Adobe
    • Click Enhance Scan
  • There are some web-based OCR pages:
  • Contact your Instructional Design Partner for access ABBYY FineReader available at several locations on the campus.

Canvas & Digital Accessibility

Meeting Accessibility in Your Canvas Course: Recommendations and Resources
Accessibility with Canvas
General Accessibility Design Guidelines
Canvas Accessibility Group
Accessibility Checker in the New Rich Content Editor

Tutorials & Guidance

For tutorials and additional guidance, see the table below:

Accessible Videos & Media

Videos and other media should be produced and delivered in ways that ensure that all learners can access the content. An accessible video includes captions, a transcript, and audio description and is delivered in an accessible media player.

Instructors have several options when adding video and media to their courses.

Library Database & YouTube

TWU Libraries has 47 video databases. All videos should have captions already loaded with the videos. Please contact your reference librarian for assistance.

YouTube has filters for their videos that allows instructors to search for videos that already have captions. After searching for the specific content desired, click on filters and select “subtitles/CC”. The caption filter will pull videos where the video owners have uploaded captions with their videos. Instructors should preview videos before including in their courses, since there is no guarantee that the captions are 100% accurate or in English.

Original Content

When creating recorded lecture videos, faculty members should upload those files to either Panopto or YouTube. This will allow the students to stream the video and not have to download the entire file, which helps students with slow internet connections. Those services will also create captions automatically.

No software will be consistently accurate enough to transcribe audio on its own. You will need to review and correct the automatic captioned videos for accuracy.


Transcription is the process of translating your video’s audio into text. This is done with automatic speech recognition technology, human transcriptionists, or a combination of the two.

Software and Programs for Machine-Aided Transcription

Note: If you are using any of the above software except YouTube to transcribe pre-recorded audio, you may need to route your computer’s audio output back into the computer as audio input for better transcription quality. Suggestions are available on how to do so for Mac and Windows.

Software and Programs for Manual Transcription

Breaking into Caption Blocks

  • You will need to split apart your transcript into separate captioning blocks that will appear on-screen, one after the other. For easier reading, try to avoid splitting your captions in the middle of a phrase.
  • If you are manually transcribing your audio in a captioning program like Amara, you can create each caption block in the software as you transcribe.
  • If you upload a transcript to YouTube’s captioning edit and choose to “set timings”, it will automatically break it into blocks for you.

Syncing to the Audio

  • This is the process in which the caption blocks are assigned start and end times so that they appear at the correct part of the video. Many subtitle programs require you to do this manually.
  • YouTube will do this process automatically if you have a transcript prepared and select “set timings”. The results may not be perfectly accurate; check any long gaps in time or blocks with non-speech sounds to ensure they are aligned accurately.

Review for Quality

Once you create your caption file, you should review it for quality. A short summary of quality issues to check for is listed below. Please reference the Captioning Quality Guidelines for a more extensive list.

  • Identify all changes in the speaker (e.g. “Sarah”, “Man”, or “>>” if speaker name unknown.)
  • Add any meaningful non-speech sounds in brackets (e.g. [car honks])
  • Ensure all spoken content is transcribed exactly, not paraphrased.
  • Do not include any more than 2 lines of text per caption block.
  • Ensure the caption blocks appear long enough to be easily read; generally they should appear for at least 1 second.

Save or Export Your File

If you are creating your captions in a separate software from the media player they will be displayed in, you will need to save or export your captions from the caption editor software so that they can be uploaded to the destination media repository.

Captioning files are typically saved with one of the following extensions: .srt, .vtt, .sbv, .dfxp, .sami, or .ttml. SRT files are the simplest format, and are able to easily be edited by anyone using a text editor. However, they do not support features like vertical caption placement or text markup. If those features are required, VTT is recommended for ease of editing.

If you create your captions in a captioning editor like YouTube or Amara, you can export your file to a variety of caption formats which can then be uploaded to Panopto, YouTube, or any other player that accepts standard caption formats.

Additional Resources & Best Practices

Remote Lecture Tips

  • Establish turn-taking and participation protocol (e.g. using the raise hand feature, chatbox, identify your name before commenting, etc.).
  • Ask students to only turn on their video to ask a question. Limiting the number of participants on screen at a time you can increase the video quality.

Page last updated 9:49 AM, March 20, 2020