Accessibility Guidelines


Accessibility Checklist
• Text Content
• HTML Content
• Image Content
• Audio Content
• Video Content
Tools Used to Evaluate Accessibility
Source: Pitt Online Style Guide


The University is committed to creating courses that are as accessible as possible to all students. Our goal is for students with disabilities to be able to perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to their online courses. Courses should be designed to be usable by all students, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for extra accommodations. Students enrolled in online courses are not required to disclose their disabilities, unless they are requesting accommodations or necessary modifications to access course materials and complete course requirements.

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Accessibility Checklist

Text Content

  1. Use a consistent organizational structure throughout the course such as Introduction, Objectives, Readings, Lecture, Discussion and Assignment.
  2. Use a clear font designed for on-screen reading such as Verdana or Georgia.
  3. Create a script or transcript when working on audio or video components for your content.
  4. Describe charts and graphs so students understand the key learning points of the diagrams. If these are generated by Excel, the Excel document may be used as a source file description. Ensure that colors in generated graphs have enough contrast and use line styles (e.g., dash or dotted lines) to differentiate lines.
  5. Write math equations in MathML format.
  6. Use the formatting styles (titles, subtitles, headings, etc.) provided in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint when creating documents. Screen readers use this coding to interpret documents.
  7. When creating tables in Microsoft Office applications, use the table creation tool and ensure tables have headers assigned.
  8. Ensure that source files such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are accessible before converting them to PDF by running the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft 2010 applications. Use the Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Checker after conversion.

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HTML Content

  1. Implement HTML markup correctly by using correct structure components such as headers, paragraphs, etc.
  2. Provide meaningful names for links such as Declaration of Independence instead of “Click here” links.
  3. Do not use tables to layout content in web pages. Use headings and correctly formatted markup in HTML tables. Avoid using images in tables.
  4. Use text instead of images to convey textual information. Avoid Word Art. If styling is needed, then use CSS styles.
  5. Use CSS to style HTML pages, fonts, headings, or layouts. Consider color contrast when using CSS.
  6. Avoid the use of frames to layout content and instead use CSS and DIV tags.
  7. Implement HTML markup correctly by using correct structural components such as headers, paragraphs, etc.
  8. Use JavaScript only when necessary because it continuously refreshes the web pages and causes screen readers to go back to the beginning of the page. Always try to implement web page development by using HTML, and then CSS, and finally JavaScript. Ensure keyboard accessibility.

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Image Content

  1. Provide a meaningful description for any images or illustrations used in your content. For example, explain the overall purpose for including a map or chart.
  2. Ensure that any color combination has adequate contrast. Do not rely on color to convey information such as Union states presented in blue and Confederate states presented in red. This applies to any type of content (HTML, documents, images, interactives, etc.).
  3. Many individuals are unable to distinguish between red and green, or blue and yellow.  Consider using shapes and patterns in images to differentiate measures.  Use ColorBrewer to see color schemes that are accessible.  Use to see your images as someone with color deficiencies would see them.
  4. Ensure that images include an alternative description or alt text that includes the purpose. Screen readers read this alt text.

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Audio Content

  1. Provide a transcript for any audio recordings (.mp3 or pod cast) including key non-verbal sounds such as explosions or laughter.
  2. When using narrated PowerPoint presentations, the notes should be used for written transcripts.

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Video Content

  1. Use an accessible player or technology application that can be controlled with the keyboard and allows for closed captioning.
  2. Use closed captioning as well as a transcript when providing interactive multimedia or video footage. Please see this article for information on how to caption your own video content: Best Practices for Adding Captions to Your Panopto Videos.

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Additional tools used to evaluate accessibility may include:

  1. WAVE ( is a free web accessibility evaluation tool provided by WebAIM.
    The WAVE Firefox toolbar ( provides accessibility reports directly within Firefox and works within a password protected course environment.
  2. Color Contrast Checker (, also from WebAIM, provides a ratio of contrasting between foreground and background colors. Colorblind Web Page Filter ( provides a tool to evaluate websites for a variety of types of color blindness.
  3. PowerPoint documents, handouts, and PDFs must all be formatted correctly in order for the screen readers to be able to read the documents. PowerPoint 2010 provides an Accessibility Checker.Directions: Under “File” select “Info”
    Then click the “Check for Issues” button
    Then select “Check Accessibility” and a report will appear to the right of the document.


    Sample PowerPoint Accessibility Checker Report

It is also possible to create accessible PDF files that can be interpreted by screen readers in Office 2010. The original PowerPoint file must be accessible, i.e., provide alternative text for images, proper headings, appropriate link text, etc. Use the Accessibility Checker to verify that the file is accessible. Then, save the file as a PDF. A screen reader will be able to read the tags and coding included in the file.

Source: Pitt Online Style Guide. Retrieved from the University of Pittsburgh Pitt Online Web site at

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