Texas Tech University

Accessible Instructional Material


Documents are an important element in providing online instructional material. Follow these guidelines to ensure your content is accessible.

Documents (Word, PowerPoints, PDFs, Excel, etc.) are formatted and saved to be HTML or PDF accessible

What is an accessible document?

An accessible document is one that complies with the Web-Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and can be read using assistive technology, such as a screen-reader program.  There are several software screen reader programs, the most popular are Jaws, NVDA, Voice Over and Window Eye. Listen to this example of Jaws reading a syllabus. Most people with a visual disability will use Jaws. Voice over is free on every Apple product. NVDA and Windows Eyes is a free download for PC users.

Many people without visual disabilities utilize these programs to get an auditory and visual representation of a document or webpage. You can easily download these programs and use them for yourself to test your documents, or have long passages read to you.

To help you ensure documents can be read correctly with screen reader programs, please refer to the following resources:

Images have alt text, title and description

What is Alternative Text?

Alternative text is text that has been written to describe an image for individuals who use screen-reader programs. It is embedded as part of the document's code and is not something that sighted users typically see when viewing file or webpage.

A screen-reader program is software that reads the on‑screen content aloud and is commonly used by individuals with severe visual disabilities. Alternative text is generally short (about the size of a tweet) and typically describes the purpose, function, or take‑home message of an image. One common example is the shopping cart icon that is common to many retail Web sites. Though the image is of a shopping cart, the purpose is usually for a user to use that icon as a means to checkout or to complete one's order. Accordingly, the latter is what the alternative text should communicate.

Why Does Alternative Text Matter?

Including text-equivalent descriptions (e.g., alternative text) is a requirement of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. Specifically, if alternative text is missing, users of screen-reader programs will not have access to the images or the ideas those images are meant to convey, creating a divide in information access and in learning.

Detailed instructions on how to add alternative text to your documents.

Graphic text must be an accessible image (Wordart, Wordles, etc.)

Any content that is not text must contain an alternative text. This includes charts, graphs, word art, smart art, word clouds, pictures, clip art, etc.

If your alternative text is longer than a tweet, or 140 characters, you will have to write a long description. 

Learn how to write a long description.

Tables follow software guidelines for accessibility

Tables and graphs are meaningful ways through which authors can condense information and add aesthetic value to their publications. There are, however, multiple considerations to ensuring the accessibility and the usability of those elements by individuals with disabilities. 

Learn about Accessible Tables.

Graphs/charts have title as alt text and a long description near graph or in text body

What is a long description?

A long description is longer version of alternative text. It is a lengthier description meant to describe a complicated image, such as a graph or a map. Screen-reader programs cannot make sense of images, so, instead, they will read the behind-the-scenes text (the alternative text/long description) in place of the images.

Videos and Audio

Including videos and audio files in your course is a great way to give your students information, and follow Universal Design of Learning. If you are planning on recording videos for your class you may find guidance at Accessible Instructional Video.

One of the most obvious accommodations for online classes are transcripts or closed captions for videos and audio. If you need assistance getting your audio/videos transcribed and captioning, please visit the Online Accessibility Lab.

Media with only audio includes transcripts (lectures, podcasts, mp3, etc.)

If your course includes only audio clips or a video of yourself talking, you do not have to have synchronized captions. You can upload a transcript of your audio and that will be sufficient. If you have a video you will need to include synchronized captions.

Videos have synchronized captions

What is captioning?

Captions are text that appear onscreen in the same window as a video. Captions capture all the significant sounds occurring in a video. Those sounds include foreground spoken audio and other significant foreground sounds. Sometimes background sounds, including music, are captioned. Federal guidelines specify that captions must be word-for-word and include correct grammar and punctuation. Additional guidance on what to caption can be found at http://accessiblerhetoric.com.

Why does captioning matter?

Including captions in your videos is a requirement of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. Specifically, if captions are missing, users who are deaf will not have access to any of the audio content, which is especially harmful if the video is a spoken lecture.

Audio descriptions are included

Audio descriptions are the only way an individuals who are blind can have access to visual information occurring in a video. Audio Descriptions are very important for all learners to access the same content in various types of format. Even if a student is not blind, they may be able to understand the content easier with an audio description.

Learn about Audio Descriptions


Color is not used exclusively as an indicator of emphasis

Color is also very important when it comes to accessibility in online content. Did you know that 5% of the male population is colorblind? Be sure that you do not use color for emphasis or to convey meeting, or a portion of the population may not be able to interpret what you were intending to say.

Sufficient color contrast is provided

Another issue to be concerned about with color is to have sufficient color contrast. Again this helps people who are colorblind or with low vision.

Learn more about ensuring sufficient color contrast.


Navigation is important to consider when looking at accessibility. You must consider navigation without the use of a mouse and consistency of the navigation tabs.

Website can be navigated with the keyboard

People with visual disabilities cannot see the screen to know where the mouse is moving. It is important that your website can be navigated with the keyboard. If you are using BlackBoard or creating styles in Word and page layouts in PowerPoint you probably will not have to worry about this. An easy way to check for websites and documents navigation is to use the tab and arrow keys to tab through your document.

Navigation tabs are consistent on each web page

Another important part of navigation is to ensure that the tabs are consistent from page to page. Blackboard and most LMSs provides this for you, but be sure to consider this if you are using a website other than Blackboard.


There are few more issues to consider to create accessible documents. Be sure you consider these issues before you complete your instructional material.

No use of flashing or blinking content

Refrain from using any flashing or blinking since it causes seizures and migraines in some users. For people who don't suffer from seizures and migraines, flashing and blinking content can often be distracting from the information you are trying to convey.

Hyperlinks are titles of websites, avoid "Click Here" or URL/web address

What is a hyperlink?

Hyperlinks are links to content that is housed outside of the main document. Often text-based documents will contain hyperlinks to multimedia material or other material that supports what is being said in the main document. Hyperlinks should be underlined and contain non-generic link text, meaning that hyperlinked text should be descriptive---so the purpose of the link is clear as well as the media type it goes to, such as a video or a PDF or a webpage. Additionally, hyperlinks should be underlined.

Why do non-generic descriptions and underlining matter?

Non-generic descriptions benefit all users because it is a universal way to summarize the content that the link goes to, both in terms of content and in terms of file type. It helps all users to decide whether the content is of interest to them and to determine whether they are equipped to open that file type, as well. Though underlining is not helpful to users of screen readers, underlining the text of the hyperlink does serve as a visual distinction that separates the link description from the surrounding text.




Online Accessibility

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    Worldwide eLearning | Texas Tech Plaza | 1901 University Avenue, Suite 513 | Lubbock, Texas 79410-5095 || Mailing: Box 45095 | Lubbock, TX 79409-5095
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