Skip to main content

10 Easy Tips for Accessibility

Professore lecturing.

Think about it.

You can make a difference just by reading this page and being aware of accessibility best practices.

Do your best to face the classroom when speaking.

This will be particularly helpful to students who use lipreading as a primary or supplemental access solution.

Use sans-serif fonts, 12 pt or larger, in documents, websites, and other instructional materials.

Sans-serif typefaces such Arial or Calibri are generally considered more legible when larger font sizes are used.

Consider the contrast of text and background.

Lighthouse International has a useful discussion of color contrast for people with low vision or colorblindness. However, be aware that black text on a bright white background may be problematic for some people with learning disabilities. Black text on a lightly tinted background or white text on a dark background will likely work better.

Lean toward simplicity.

Think about how well the technology you’re using matches your goals. Will a (probably inaccessible) Prezi really be more effective than a PowerPoint?

Favoring simplicity also applies to language. Shorter sentences and words with fewer syllables, used wherever possible, are more readable. This affects students with learning disabilities, students whose first language is not English, etc.

Consider preparing in-class materials that can be distributed in advance.

Providing your materials such as PowerPoint slides in advance can help students prepare for classroom participation. This may particularly help students with disabilities, those for whom English is a second language or even shy students feel more ready to participate.

Ensure that your class website and digital materials are accessible.

If you’re using WordPress for your course website, you can create accessibility reports with Monsido. Monsido is web governance software that regularly scans the public-facing Boise State WordPress sites and provides insights into how to fix such issues as broken links, misspellings, and accessibility errors. In addition to providing Monsido, the Office of Information Technology offers guidelines for creating accessible content and for accessibility testing for creating accessible content and for accessibility testing, as well as information on web accessibility standards at Boise State.

If your course site is in Canvas, you can rely to a limited extent on Canvas’ accessible design, some of which is documented here. That documentation can give you some insight into how Canvas’ design enhances accessibility. Put simply, materials created within Canvas will generally be accessible if you make wise choices while formatting those materials (for instance, by using the built-in styles to create headings, subheadings, and lists; adding alt text to images,; writing clear and descriptive link text, etc.).

Individual documents and other digital materials housed in Canvas need to be designed and formatted for accessibility. For more information about designing and creating accessible materials, see “Guides, Instructions, Checklists, and Tools.

Be aware that enterprise applications may have accessibility problems.

In spite of the university’s best efforts to ensure accessibility of campus-wide applications such as Canvas and Google Workspace, some students may still encounter barriers. (For information about accessibility and Google products, see the “All Products” page of Google Accessibility.) If workarounds cannot be devised to eliminate or ameliorate a barrier posed by an campus-wide application, instructors should allow students to use alternative applications. In other words, you shouldn’t assign work if the only option to complete the work involves the use of a tool that poses a known barrier to a student with a disability.

Use language in your syllabus that encourages students who need accommodation to pursue accommodation.

The Boise State Educational Access Center recommends that you include the following statement in your syllabus:

Students with disabilities needing accommodations to fully participate in this class should contact the Educational Access Center (EAC). All accommodations must be approved through the EAC prior to being implemented.  To learn more about the accommodation process, visit the Educational Access Center website.

Consider putting this statement on the first page of the syllabus rather than near the end. Including it on the first page helps convey that you mean what you say and that you’re including the statement in the syllabus because doing so is the right thing to do and not simply to meet a legal requirement.

If an accommodation a student requests concerns you, build a bridge instead of a wall as you try to address your concerns.

Boise State University’s Educational Access Center (EAC) coordinates services to meet the educational needs of students with documented disabilities. The Center works with students and faculty to arrange reasonable accommodations and promote an environment that is free of both physical and attitudinal barriers. Commonly requested accommodations include extra time for tests and other assignments and a quiet space for test taking.

Staff at the Center can answer questions about student accommodations without violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). They may also contact you about student requests.

Occasionally, you may encounter students who would like to be accommodated but who are not currently registered with the Educational Access Center. Invite the student to have a confidential conversation with you in person, via phone, via Google Hangouts, or via another mutually agreeable method. Encourage them to work with the Educational Access Center, and ask them to describe in detail what kind of accommodations they seek. Let them know that you can work with both Center and your Dean’s office to try to work out appropriate accommodations.

Keep in mind that you are not alone. You are the expert on your course and your subject matter. Others are the experts on providing accommodations, and you should avail yourself of their expertise.