Five College Consortium

Five College Risk Management

Creating Accessible Content and Files

Under federal and state regulations, colleges and universities are required to ensure equal access to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by technology. Whenever possible, providing access to products and services should not be triggered by an individual’s specific request for accommodation.

As such, all members of the campus community who create digital, electronic, or online content are encouraged to follow best practices and accessibility standards to ensure that their content can be viewed by all, regardless of their abilities. If you have any concerns or questions about your content or course materials, please consult your campus-specific disability/accessibility services office.

Below are some resources and guidelines to help create accessible content. Please note that some of these resources are not sponsored or created by the Five Colleges or any of its member institutions. Therefore, we cannot speak to their quality or accuracy beyond our own experience with them. You may also contact your campus disability/accessibility services office or IT department for further assistance.

Training Resources for Creating Accessible Files, Media, and Web Content

Web Accessibility: 10 Easy Tips for the Average User

Even if you only post text and pictures to your department or group's website, there are still ways you can make sure that your content is more accessible.

Below are ten easy standards that content creators should adhere to when posting to their college's website through a content management system (like Drupal or Red Dot). Please consult with your campus IT department if you have any questions specific to your own CMS

  1. Always include alternative text ("alt text") or captions for images.
  2. Use headers (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) to logically structure a page, not to style or emphasize text.
  3. Use bolding and italics to style or emphasize text, not to structure your page.
  4. Make sure that all video and audio are captioned or include a supplementary transcript.
  5. Consult your campus IT department on the accessibility of plug-ins or widgets (such as Google Maps) before you add them to your department's website.
  6. When creating a link to another web page, avoid having the new page automatically open a new tab or window (sometimes called a "target"). If you must do so for security purposes (for instance, when going to an external site may log your user out of their secure session), make sure to let the user know.
  7. Make sure that any files available for download are also accessible. If there is free software available for viewing your content (for instance, Adobe Reader or Quicktime), consider linking to a place where your user can safely download it.
  8. Avoid flashing content that could cause seizures. W3C considers anything that flashes more than three times in a one second time span to be unacceptable.
  9. Avoid coloring text in such a way that it is difficult to differentiate the text from the page background.
  10. Avoid audio and video that play automatically. This will make it difficult for users with screen readers to navigate the page.

Creating Accessible Documents

From Scanned pages

  • Start with a clean document (no highlighting, underlining, or marking).
  • Use original material if possible, not copies of books or articles.
  • Check to see of your device has a "book scanning" feature (or similar). This will allow you to scan two book pages at once, after which the machine will split them up into single document pages.
  • If you do not use a "book scanning" feature, position the document so that there will be only one scanned page per PDF page. When scanning a book, do not position with the book's spine in the middle so that there are two pages per one PDF page; this is very difficult for screenreaders to process.
  • Scan pages in order and center the page on the scanner.
  • Make sure to enable OCR on your scanner, if applicable.

from a File

Captions, Transcripts, and Audio Descriptions: Creating Accessible Videos

Videos become more accessible when you provide captions, transcripts, and/or audio descriptions to help users with hearing or visual impairments.

Captions appear to the user in line with the content, normally in text that flashes across the bottom of the screen. They describe not just the words being spoken but any noises in the video (crashes in the background, music, laughter, etc.). 

Transcripts, on the other hand, are text alternatives to the video's content. They should describe the words, background sounds, and actions happening on the screen - kind of like a play or movie script! Transcripts, as long as they are in a fully-accessible format, can assist viewers with either visual or hearing impairments.

Audio descriptions are designed solely for those who are visually impaired. They are verbal descriptions of the actions that run in the background of the video to assist visually-impaired users. Here are some samples of audio descriptions, if you would like to learn more. 

Have a video that you'll be showing or posting online? Check out our Video Accessibility section for next steps.