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Online classes can present unique challenges for students with disabilities. Here are twenty basic guidelines for making your online courses more accessible:

student using computer

  1. Use clear, consistent layouts and organization schemes for presenting content.
  2. Use the built in features of Canvas, Microsoft Word, and PowerPoint to present a logical order within course materials
  3. Caption videos and transcribe audio content.
  4. Use descriptive wording for hyperlink text (e.g., "Lecture 19 Resources" rather than "click here."
  5. Avoid using PDF documents, especially those presented as images (i.e., the text cannot be copied and thus inaccessible to someone using a screen reader); if a PDF is used, design it to be accessible or create an accessible HTML or Word version as the primary source and link to the PDF as a secondary source to the content.
  6. Provide concise text descriptions of content presented within images.
  7. Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered pages with plain backgrounds.
  8. Use color combinations that are high contrast and can be read by those who are colorblind.
  9. Make sure all content and navigation is accessible using the keyboard alone and choose IT tools that are accessible.


With respect to instructional methods, consult Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction and follow these guidelines:student using computer

  1. Do not assume students have a wide range of technology skills and provide options for gaining the technology skills needed for course participation.
  2. Present content in multiple ways (e.g., in a combination of text, video, audio, and/or image format).
  3. Address a wide range of language skills as you write content (e.g., spell acronyms, define terms, avoid or define jargon).
  4. Make instructions and expectations clear for activities, projects, and assigned reading.
  5. Make examples and assignments relevant to learners with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds.
  6. Offer outlines and other scaffolding tools to help students learn.
  7. Provide adequate opportunities to practice.
  8. Allow adequate time for activities, projects, and tests (e.g., give details of project assignments in the syllabus so that students can start working on them early).
  9. Provide feedback on project parts and offer corrective opportunities.
  10. Provide options for communicating and collaborating that are accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities.
  11. Provide options for demonstrating learning (e.g., different types of test items, portfolios, presentations, discussions).

Adapted from:

University of Washington and DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology), which serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in postsecondary education and careers. More information can be found at

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