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General Accessibility

Accessibility is ensuring that all provided materials are accessible to all students, regardless of ability. When we are making content for our students and community, it is important to be sure that we remember some basic components of accessibility. The content below has many great ways to consider and improve the accessibility of your course materials. 

To Learn more join us for any of our accessibility workshops! Our schedule can be found on our Events and Workshops area. 

If you have any questions that are not addressed in the content, please contact the Instructional Accessibility Group via email at

Below is a list of terms that you will encounter during your quest for instructional accessibility. Refer to this document any time you encounter terms you are unfamiliar with:

  1. Screen Reader: a device used by people who are blind or visually impaired. A screen reader uses text and code to verbally describe what is on the computer screen.

  2. Auditory Processing Disorder: interferes with a person’s ability to distinguish sounds, single out specific sounds in loud environments, or follow oral instructions.

  3. Visual Processing Disorder: interferes with a person’s ability to process visual information (e.g. dyslexia and dysgraphia).

  4. Color blindness: interferes with a person’s ability to see color or distinguish colors. Usually occurs in specific pairs: red & green, blue & yellow, and purple & orange.

  5. Deaf/Hard of Hearing: permanent total or moderate hearing loss. Some can hear with technology or surgery. Deaf people commonly use captions, lip reading, or a sign language interpreter to interact with the hearing world.

  6. Hearing Impaired: mild hearing loss. Usually temporary (e.g. tinnitus).

  7. Speaker Notes: notes section at the bottom of PowerPoint slides. These notes can be read by a screen reader and seen while you are in presentation mode with two displays (i.e. your MSU device and a projector/desktop).

  8. Color Contrast: the difference between two colors. To be ADA compliant, text and background need to have a ratio of at least 4.5:1 (black on white is 21:1/white on white is 1:1).

  9. Animations/Transitions: used in Microsoft PowerPoint to add “style” to the presentations. Animations are used for content on the slides. Transitions are used on the slides themselves.

  10. Figure: any graph, chart, table, graphic, or image used in a document or a presentation.

  11. Image Captions: text that provides context for a figure. Usually below the figure and denotes the figure number (i.e. Figure 2). Captions benefit anyone viewing the information.

  12. Alternative Text: text attached to a figure that is read by a screen reader. Describes the photo to the user.

  13. Closed Captions and Subtitles: both refer to text over videos. Closed captions are more detailed as they name speakers and identify sounds. Subtitles display the audible dialogue only.

Accessibility Basics

Document & Text Accessibility

  1. Avoid images of text like pictures of quotes, billboards, etc. These images will not be read by screen readers, and will in fact be read as ‘blank image.'
  2. Be aware of color choice. Highlight important text by using use text coding like bolditalic, or strikethrough, as screen readers will read them. Text color is a cosmetic change that is not conveyed via screen reader.
  3. Choose the appropriate font for a document is a key component of accessibility. Instead of using complex, very fancy, or highly stylized text consider using a Sans serif font. These fonts lack decorative additions, and are therefore easier to read.
  4. ’Determine Document structure and organization to help convey information. To ensure this organization is more than visual, use the Styles Bar in MS Office products to code text as Titles, Headers, Subtitles, etc

Image Accessibility

  1. Alternative text, or Alt text, is a contextual explanation of the value of an image that does not exceed 150 characters. All images in instruction, regardless of their intent or placement, require alternative text.
    • 150 characters = one Tweet. Can you sum up your image in a tweet?
  2. Consider The Four Key Tenets of Alt-text:
    1. Value: Do you need this image?
    2. Context : Is the image informative or decorative?
    3. Objective: What is being presented or evaluated; what is important to know?
    4. Length: Can you fit the description in two sentences?
  3. Images need textual support, make sure that they are supported with text. Be sure to explain the image in its value in the preceding or succeeding text. Image inaccessibility happens when images are provided without any supporting text.
  4. If the images are too complex, you will use a long description. Long description is a long form detailed description of the image and its value. It expands on the value of the image at a length that alt-text cannot.

PowerPoints and Presentations

  1. Consider text and image accessibility when building presentations.
    • Images need alternative text; Text needs text coding
  2. Slides need a proper reading order. Use the built-in slide templates as their structure is pre-set.
    • To change the reading structure, use the Arrange Tab
  3. Avoid flashing and intrusive animations. If an animation flash is more than three times per second it is a seizure risk.
    • When presenting, in person or online, be sure to reference everything on the slide.
      • People with dyslexia and other processing disorders can have extreme difficulty following a fast-paced presentation.

    Video/Audio Accessibility

    1. Video content needs to be accessible for people who are unable to hear the content. Accessibility can be achieved with the use of CaptionsCaptions captures not only the speech, but also ambient sound and musical score to deliver the full experience of the content.
      • Captions ensure that the content of the film or video is delivered without reliance on sound.
      • Captions must 100%accurate or as close as possible. There is no excuse for inaccurate captions.
    2. Provide transcript for a video to improve its accessibility; With transcripts people who do not have access to the video player can review the content.
      • Transcripts are especially helpful for users with limited internet access, as it removes the need to have access to a strong internet connection.
      1. To make Audio content, like podcasts and recordings, accessible they must include full-length transcripts.
        • Transcripts allow people to read the content rather than have to listen to it. This is helpful to people ranging from those with audio processing disorders to those with a poor internet connection.

      Contrast Guidelines 

      General Knowledge


      1. Avoid complimentary combinations: e.g.: Red and Green. Using these parings can create accessibility issues for people with color blindness.
      2. The color contrast ratio of the text to background needs to be 7:1 to be up to WCAG standards.
        • A ratio of 1:1 would be white on white while a ratio of 21:1 would be white on black.

      Choosing Appropriate Colors


      1. The best contrasts exist between dark colors on light backgrounds. Using bright colors against a bright background however, creates a contrast problem.
      2. is does not mean colors are chosen based solely on contrast. Aesthetics are important too. While aesthetics can add flair and personality, avoid these choices:
        1. Using black as a background. A black background makes it easy to select contrasting text, but it also creates issues when switching from a black background to a lighter one in the same presentation.
        2. Using Yellow or Red for text color:
          1. Yellow text can contrast well with darker backgrounds, but it is no fun to read and cannot be paired with blue as is causes issues with color blindness.
          2. Bright red text is hard to contrast as red on white has a ratio of 3.99:1

      Checking Contrast

      1. WebAIM, Web Accessibility in Mind, has a very robust contrast checker on their resource page.There are several extensions that can be added to Google Chrome for working with websites or within the Google Suite. WCAG Luminosity Contrast Ratio Analyzer is the recommended extension. This tool will allow you to select colors on the screen to find the best contrast.





      The Accessibility Checker is a tool within Canvas that can assess the accessibility of content created in the Rich Content Editor. This guide will show you how to use the Accessibility Checker as well as the gaps in the assessment.

      Using the Accessibility Checker:

      1. Click the Accessibility icon below the right corner of the
      2. Follow the steps to make the suggested changes
      3. Click the question mark icon for more information about how to resolve the issues
      4. Issues include:
        1. Contrast
        2. File names as alt-text
        3. Missing captions

      What the Accessibility Checker Misses:

      1. Structure: the Accessibility Checker will not catch disorganized content or content lacking headings and other text structures.
      2. Inaccessible Alt-Text: the Accessibility Checker will not assess alt-text; it only catches missing Alt-Text or file names as Alt-Text
      3. Missing Transcripts: the Accessibility Checker will not identify a lack of transcripts for audio files

      Bottom Line:

      The Accessibility Checker is a great tool to quickly assess your content in Canvas. However, we as content creators still need to assess all material to ensure full accessibility. For more assistance with determining accessibility, reference the Instructional Accessibility Guides.

      Microsoft Office has a built-in accessibility checker that will identify certain elements that are inaccessible and provide simple steps on how to remediate those issues.

      Disclaimer: The Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker does not catch all accessibility issues. To ensure all accessibility issues are caught and fixed be sure to review our guides, videos, and training content. 

      1. Click Review in the toolbar.
      2. Click Check Accessibility; this will open the 'Inspections Results” window to the right with a list of “Errors” and “Warnings”
      3. Click any of the errors to locate it in the content; this will also create a box around the error in the Inspection Results.
      4. Click the drop-down arrow to the right of the error in the Inspection Results; this will offer suggested actions.
      5. Select the action that best suits your needs.
      6. Reference the “Steps to Fix” at the bottom of the Inspection Results; an error will need to be selected to display any steps.

      General Accessibility

      Below are distributable guides and content that covers the above guides as well as additional Document Accessibility Content.


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