Accessible Instructional Media Guides

Word (Sample Syllabus Provided)              PowerPoint                Adobe Acrobat and PDFs                 Videos and Audio                 Blackboard                 Alt Text

Tools for Testing Accessibility

Manual Tools

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

  • 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.
  • 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 Tools

Recommended at GVSU

  • Blackboard Ally automatically checks content uploaded by faculty, while also providing tips and recommendations for addressing issues. It also automatically creates alternative formats supporting universal design for learning. 
  • Panopto supports video accessibility through automated captioning. Faculty can edit the captions for 100% accuracy.

Note: In addition to Blackboard Ally and Panopto, you may need to use additional tools when creating or linking to content outside of Blackboard to ensure all of your class files and web pages are accessible. 

  • is a tool that can transcribe and audio or video file.This tool can be useful for students or faculty that have a file with an audio track that needs to be converted into text.

Creating Accessible Course Content

According to the 2016 United States Census, 13% of Americans are considered to have a disability such as having difficulty: hearing, seeing, concentrating, walking, dressing, or experience challenges with activities because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition. Further, 19% of college students report a disability, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, according to the CDC, one in four people in the United States is currently living with a disability, with increasing number of age-related challenges such as cognitive, vision or hearing loss. In fact, over 1,600 GVSU students, faculty and staff have registered with the DSR office for disability related needs.

Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning is important to EVERYONE - as it enhances the overall user experience across a wide array of areas: mobile access, cognition, hearing, vision, fine motor skills, etc.


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.


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. 

While Blackboard itself was awarded accessible, content uploaded into the system by faculty may not be in compliance. GVSU has implemented Blackboard Ally to support faculty in creating accessible content.


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 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.

Blackboard Ally & Panopto at GVSU


  • Blackboard Ally supports inclusive education through accessibility and universal design for learning.

    Ally provides automatic checking of all files uploaded into the system by faculty.  Accessibility indicators are provided to faculty with guidance on resolving issues.

    In addition, Ally automatically creates alternative formats for files uploaded into Blackboard. Available formats include: Tagged PDF, OCRed PDF, ePub, HTML, and Audio Only.


  • Panopto is available to support video accessibility through captioning.

    Panopto will automatically create caption files for videos added into the system and faculty can edit these captions for 100% accuracy.  

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

Blackboard Ally and Panopto are recommended to support accessibility at GVSU. An Accessibility Checklist is also available to help ensure that content faculty are creating is accessible. 

Page last modified March 22, 2022