Creating Accessible Course Content

According to the 2010 United States Census, 19% of Americans are considered to have a disability and may need some sort of assistance when using a computer. In addition, 11% of college students reporting a disability, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2017, over 1,600 GVSU students, faculty and staff have registered with the DSR office for disability related needs.

Disabilities can be a variety of things including complete blindness, deafness, or mobility issues. However, they can also be colorblindness, dyslexia, low vision, being prone to epileptic seizures, or having arthritis. These are often overlooked but are still inhibiting to online learning when not taken into consideration. It is required by law that course content be accessible to all students taking the course and with such a diverse array of things to consider, we must be vigilant and mindful when creating content for courses. In fact, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and an amendment to this act in 1998 (Section 508) provides basic rights for people with disabilities along with specific requirements for electronic communication and information technologies.  The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. This act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. As of January 2018, the technical requirements of Section 508 have changed to incorporate WCAG 2.0 A and AA success criteria. This criteria is has become the standard for which to measure digital accessibility.

This page will provide you with tools and methods to meet those standards of accessibility when creating online content, and when uploading this content into Blackboard. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) awarded Blackboard Learn with a Nonvisual Accessibility Gold Certification, making it the first learning management system to achieve this certification. Please visit the Blackboard Accessibility web page for additional information. 


  • GVSU has adopted Blackboard Ally to support inclusive education through accessibility and UDL. Ally automatically creates alternative formats for files uploaded into Blackboard. Available formats include: Tagged PDF, OCRed PDF, ePub, HTML, and Audio Only. In addition, Ally provides automatic checking of all files uploaded into the system by faculty.  Accessibility indicators are provided to faculty with guidance on resolving issues.


  • GVSU has adopted Panopto to support video accessibility through captioning. Panopto will automatically create caption files for videos added into the system. Faculty can edit these captions for 100% accuracy. 

If you have additional questions about accessibility, or have a student with a documented disability, please visit Disability Support Resources (DSR) for support and further information. DSR also has a variety of tips for making documents accessible. In addition, GVSU has established a Web Accessibility Policy which was adopted in March 2017, and the University Academic Senate has shared Captioned Media Guidelines in November 2017.

Website Accessibility 101: What it is and how it impacts your school.

Website accessibility 101: What it is and how it impacts your school

Inclusive education isn't just how well faculty can use a tool but about building awareness, understanding, and equity for all learners. Ally's indicators are the initial introductions to understanding a much larger cultural shift. A shift away from the idea of meeting a standard required by law to a more equitable accommodation for all. In a broader sense they signify that there is work to be done by all of us at the university to help create pathways of inclusion.

- Hunter Bridwell, Digital Media Developer, eLearning and Emerging Technologies

Instructional Media Guides

Word (with sample Syllabus)              PowerPoint                Adobe Acrobat and PDFs                 Videos and Audio                 Blackboard                 Alt Text

Tools for Testing Accessibility

Manually Testing Your Content

These tools allow for manually testing your documents, webpage, etc.

  • Microsoft includes accessibility checkers in their software.
  • Apple's Voiceover tool built into their operating system can be used to review your content using audio playback.
  • For Windows users, NVDA is a free screen reader can be downloaded and used to evaluate how your content works with a screen reader.
  •  Color Contrast Analyzer can verify if the colors selected are readable to everyone.
  • WebAIM has a Section 508 Checklist for HTML.

Automated Testing Tools For The Web

  • The Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool via WebAIM is a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome. It examines web pages for accessibility issues. 
  • aXe Accessibility Tool (Chrome, Firefox) will similarly examine a website's code to determine if there are issues with accessibility. 
  • The A11Y Project is an excellent beginner's guide to web accessibility.

Utilize these tools when creating class sites, blogs, etc. outside of Blackboard, or checking whether or not a website you may send your students to is accessible. 

Please use this Accessibility Checklist to ensure that the content you are creating and using is accessible. 

Page last modified May 29, 2019