Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Create Accessible Content

A critical component of equitable student learning is that all content and materials are easily accessible by all students. While you might only consider this if a student requires specific accommodations, not all students with disabilities decide to register with the Office of Disability Resources. For those students who would prefer not to disclose their status, it is really helpful to get accessible content without having to request it. Utilizing built-in tools and following basic accessibility fundamentals are a great start to making sure your course content can be accessed by students of all abilities. While some of these practices may not be familiar to you at first, they are often relatively easy to implement and can become second nature. The Eberly Center is committed to supporting your efforts in accessible design.

While it’s important to reach all students, it can be difficult to determine where to begin when making materials accessible. By applying basic formatting practices to content as you create it, you will save time and energy by not revisiting your materials later. Here are some general suggestions to keep in mind:

Establish hierarchy in your documents to give learners a clear and logical progression from start to finish. You can do this by:

  • Applying preset styles to headings, titles, and body text. 
  • Managing focus and emphasis by using bolding or italics.
  • Using color combinations to add contrast. 
  • Organizing content in a logical structure with headings in chronological order. 
  • Making sure type styles, sizes, and text orientations are consistent. 

This handout on digital accessibility considerations walks you through general concerns, color contrast, font usage, and closed captioning considerations when designing your materials.

If your materials consist of or contain videos, images on a website, a pdf or other text document, provide multiple means of access to those materials. These can include:

  • Adding captions to videos or providing transcripts for media files.
  • Writing hyperlinks using descriptive text that clearly describe the link. Like this for example, These WCAG guidelines on descriptive links provide more information.
  • Applying Alt-text tags to all images, graphs, and figures. Follow our guide on Writing alternative text and long descriptions.
  • Addressing pdf structure by converting pdf’s from word files and not from images. Each word in the body of text should be able to be selected and recognized by screen readers. Avoid multiple columns.
  • Making the course textbook/ media requirements available before the class starts and at the library reserves desk.

Taking a more detailed approach to making accessible content may be the difference your students need to fully access your course content. If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive please reach out to us at

We can discuss in more detail topics like document and slide design, tool development priorities, multimedia options, and closed captioning.

  • Document and slide design consults might include font choices and spacing, using preset layouts, and creating appropriate audio narrations.
  • A conversation about tool development priorities will work to set guidelines on buttons, redirects, and text that work for screen readers and other devices. 
  • We can establish multimedia with players that can be operated by learners with all abilities and devices.
  • Further details on appropriate captioning and transcripts can be defined to include clear labeling, sufficient contrast, appropriate timing, and ability to adjust controls.   

Contact us for support, 1-1 consultation requests, and questions @