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Accessible Technology Initiative Division of Information Resources & Technology

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Accessible Instructional Materials

Our commitment to student success hinges on equal access for every Hornet. As a faculty leader, it is your obligation to maintain the accessibility of course materials. The University system provides a host of resources and training opportunities to help support you in creating an engaging, compliant, and inclusive standard for instructional materials, and to enhance the teaching and learning experience at Sacramento State.

While sometimes used interchangeably, accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are not equivalent. Accessibility for learners with disabilities is an integral part of universal design. However, as the name implies, universal design concepts apply universally, with the goal of making education more effective for all learners.

Course Accessibility Checklist

Course Accessibility Checklist

As part of the course proposal process, provide a new or updated accessibility checklist to the Dean’s office prior to the semester when the course is taught.

  • For brand new courses, these checklist items can be considered as guidelines to be followed, as appropriate, at the time your course will be offered.
  • The checklist applies to existing courses either at the point of course redesign, or when a student with a disability enrolls in the course.

Following course approval, and prior to the start of the semester in which the new or revised course will be taught for the first time, please complete an accessibility checklist and submit to the appropriate Dean’s Office.

Download Accessibility Checklist

Determining Document Accessibility

Ally in Canvas

The BlackBoard Ally tool is a built-in feature of our Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). It gauges your instructional content with colored "dials" indicating accessibility, and provides feedback for improvement.

What are the “Dials” I See In My Course?

Canvas helps you assess the accessibility of your uploaded course materials including Word, PDF, and PowerPoint files.

Accessibility Dials in Canvas

The green, orange, and red dials give you a quick view of the accessibility of your files. Click the dial to get feedback on how to make your files more inclusive for all of your students.

  • The dials are only visible to you. Your students do not see the dials or feedback.
  • Your students can access your materials no matter the accessibility score.

Tips for Improving Accessibility

Have a lot of red dials in your course? Don't worry, most of us do. Ensuring your instructional materials are accessible to all of your students is a process that takes time.

  • Start by making any new files you create accessible from the start. It is easiest and least time consuming to design accessible materials from the outset, rather than retrofitting accessibility after the fact.
  • Tackle materials you have created. It is easiest to improve files in their original format, particularly Word and PowerPoint files.
  • PDFs can be challenging. Many full text articles and other PDF based materials have a low accessibility score. Start with your files in Word and PowerPoint formats, or contact the ATC team to assess strategies and alternatives.
  • Let us help. Our team can teach you techniques for improving file accessibility, assess the materials in your course and help to create an action plan, and in some cases help to fully remediate the materials in your course.

Accessible Formatting

Accessible instructional materials isn't whether your students can access your files online or in Canvas - it's about content that has been formatted in such a way that it can be used by a variety of users, including users with disabilities who may be using assistive technologies, such as screen readers, screen magnification and text-to-speech software, people using tablets and e-readers, or those who are working from a remote location with a slower Internet connection.

Accessible document formatting includes elements such as:

  • Section headers
  • Alternate text (alt-text) for images
  • Table headers for tables
  • Setting title and language in documents

While accessibility can be accomplished retroactively (after content is created, purchased, or distributed), it's easiest to add accessible formatting to your documents as you create them. Retrofitting documents for accessibility can be time consuming.

Templates & Guidelines

Syllabus Templates

Instructional Materials Accessibility

Training & Support

Training Opportunities

WebAIM Accessible Document Training - through July 2022

The CSU Chancellor's Office teamed with WebAIM to provide free accessible document training for all CSU staff. Upon completion, you'll earn a CSUCO Accessible Documentation Training badge.

  • Create accessible document content and structure in Word & PowerPoint.
  • Evaluate the accessibility of well-structured Word & PowerPoint documents.
  • Optimize the accessibility of PDFs exported from well-structured Word & PowerPoint documents with Acrobat.
  • Create accessible document content and structure in Excel (bonus module).

Register for Accessible Document Training

Support & Consultation

The IRT Academic Technology Center (ATC) team is here to support faculty with accessibility and Universal Design for Learning practices, instructional materials creation/remediation, and more.

Virtual Technology Support Options