Creating Accessible Materials

Removing barriers towards accessing your course content not only supports the laws, it can improve student outcomes by reducing student frustration, increase student persistence and retention in your course, and provide sufficient time for learners to be focusing on the meaning of content as opposed to spending time trying to "get at" the content.

Selecting Course Materials

One way to ensure the accessibility and usability of your course content is by carefully selecting materials that you require students to interact with in your course. This can be managed through the adoption of course texts that are available from the publisher in digital format (e.g. e-text, or accessible PDF files) and by using videos that are captioned or auditory materials that come with digital text transcripts.

Asking publishers up-front for accessible versions of their materials can make the difference between having your course be readily accessible by a wider array of learners at the start of the term and having to make time during the term to make your materials accessible.

Designing Your Curriculum

When designing and selecting curriculum materials that will deliver information in a visual format, keep in mind the user or learner who does not have the ability to receive or perceive visual information.

Selecting and designing your materials with this user profile in mind will not only ensure that your materials are accessible to the individual without vision, but will help your materials to be accessible for individuals with reading and language-based disabilities or even for individuals with executive function based disabilities.

Likewise, considering learners who are not able to receive or perceive auditory information will require that the instructor is ensuring that any auditory-based information presented in their curriculum is accompanied by visual and/or print-based formats.

Necessary Steps

We are here to help with the conversion process. Accordingly, it is important for academic departments and instructors to take the following steps:

  • Post required text and books with ISBN and edition information on the Registrar's Course Timetable site prior to student course registration.
  • If a student requests that course readings be converted to alternative formats, we may request that you make the "Course Designer" on your course site(s) so that we can convert assigned reading material. We do not make any changes to the site or materials. We simply download any readings to our own server to be reformatted and then retrieved by eligible students.
  • If you use a site other than Canvas to post course readings and syllabi, please let us know how to access your materials before the term starts so that we can begin converting at least the first two weeks of assigned material.
  • Ensure that the name of required readings listed in your course syllabi matches the names of files linked on your course site.
  • Provide the book publisher, ISBN and edition information if you are using copied chapters or excerpts of chapters from a book.
  • If you use a lot of PDF reading material, the quality of the scan can greatly impact its compatibility with screenreader technology. Dartmouth faculty and staff have access to an editing tool called ABBYY that can be very helpful in improving the quality of scanned material. Feel free to contact us at to learn more or schedule a tutorial.

All material we get from course sites is used only by our office and eligible students.

We welcome faculty and staff visits during our drop-in hours to observe the document conversion process first-hand or learning more about supporting accessibility and usability.