Disability & Accessibility Resources

Division of Student Life

Faculty Guide to Accessible Text Materials 

If you receive notification that a student in your course requires accessible instructional materials, then all text and print documents used in your course will need to be provided to the student in an accessible electronic format. This includes all documents and materials that contain text, including:

  • Articles and assigned readings
  • Assignment prompts and instructions
  • Exam prompts and instructions
  • Worksheets and handouts
  • PowerPoint slides and lecture notes
  • Syllabus
  • Textbooks

What is an accessible electronic format?

Students’ accessibility needs vary, but in general: simple text documents, such as Word documents, are accessible. These allow students to enlarge text digitally and to use text-to-speech software to have texts read aloud by their computer. 

PDFs vary in their accessibility. Some PDFs are saved as image files and must be converted into text files to ensure compatibility with text-to-speech software.

When do these materials need to be provided to the student?

To be equitable, course materials should be available to all students who are enrolled in the course at the same time, regardless of format. 

What can I do to ensure my materials are accessible?

For e-reserves: For articles you have requested through e-reserves, Bruce Van Buskirk and DAR staff will collaborate to ensure your materials are accessible. DAR staff will need to preview every document and remediate those that are not accessible. As this process can be time- and labor-intensive, we ask that you please submit your e-reserve requests to the Library by their specified deadline.

For textbooks: For books that have been ordered through the Bookstore, DAR can provide the student with an accessible version of the textbook upon the student’s request. It can take up to 3 weeks to secure an accessible version of a book; therefore we ask that you notify us as soon as possible if you will be assigning any textbooks that have not yet been ordered through the Bookstore.

For articles sent to students via email or uploaded to Moodle directly: For PDFs and other scanned articles that have not been requested through the E-reserve system, you may either:

  • Email the PDF article to DAR staff to request that we preview the document and reformat it as needed. Please email the document to us at least one week before you plan to distribute the document to your students.
  • Use the Accessible Document Converter to convert your scanned PDF into a text document. This service performs best when you start with a high-quality scan that has clear text (not blurry or curved!) and is free from mark-ups. Be sure to check the accuracy of the converted document by copying and pasting a few paragraphs of text and comparing the pasted text to the original document. If the converted document contains several errors, you will need to email the original document to DAR for remediation.

For materials you create yourself (e.g., syllabus, assignment prompts): Create and save your materials as Microsoft Word documents whenever possible. This will eliminate the vast majority of accessibility issues.

What if the syllabus changes over the course of the semester, or I receive notice of this accommodation after classes have already started?

When all course materials are made accessible at the start of the semester, subsequent changes to the scheduled order of readings does not pose a challenge. However, we understand that new additions to the syllabus are sometimes necessary, and sometimes DAR and faculty do not become aware of a student's accommodation need until after classes have already begun. In such cases, it is best to schedule a phone consultation with DAR to discuss a plan for implementing this accommodation.

I have a question specific to my course materials or a student’s needs. Who can provide further assistance?

  • Disability & Accessibility Resources can provide information about a student’s specific needs and how this accommodation may apply to your course. DAR can also answer general questions about the accessibility of course materials.
  • Trina Marmarelli (Director of Instructional Technology Services) can answer questions about the accessibility of exams administered through Moodle and can provide technical assistance around Moodle issues.
  • Bruce Van Buskirk (Library Reserves/Copyright Specialist) can provide information about the e-reserve request process.