Module 8: Accessibility

Universal Design for Learning | Accessibility | Assignment & Discussion


This section will cover how accessibility relates to UDL, what accessibility considerations need to be made regarding course materials, information on CUNY accessibility training, basics on making Word documents and PDFs accessible, and the accessibility clause for CCNY syllabi.

Accessibility and UDL

While UDL looks at the entirety of a course's design, accessibility looks at the individual components of a course such as documents, websites, videos and more to ensure that people of all abilities can access the materials.

Watch Accessibility and UDL from CAST

UDL is a best practice that we encourage you to incorporate into your courses. Making sure course materials are accessible for your students is required by law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) both ensure rights for students with disabilities and require colleges provide materials in accessible formats in a timely manner.

Making Course Materials Accessible

When readying course materials for students, the materials should be designed with accessibility in mind. Some accessibility basics to keep in mind are:

    • Ensuring PDFs and Word Documents are screen reader friendly
    • Ensuring websites are screen reader friendly and work across multiple platforms
    • Ensuring PowerPoints are screen reader friendly and readable to students with vision impairments
    • Ensuring videos are closed-captioned
    • Ensuring important information is not relayed to students using only color-coding

While this training will only go over the basics of Word Document and PDF accessibility, the CUNY Accessibility Training Course is an excellent source of information on making documents of all types accessible.

Watch What to expect from your CUNY Accessibility Training from CUNY CIS Training

Accessible Word Documents

Making Word Documents accessible for students with screen readers is a key component in making a course accessible and is especially important in long documents such as a syllabus. The following video covers the basics of making a Word Document accessible.

Watch Creating Accessible Word Documents, Part 1 from the CUNY SPS Office of Faculty Development and Instructional Technology

This next video covers some more advanced features of Word Document accessibility. If you use images in your syllabus, or a table to organize the semester schedule, this video is helpful in ensuring those elements are accessible.

Watch Creating Accessible Word Documents, Part 2 from the CUNY SPS Office of Faculty Development and Instructional Technology

TIP: If you convert an accessible Word Document to a PDF, the document retains its accessible properties.

Accessible PDFs

This section will not cover how to edit/create an accessible PDF, but rather will cover some basic tips about PDF accessibility. If you are creating your own documents, we recommend using Microsoft Word to input accessibility features and converting them to PDF at the end. However, you can create accessible PDFs using Adobe Acrobat Pro. If you'd like to learn more about creating accessible PDFs, visit Adobe's Acrobat Pro accessible PDF guide.

PDF Accessibility Tips:

    • Scanned documents are not typically accessible, unless they were scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) software.

Quick check tip: Unsure whether a scanned PDF is accessible? Try highlighting the text. If individual words and letters highlight, this typically means the document was scanned using OCR. Double-check by running the PDF through an accessibility checker. If the whole page highlights at once, the document was scanned as an image and is not screen reader accessible.

    • Digitized documents in the CCNY library databases and OER repositories are accessible.

Accessibility Syllabus Clause

The following clause should be included in all CCNY course syllabi:The AccessAbility Center/Student Disability Services ensures equal access and full participation to all of City College's programs, services, and activities by coordinating and implementing appropriate accommodations. If you are a student with a disability who requires accommodations and services, please visit the office in NAC 1/218, or contact AAC/SDS via email (, or phone (212-650-5913 or TTY/TTD 212-650-8441).


This module was created by Julia Brown. Portions of the content were adapted from: