Guidelines for Accessible Instructional Materials

Esitmated reading time: 3 min (653 words)

Microsoft Office products and Adobe Acrobat Pro have built-in Accessibility Checkers that can help you make sure electronic documents you share or publish online are accessible. 

Universal Design for Learning

The premise behind Universal Design for Learning is that we should be designing courses, classroom activities, course materials, educational experiences and curriculum to support and engage all learners. The more we can do this up front, the more we will create student-centered pedagogies that welcome and include diversity.

The College encourages all professors, faculty and staff to use Universal Design for Learning guidelines when creating and developing syllabi, course requirements and materials and programming for the Bryn Mawr community.

Read more about UDL:

UDL Checklist

When planning your online course materials, consider:


  • Textbooks
  • Articles
    • scanned and saved in Moodle
    • linked to journals
  • Word documents


  • Videos
  • PowerPoints


If vetting new textbooks, check to see if the publisher can provide copies in accessible machine-readable or audio formats:

Books published prior to 2001-2002 are generally not available in accessible formats, and Access Services will need a minimum of six weeks to get them converted to audio formats (six months for Braille).

Accessible Documents

In keeping with the spirit of universal design for learning, create documents that are accessible. An accessible document benefits all users. It has:

  • Searchable text
  • A document structure with 
    • Logical reading order
    • Navigational aids (e.g., title, table of contents, headings, bookmarks) that are tagged
    • Tagged images: supported with alt-text that describe the image
    • Formatted tables
    • Interactive form fields
  • Specified document language (allows screen reader users to select language for correct pronunciation)

When creating accessible documents, consider document structure and format.​​​​​ 

Create documents with searchable text. A searchable document contains text that can be read by text-to-speech programs (e.g., Read&Write and Natural Reader) or by screen readers (e.g., JAWS and NVDA) for blind/visually impaired readers.

Bryn Mawr provides access to a document converter that can convert documents into a variety of alternative file formats that are more accessible to people with disabilities.

Journal Articles

Like all publishers that serve a primarily academic market, journal repositories know that colleges are legally required to provide all students with accessible materials and are working to make their materials accessible. However, materials scanned prior to 2000 or provided by smaller publishing companies may not have yet been converted to accessible formats. For more information about obtaining accessible copies in these cases, see the Accessibility or Terms of Use pages on their sites, such as this page for example.


If you are using videos in your courses, only use ones with subtitles and/or closed captions. This helps make the content accessible to all learners, including those with hearing impairments and those who are English language learners. If you are creating your own videos, YouTube provides you with a way to add subtitles and closed captions. View the instructions for adding subtitles and closed captions for your YouTube videos.

Panopto, Bryn Mawr’s lecture capture system, also allows you to add ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) captions.

Please check with Arleen Zimmerle ( or x5277) for additional information about videos and other course material needing captioning.

Accessibility Checkers

Microsoft Office Documents

Starting with Microsoft Office 2010 (Windows) or 2016 (Mac), there is now an Accessibility Checker tool in Word, Excel and PowerPoint that you can use to ensure documents are accessible.


Many websites have formatting that is not accessible to screen-reader or text-to-speech technology. You can check the accessibility of websites you want to use in your courses with the free web accessibility evaluation tool Wave from WebAIM.

Additional Resources

How-to Support

General Accessibility Information


Contact Us

Access Services

Access Services
Eugenia Chase Guild Hall
Room 103 and 104
101 N. Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010
Fax: 610-526-7451