Course Accessibility Guide

Academic Support Center

Universal Design Basics for Accessibility

Under the American Disabilities Act, all courses must be accessible to students with disabilities. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a proactive approach to such course design. UDL considers the different learning needs of students and enhances learning for all students, not just students with disabilities. While there are many approaches to building an inclusive classroom, here are four key components to ensure accessibility: 

  1. Captions
  2. Accessible digital texts
  3. Accessible presentations and course materials
  4. Online testing
Videos, movies, and online lectures should be captioned. Captioning or transcripts should be available for podcasts. To obtain a captioned movie or video, contact the library. For short clips or lectures, add your own captions using YouTube or the Gustavus Beta Captioning Site. Many podcasts can be listened to using a live transcribe browser extension or application. Help is also available by contacting the Accessible Technology and Program Coordinator in the ASC.
YouTube and auto-captioning
  • Every video you upload to YouTube will auto-caption within 24 hours
  • Do not rely on YouTube’s edits. They are often inaccurate and confusing. Start with the auto-captions and then EDIT them.
  • EDIT in Classic Studio and save changes
    • OR if you have a self-created digital script–upload
    • OR if you have an edited SRT file from the Gustavus Beta site–upload
  • If you EDIT in Classic Studio, you can then export the SRT file created there to use on Google Drive, Hoonuit, or other streaming video sources
  • How-to video on this process:
  • Sample captioned video: 
Gustavus Beta Captioning Site
  • Captioning Site:
  • Upload video and submit
  • Wait for the file to be captioned
  • EDIT! Then download the SRT file and use on YouTube, Google Drive, Hoonuit or any other streaming video sources
Google Drive
  • Upload video file to a Google Drive folder (video will process)
  • Open processed video and upload SRT file generated from YouTube or Gustavus caption site
  • Go to three dots in upper right>manage caption tracks>add new caption tracks>upload
  • How-to video on this process:
Accessible digital texts

Create text-to-speech and screen-reader accessible digital documents in Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs, and Slides by using headings, creating lists, choosing a strong color contrast and visual indicators, and save as accessible PDFs.

Structure documents
Use “Paragraph Styles” to order and label:
  • Headers Assign “Heading 1” to begin structure; do not use “Title”
    • sub-heads Assign Heading 2, 3, etc.
      • body text or “normal text”
  • Create lists using program list controls:
    • 1. numbered or
    • bulleted
  • Style Type for best readability:
    • 12 point San Serif type (Arial, Calibri, Verdana)
    • At least 1.15 spacing between lines
    • Set wide margins under File>Page Set-up/Document Set-up
    • Choose Black and white or strong color contrast
  • For charts and/or graphs: Use color PLUS another visual indicator such as:
    • Color+ boldface type
    • Color+pattern ////////////
    • Color+size
  • Save document as pdf for best retention of format, security, and accessibility
  • Additional Resource: Creating Accessible PDFs

Scan documents
Scan all new documents in a high-quality OCR (optical character recognition) format to create text-to-speech (TTS) reader accessible pdf scans. High-quality scans should use an original quality source and be free of: crooked or rotated pages, cut-off text, dark gutters, shadows and blurring, poor contrast, and handwriting, highlighting and underlining.

On-campus scanning on most Gustavus copier settings:

  1. Use I.D. Badge to log in
  2. Select “Scan”
  3. Choose Destination:
    1. Small 1-2 page files are okay to “My Email”
    2. Large 6-8 page files to “Google Drive” (At this time high page counts need to be scanned in 6-8 page groups or they fail to send.)
  4. Go to “Settings” to choose:
    1. 400 dpi
    2. Black and white (color can be okay, produces large files)
    3. Portrait (1 page) or Landscape (2-page book spread)
    4. Legal (8.5x14) or Tabloid (11x17) as necessary
    5. 1 or 2-sided if using document feeder (unbound pages)
    6. Additional Pages checkbox when using glass (books, other)
  5. Place pages in document feeder and select “Start” OR
  6. Place book on glass and press down WITH COVER as flat as possible; shadows will negate accurate OCR.
  7. Select “Start.” For multiple pages/spreads continue to select “Start.” When finished select “Finish” and then “Start” to send to email or Google Drive.
  8. See your email instructions for locating scan in Google Drive.
  9. Use Adobe Acrobat or Preview to crop pages.
  10. Check TTS reading capabilities using preferred reader. Gustavus accessibility students use premium versions of TextHelp’s Read & Write and/or OrbitNote, available as Chrome extensions.

Off-campus scanning using personal devices can be accomplished with various apps such as:

Remediate inaccessible documents
Check older materials to make sure they were previously uploaded in an accessible format. Do this by highlighting/selecting text. If text cannot be selected, it is not accessible. If you do not have the material to rescan or cannot find a resource online, remediation can be done using Adobe Acrobat Pro. The ASC Accessible Technology & Program Coordinator can assist with this conversion.
Accessible presentations and course materials
Synchronous versus asynchronous presentations
  • By its nature, asynchronous content is more accessible to most students
    • Students are able to review material multiple times
    • Helpful to students with poor technology access/slow WiFi
    • Synchronous classes may be recorded for re-viewing asynchronously
  • Synchronous classes can better replicate the benefits of in-person class
    • Google Meet and Zoom allow students to view auto-transcription during a class;
      note these captions will not be included in a recording of the session
    • Consider allowing students to participate with cameras turned off
      • Benefits students who may need to limit their screen time
      • Benefits students uncomfortable with sharing their environment 
Accessible presentations (PowerPoints/Google Slides)
  • Create slides that are accessible with both screen and text-to-speech readers (see Accessible digital texts above)
  • Use simple and clean designs or templates
  • Use high contrast color schemes and avoid animation
  • Ensure slides are readable and clear from a distance
    • Less is more: Limit the words/sentences/points on a slide
    • More is less confusing: Use more slides; split information as needed
  • Get in the habit of describing images and/or using alternate text
  • Consider having slides available on Moodle for students to review before and after class

Available hard copy content 
  • Consider having packets of printed course materials available for students who need to limit screen time (due to eye strain, migraines, etc).
  • Offer assignments that don’t require a computer
Online testing
Additional time should only be given to students with an approved accommodation. “What about giving double time to all students? I give all students more time than it should take them to finish.” While these would seem like UDL options, students with an accommodation would still need to have 50% more testing time.
  • Consider shorter, more frequent exams rather than longer exams.
  • Consider guided notes for lectures/study guides. 
  • Add 1.5x to 2x time on Moodle quizzes/exams for specific students:
    1. Open Moodle
    2. Open the specific quiz
    3. Click “User Overrides” on left under Quiz Administration
    4. Type in the user’s name and select them from the list
    5. Make necessary changes and save

As we make shifts to teaching and learning in online and hybrid courses, we must recognize that this is a shift for instructors and students. An important aspect of shifts in pedagogy, technology, or content is being receptive to the needs of students with disabilities. We should not assume that students have the same accommodations in the online format as in the face-to-face format. The design is different. The barriers that exist at the intersection of the disability and course design may no longer exist or may be different from the original course format. Some accommodations used before may no longer apply. Some accommodations not considered before may need to be considered now. As needs arise, students and instructors should consult with accessibility resources staff. For additional information please see: Academic Accommodations During Online Learning 

Additional Resources