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Saint Paul College A Community & Technical College

​Accessibility Tips

Universal design boosts inclusivity by reducing barriers to access. In addition to being the law, it benefits all students to have clear, easy-to-use material online. Here are some simple things you can do to mak​e your course accessible. Please note that the list of tips below does not guarantee compliance.

If you are interested in learning more, check the PD calendar for upcoming accessibility trainings. You may send a sample document to aei@saintpaul.edu and arrange a meeting for feedback.

Accessibility Tips (PDF)

Built-in Accessibility Checkers

The same basic universal design principles apply to materials in various formats, and many programs have built-in accessibility checkers that will find errors and suggest fixes for you. Here are instructions on how to find and use them:


Screen readers are used by visually impaired students to read text on a document or web page aloud. If text is not formatted correctly, it cannot be read by the student.

  • For scanned PDFs, make sure the text is readable and not an image
  • A quick way to test this is to CTRL+F and search for a word on the first page - if the word is found, it’s readable

Use headers to give your document or page structure. Screen readers allow users to quickly navigate through content with the Tab key.

  • Use Headers in descending levels (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3)
  • Don’t skip any levels
  • Do it in MS Word first then use that document to create a PDF
Alt Tags

Images can also be seen by screen reader users with alt-tags, where text describing the purpose of the image is read aloud. Write as if you are describing it to a person on the phone – typically no more than a few words or a couple of sentences.

  • If you have a picture with a lot of text in it, consider using a table instead
  • Be accurate and equivalent in presenting the content and function of the image
  • Don’t use alt-tags for decorative images like borders or dividers
  • In MS Word alt-tags can be added in the “Format Photo” menu
Color Contrast

Color contrast is the ratio of the text color to the background color. A poor ratio can make it difficult for regular users, or those with colorblindness, to read the text. Using size 14, sans serif font, such as Calibri, will also boost readability.

  • Don’t use color, bold font, or underlining alone to show emphasis/meaning
    • For example, use shape in addition to color:
      An example of using shape in addition to color to give meaning
  • Avoid reds, greens, and grey on white text
  • Check color contrast using this free downloadable tool
  • The D2L Brightspace Accessibility Checker can also assist you
Examples of good and bad color contrast

Hyperlinks also need to be formatted to ensure accessibility. To ensure proper screen reader performance:

  • Don’t need to say “link to” or “click here”
  • Don’t paste long hyperlinks, ex. https://www...; use regular text with the link embedded
  • Include alt-tags in any image links
  • Alert the user if there is a download or non-webpage destination (PDF, Doc, etc.)

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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