How to Make Electronic Materials Accessible

How to Make Electronic Docs, Email, Media, Webpages, and devices to interact with them, accessible.

What is Information Communication Technology (ICT)?

Generally speaking, it is information in electronic form, e.g: Word documents, PowerPoints, PDFs, Online Surveys, Emails and Websites, tools to make the aforementioned, and the hardware or technology used to present and allow interaction. More from the ICT Refresh Final Rule: Text of the Standards and Guidelines Section E103, roughly paragraph 17:

Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Information technology and other equipment, systems, technologies, or processes, for which the principal function is the creation, manipulation, storage, display, receipt, or transmission of electronic data and information, as well as any associated content. Examples of ICT include, but are not limited to: computers and peripheral equipment; information kiosks and transaction machines; telecommunications equipment; customer premises equipment; multi-function office machines; software; applications; Web sites; videos; and, electronic documents...

Who is responsible for making or ensuring that ICT is accessible?

Generally, accessibility is everyone's job. More specifically related to ICT, it is the responsibility of the creator, developer, acquirer, or purchaser of ICT.

What does accessible mean?

From the Questions & Answers about Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act:

"The standards developed by the Access Board explain the detailed technical and functional performance criteria that will determine whether a technology product or system is 'accessible.'

In general, an information technology system is accessible to people with disabilities if it can be used in a variety of ways that do not depend on a single sense or ability. For example, a system that provides output only in audio format would not be accessible to people with hearing impairments, and a system that requires mouse actions to navigate would not be accessible to people who cannot use a mouse because of dexterity or visual impairment. Section 508 focuses on the overall accessibility of electronic and information technology systems, not on providing accommodations at individual worksites. Section 501 (504 for TCC) of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities; it generally covers individual worksites but not overall technology systems. Even with an accessible system, individuals with disabilities may still need specific accessibility-related software or peripheral devices as an accommodation to be able to use it. For example, in order to use an accessible word-processing program, a person who is blind may need add-on software that reads text aloud; if the word-processing program could not be made compatible with a screen-reading program, it might not be accessible."

How do you know if a website or electronic document is accessible? Creating or Using/Maintaining Existing ICT

Creating ICT:

If you are planning ICT you have the advantage of being able to reference:

  1. P.O.U.R.: Constructing a Perceivable, Operable, Usable, Robust (POUR) Website - from
  2. Microsoft Accessibility - Training Videos and Tutorials
  3. U.S. Access Board standards and guidelines
  4. - Create Accessible Digital Products
  5. W3C WAI Making the Web Accessible
  6. Additional links to tools, guides, and tutorials are listed below.

Using/Maintaining Existing ICT:

If you are looking at existing ICT you can first check it for accessibility before deciding to use it. Checking can start with an automated tool, but at this point in time, you still have to do manual checks. A shortlist of guides and tools for creating and checking ICT is available below.

Resources For Creating and Maintaining ICT

Accessible Surveys and Forms

  1. 508-Compliance
  2. Qualtrics - Accessibility
  3. Qualtrics - Check Survey Accessibility
  4. WuFoo - Accessibility Should Be A Priority, Not An Afterthought

Blackboard 9.1 Accessibility

  1. Design Accessible Content
  2. Write Accessible Content
  3. Blackboard Ally - Check your class sites and content for accessibility. Convert documents to accessible alternative formats.
  4. Instructional resources at Engaged Learning's Creating Accessible Content: A Resource for Faculty
  5. Accessibility Features
  6. Best Practice: Formatting Accessible Documents
  7. Best Practice: Using Tests With JAWS
  8. Blackboard Accessibility

Electronic Document Accessibility (PDF's Word Documents, PowerPoints, ... etc.)

  1. Microsoft Accessibility - Training Videos and Tutorials
  2. Microsoft Accessibility - Everything you need to know to write effective alt text.
  3. Microsoft Office - Accessibility Checker
  4. Microsoft - Office 365: Accessibility
  5. Microsoft - Make your Word documents accessible
  6. Microsoft - Make your PowerPoint documents accessible
  7. Microsoft - Make your Excel spreadsheets accessible
  8. Microsoft - Make your Outlook email accessible
  9. Microsoft - Make your Skype for Business meetings more accessible
  10. Microsoft - Create accessible PDFs
  11. Office Accessibility Center - Resources for people with disabilities
  12. Cheatsheets/Guides for creating accessible content (Word, PowerPoint, PDFs)
  13. PDF - Adobe Acrobat - Create and verify PDF accessibility (Acrobat Pro)
  14. National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM): Resources for Word, PowerPoint & PDF Accessibility Training
  15. WebAIM - PDF Accessibility: Acrobat and Accessibility


Most Microsoft Office products should allow you to create accessible math. In case there is a need for additional tools: AsciiMATH - One method for providing math equation accessibility is using ASCII Math. Equations written in AsciiMath are easily read by screen readers and Braille display devices. Writing your equations in AsciiMath format will usually allow you to enter them into equation editors such as those within Microsoft Word.

Purchasing ICT

There is more to this than the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). Anyone who makes purchases for an institution, not just the purchasing department, is a purchasing agent. By law, It is your responsibility as a purchasing agent to make sure that the ICT you are acquiring is accessible.

A VPAT does not automatically make the ICT accessible. You have to do some checking. Here are advice, questions, and guides that other institutions have developed to help you verify ICT product accessibility.

Stockton University has a page called Evaluating Publisher Content for Accessibility in which you will find an excellent set of questions for checking specific aspects of publisher content including accessibility documentation, product support, instructional website, video-based content, audio-based content, hard copy text, electronic text, data/document repositories, interactive tools and simulations, and finally, accessibility links for major publishers.

Video & Audio Accessibility

  1. Audio Description - Webinars from 3Playmedia
  2. Captioning & related webinars - 3Playmedia
  3. Captioning - YouTube Do-it-yourself transcription and translations (Captions and Description)
  4. Captioning - Captioning YouTube videos
  5. Captions, Transcripts, and Audio Descriptions - WebAIM
  6. Create Closed Captions using Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) and YouTube - Iowa State University - Covers:
  • Converting Video to Audio using Video Lan Client
  • Transcribing DNS. The Accessibility Resources has DNS. Please contact Accessibility Resources for more info.
  • Retraining Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  • Syncing Transcription to Video using YouTube

Besides video, audio also needs to be accessible:

  1. Providing a transcript of the audio or,
  2. Recording or converting the audio to a video and captioning it.
  3. 3PlayMedia: Tips for Making Web Video & Audio Accessible

Tools for converting Voice to Text--Speech-to-Text

  • Article from Make Use Of The Best (Free) Speech-to-Text Software for Windows

Tools for converting Text to Voice--Text-to-Speech

Web Accessibility

  1. Identifying Web Accessibility Issues - The page includes a video. If you have problems viewing it, try viewing the video on
  2. Testing Web Content for Accessibility - WebAIM - Quick Reference.
  3. Using NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) to Evaluate Web Accessibility.
  4. How to do an Accessibility Review - Google.
  5. Keyboard Accessibility info/guide from
  6. General info about Accessibility Evaluation tools - WebAIM. You will have to perform manual checks. Remember: Do not rely on fully automated tools to check for accessibility. They can not perform important checks such as keyboard navigation, form accessibility, text contrast with backgrounds, important text embedded in pictures (pictures of text), and others.
  7. Accessible Form Controls, techniques, Advanced Form Labeling, and Form Validation:
  8. P.O.U.R.: Constructing a Perceivable, Operable, Usable, Robust (POUR) Website - from
  9. Everything you need to know to write effective alt text

  10. Web Accessibility for Designers - from The focus of web accessibility is often on web development – the things that happen in HTML, CSS, or JavaScript after a site has been designed visually. Optimal accessibility should start much earlier, as part of the visual design process. We have created an infographic that highlights a few important principles of accessible design."
  11. WC3 - How to Meet WCAG 2.0: A customizable quick reference to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 requirements (success criteria) and techniques: This is what Section 508 is based upon. WCAG 2.0 Level AA is what the Access Board has decided upon for new Section 508 standards.

Other Sites with Good Info & Tutorials for Creating and Testing Accessible Content

  1. TCC's Engaged Learning has info, tutorials, and courses for Creating Accessible Content. The intended audience is mainly Instructors, but staff can also find useful items.
    • Course - Accessibility Fundamentals Workshop - This course is designed to provide you with a broad knowledge of how the electronic course materials we make available to our learners can present barriers to those with a wide variety of disabilities, and specific steps we can take to eliminate or circumvent those barriers.
    • Accessibility Checklist - Utilize these 10 steps to prepare accessible materials for students.
    • Knowmia - With Knowmia, you can record with a web camera or a phone app, embed a video directly into Blackboard, and have a conversation or a quiz within the videos you create. Knowmia also allows you to generate and edit captions.