Accessibility Guidelines & Resources

As a WPI faculty member, you’ll have a variety of learners in your teaching and interactions with students. Students are often as eager to learn as professors are to teach, but sometimes face challenges with access to the material, asking for help, or sharing their accommodation needs. This section provides you with some helpful resources to create a welcoming environment for students with disabilities and provide access to your course materials in various ways. 

Person-First Language and Etiquette

Language can play an important role in making students feel comfortable approaching you to discuss accommodations. As a good rule of thumb, think about using person-first language rather than putting the disability first. As an example, you would refer to a student with a common reading-based disability as a “student with dyslexia” instead of the “dyslexic student.” Individuals with disabilities are first and foremost people and do not want to be defined by his/her disability first. In fact, a student may choose not to share the specific disability with you but rather discuss functional limitations or how the disability will impact them in your classroom. 

Creating Accessible Materials

A key point to course accessibility is to consider providing content multi-modally so that students can access material in a variety of ways. You can create content to be friendly to screen readers or provide captions for those that may use them. OAS has created a Quick Tips and Tricks for Document Accessibility guide, though there are many additional resources available in this area. Below, we will focus on Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, and videos.

Microsoft Word

  • Creating an Accessible Office Document by Microsoft: self-paced course providing hands-on practice for implementing accessibility features in the context of varying disabilities (30-40 minutes)
  • Creating Accessible Documents Video by Microsoft: short video providing a brief tutorial on creating alternative text for images, heading paragraph styles and using the accessibility checker (5 minutes)
  • Microsoft Word by WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind): written tutorial including step-by-step instructions with pictures and screen shots. Topics cover how to use headings, alternative text for images, accessibility challenges with data tables, links, accessibility checker and how to convert a Word document to HTML and PDF. 

Adobe Acrobat PDF

  • PDF Accessibility by WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind): written tutorial including step-by-step instructions with pictures and screen shots. Topics cover how to convert to accessible PDFs, use tags, use the Touch Up Reading Order tool as well as provide an overview of other tools and features.
  • Creating an Accessible PDF in Adobe Acrobat by Algonquin College: short video reviewing how to use the “Make Accessible” feature, describing the document, recognizing text to OCR settings, and adding alternative text to images (4 minutes)   

Microsoft PowerPoint

  • PowerPoint Accessibility by WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind): written tutorial including step-by-step instructions with pictures and screen shots. Topics covered include slide layouts, alternative text for images, accessibility challenges with data tables, links, outline and notes panels, accessibility checker, and converting PowerPoint to HTML and PDF. 
  • Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations Video by Algonquin College: short video reviewing step-by-step process to use built-in slide layouts, master slides, set tab orders, and avoid transitions and animations (5 minutes)

Google Drive

  • Grackle has a free add-on to check for accessibility of Google Docs, Sheets or Slides.  The free version has the ability to scan all documents in a Google Drive folder to assess whether they are accessible, or if accessibility improvements need to be made. 

Accessible Videos

  • Creating Accessible Videos by Michigan State University: written guide providing instructions for creating captions and transcripts for videos. Links to related video tutorials and a free software download for transcribing materials are also provided.  

Additional Resources

  • Disability Etiquette Guide: Created by the United Spinal Association to go into greater detail on interacting with people with disabilities overall as well as individuals with varying disability types
  • The Faculty Room: Created by DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) at the University of Washington to provide faculty with increased resources and best practices relating to students with disabilities in the classroom
  • CAST: Non-profit research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through Universal Design for Learning