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Center of
Online Learning

Course Accessibility

Accessibility provides a person with a disability “the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use" according to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. 

Course accessibility is essential for learning and required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Columbus State University has established the Columbus State University Online Course Accessibility Policy to clarify expectations for online course accessibility.

Ensures Inclusion of All Students

Accessible online content includes and empowers all students in learning. Course accessibility is an essential component of best practices in teaching. Improving the accessibility of course content enhances the usability of courses. Accessible course materials, including media and documents, make course information easier to perceive, navigate and understand which contributes to student persistence and retention. 

Enhances Learning

Accessible media makes course content perceivable to individuals with disabilities, in addition to improving comprehension for learners who are not proficient in English, prefer multimodal communication, and those in noisy or quiet environments. Captioning of videos generates transcripts that are proven to increase comprehension and can be used as a study aid.

COOL Supports Your Accessibility Journey

Improving the accessibility of online courses is not a one-time quick fix. It is an ongoing process and the Center of Online Learning provides support for your journey.

  • Take a COOL SIP of accessibility by signing up for the Supportive Inclusive Practices workshop. Learn how accessibility unlocks the potential of people with disabilities and how to evaluate your content’s accessibility.
  • Take a COOL DIP into accessibility by signing up for the Developing Inclusive Practices workshop. Learn how to modify your course documents and media for improved accessibility.
  • Visit the Training and Workshop page for specific dates, times and registration links for these workshops.
  • Take a Deep Dive into accessibility by requesting individual sessions or a course review from our accessibility specialist, Ann Newland at
  • Request captioning for your course media. Learn more by visiting Captioning Services.

Guidelines and Resources for Building Accessible Courses

Accessible courses contain these essential elements:

  • Alternative text descriptions for images
  • Captions and transcripts for course video and audio recordings
  • Nested heading styles for structure
  • Formatted lists
  • Column and/or row headers for tables
  • Strong color contrast
  • Unique titles for all pages and slides
  • Link text describing the link destination
  • Logical reading order of tables, objects in slides, and forms

All Content

COOL’s accessible template and course pages provide the foundations of an accessible course. Contact COOL and request that we copy the Common Course Template  into your live course or a sandbox. You can use a sandbox to build your course before your course is live. 

  • Use the Common Course Template to provide course structure and accessible placeholders.
  • Apply the Online Course Accessibility Guidelines to guide you as you design your course pages and materials.

Accessible Documents

All documents added to a course must be accessible whether they are HTML files, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, or PDF files. PDF files are inherently difficult for people with disabilities to navigate and are NOT mobile friendly. HTML files are more secure and mobile friendly than PDF files.

  • HTML files are the most accessible and user friendly file type. Use the preformatted Common Course Template content pages and modify these to fit your course.
    • Convert Word to HTML (see Word 2016)
  • Microsoft office documents can be made accessible.
    • Microsoft office training videos provide step-by-step instructions.
    • The WebAIM guide for Word 2016 provides step-by-step instructions in print and images.
    • The WebAIM guide for PowerPoint presentations also provides step-by-step instructions in print and images. PowerPoint presentations must include strong color contrast and correct reading order of slide objects. Use preformatted slides and accessible templates. AVOID recording audio individually on each slide. Create a screen recording of yourself presenting the content on the PowerPoint presentation. A video is more accessible and user friendly than PowerPoint presentations with audio narrations.
  • PDF files are inherently difficult for people with disabilities to navigate and are NOT mobile friendly. Creating accessible PDF begins with creating accessible documents and files and converting them to PDF using specific techniques. Adobe acrobat software provides a full accessibility check of PDF files. Improving the accessibility of PDF files is a complex process. Section 508 provides a comprehensive guide for creating accessible PDFs.
    • Convert Word to PDF (See Word 2016)

Accessible Video

Accessible video and audio files can be perceived and understood by all students, regardless of their abilities. 

  • Search for captioned, educational quality video on Galileo. Browse by type (multimedia), and try the Films on Demand or Avon databases. Contact a librarian for additional guidance and assistance with locating accessible videos in your subject area.
  • Tips for creating accessible video:
    • Zoom in to enlarge the content being presented.
    • Provide narration describing all actions, visuals, and navigation used in video.
    • Request captions for faculty produced video.  Learn more and complete the request form at COOL’s captioning services page.

Accessibility Evaluation Tools

Evaluating the accessibility of your course materials can be done with the following tools and provides helpful feedback and tips for improving accessibility. It’s a best practice to add accessibility as you create your course materials. This can be challenging for those new to accessibility and evaluation tools are here to help!

Once you learn more about accessible design it will be easier to add accessibility to your course materials as you create them instead of checking for accessibility and revising your materials. It’s a best practice to add alternative text to images whenever you add an image to a file. Format all new headings using heading styles.  As you develop your accessible design experience and practice, accessibility evaluation will become an easy final check.  Soon you will be using these tools to double check accessibility just as you check spelling to help you locate and fix any spelling errors you may have missed.

Additional Resources

USG Accessibility site

Higher Ed Accessibility Lawsuits, Complaints, and Settlements