Accessibility and Universal Design

sign with wheelchair symbol for accessibilityCertain accessibility requirements must be addressed when developing learning materials for electronic dissemination to students. Distance education courses, resources and materials must be designed and delivered in such a way that the level of communication and course-taking experience is the same for students with or without disabilities.

The 2011 Distance Education Accessibility Resolution by Foothill College Faculty Academic Senate strongly encourages faculty to familiarize themselves with the requirements specified in the Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines for Students with Disabilities and to take immediate steps to ensure that their online courses and materials are in compliance with these guidelines.

See Distance Education: Accessibility Guidelines for Students with Disabilities from the Chancellor’s Office California Community Colleges.

Still not convinced of the need to address accessibility? Watch this 11 minute video - To Care and Comply: Disability Access produced by Portland Community College.


The most common accessibility compliance issues can be avoided by only using webpages for instruction that -

  • Provide text-equivalents for non-text content (including pictures and audio)
  • Use foreground and background colors that contrast sufficiently
  • Provide captioning for videos
  • Structure large blocks of information into more manageable groups
  • Clearly identify the target of each link (do NOT use "click here")
  • Avoid animation

Learn how to make your online course and learning materials available to ALL students regardless of learning style or disability and then get assistance from staff.

How to make your online course site and webpages accessible

How-To Guide for Creating Accessible Online Learning Content



  • Find out what to ask publishers BEFORE you adopt their textbooks or require your students to use their websites.

Videos and Audio Recordings


  • All images and photos must have alternate text and/or long description
    • Adding Alt Text to Images in Microsoft Word
    • Appropriate Use of Alt Text
      • Use empty Alt-tags - (example: " ") for all decorative and non-essential images
      • Alt-Tags - for all non-decorative images with alt-tags that describe the information you want the student to understand from the displayed image.
        • Example: Use “Joy of connecting with family while watching a movie” instead of more literal “Family sitting on couch watching movie”


Downloadable Documents

Information Hierarchy

  • Use Headers, shorter 3-5 sentence paragraphs, simple and communicative visuals
  • Use “bold” and “italics” sparingly

Color and Contrast

  • Only use color to convey meaning if you provide a written explanation
  • Use high contrast for text against the background

Universal Design for Learning

  • UDL: A Concise Introduction (HTML | PDF)
  • How Do You Teach? A UDL Checklist (DOCX | PDF)

Accessibility Compliance Verification: Review your webpages for accessibility

Get Assistance from Staff

Tutorials and Training

Accessible Web Design

Web Accessibility for Designers infographic with link to text version at


  • My Web My Way - Tips for students about how to make the web easier to use