Universal design is an approach to the designing or creation of materials with consideration of the varied abilities of current and future users and applies to the needs of everyone, regardless of age, size, ability or disability.

JMU is committed to providing appropriate access to information technology, regardless of physical or technological readiness, as outlined in JMU Policy 1211. By adhering to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, along with conformance of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), we can accomplish this university objective through the application of accessibility standards, guidelines, training, tools and methods consistent with higher education.

Follow these best practices to create accessible media and promote equal access to information:


Instruction Considerations

Inclusive presentations - Creating and delivering a presentation that takes into consideration the varied abilities of the audience will maximize participation for everyone. Best Practices for An Inclusive Presentation is a quick reference tool to help insure maximal participation from your audience.

Recorded lectures - Whether you teach synchronously or asynchronously, record your lectures and make them available on Canvas. WebEx, Zoom, and TechSmith Relay can all record live lecture sessions. An accompanying text transcript can help students with hearing loss, learning disabilities, and limited internet access. Consider making a transcript by using Otter.ai (contact ODS Accessible Media if you need assistance) and post it on Canvas or post your lecture script.

Captioned videos - Try to use only videos that are already captioned. See below.

Tests & Exams using Canvas - Here is how to provide extended time in Canvas for students requiring this accommodation.

Converting Image Documents – Use JMU Libraries' document conversion tool SensusAccess. Upload materials to the portal and SensusAccess will automatically convert it to formats including audio, eBook, or a text PDF. This can be very helpful to you and your students if you use a lot of scanned PDFs that are image-only.

Accessibility Checkers - Remember to run Canvas's built in Accessibility Checker as you add content in the Rich Content Editor. Microsoft Office has accessibility checkers in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote that will identify problems and show you how to solve them.

NCDAE one page cheat sheets are helpful for creating accessible content with Microsoft Office products (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel), Adobe products, captioning YouTube videos, and other accessibility topics.


Further Considerations for Online Courses

Accommodations - Accommodations for students with disabilities still apply for online instruction.

Internet - Limited availability of high-speed internet will be an issue for some of your students with online instruction.

Ten Simple Steps Toward Universal Design of Online Courses - Implementing the principles of universal design in online learning means anticipating the diversity of students that may enroll in your course and planning accordingly. These ten key elements will greatly enhance the accessibility and usability of your course for students with and without disabilities.

Compliance - This useful one page Checklist for ADA Compliance in Online Courses was created by the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.


Keep Choosing Accessible Learning Materials (CALM)

Choosing Accessible Learning Materials (Keep C.A.L.M.) is an initiative at JMU to achieve the goals of Universal Design (UD) for students, staff, faculty and all other stakeholders. CALM includes a valuable set of resources created by the Office of Disability Services. Several are excerpted or linked to in the following sections.

Color Contrast

Color contrast is the difference between two colors, the colors used in the background and the foreground. Care should be taken to ensure a level of contrast in body text, logos, and essential diagrams or other pieces of content. Checking contrast considerations:

  • Check your color contrast with a contrast checker if using color combinations other than black and white or trusted JMU color combinations
  • When using graphs and charts, communicate results in both color and text.
  • Create hyperlinks with a different text color than the main body text.  Underline hyperlinks as well.


Captioning is the procedure of converting the audio content of a television broadcast, webcast, film, video, CD-ROM, DVD, live event, or other media into text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to show what is being said in the program and to provide additional or interpretive information. Captioning considerations:

  • YouTube provides a free, user-friendly interface for captioning and transcription without the need to download or learn new software.  This step-by-step guide walks you through three ways of captioning a video that you have uploaded to your personal YouTube account.  (Note: automatic captioning on YouTube is generally insufficient to fully convey information and meaning.)
  • Use a Captioning Vendor to caption the selected media.
  • If captioning is not available (e.g. Podcasts), provide transcripts of the selected media.
  • Tips for Finding and Using Captioned Materials

Alternative Text

Alternative text, also known as Alt-Text, is a short description that describes an image for the benefit of users who may need more information about the image. Most platforms make it easy to add alternative text to images. Guidance provided by ODS:



eText is a fundamental component of online accessibility.  eText, also called digital text or electronic text, can be recognized and read by assistive technologies (AT) like screen readers and other text-to-speech programs. eText can be copied, pasted, and manipulated to meet the needs of the reader.  It can be enlarged without becoming pixelated, and the color, font, and contrast can be adjusted.  In contrast, images of text are not accessible.

Scanning documents often results in inaccessible images of text. Converting images of text into eText requires the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. There are several ways to OCR your materials:

Accessible Word Documents

Accessible Word Documents are designed utilizing Microsoft Word’s tools to create accessibility.  This Keep C.A.L.M. Accessible Word Docs tutorial explains how to implement navigational features, such as headings and lists, and accessibility considerations, such as alternative text and meaningful hyperlinks.


Website Considerations

The JMU Cascade Best Practices: Accessibility Standards tutorial introduces the basic principles of creating an accessible Cascade webpage and useful tips.

Adding Alt-Text to Cascade images.

WebAIM’s Web Accessibility Evaluate Tool, WAVE, can identify webpage accessibility and WCAG errors.

WebAIM empowers organizations to make their web content accessible to all. This site provides comprehensive information and guidance on developing accessible web materials.


JMU Resources

The Accessible Media and Technology (AcMe) program in the Office of Disability Services assists students in procuring accessible course materials, utilizing assistive technologies, and producing accessible formats. Examples of accessible formats include audio versions of books and articles, transcripts or captioned versions of videos and audio, as well as large-print and Braille. AcMe trains students to use assistive technologies as well as the Accessible Technology Labs. AcMe also serves as a resource for faculty and staff by offering training and guidance related to accessible course materials and on-line course design.

The Accessible Technology Labs (AT Lab) are adaptive computer labs geared toward providing equal access to electronic information for students, faculty, and staff with documented disabilities. To explore options and solutions for your specific needs, or to receive training on AT Lab resources, please schedule an appointment with the Office of Disability Services by calling (540) 568-6705. Locations:

  • Student Success Center Accessible Technology Lab - Office of Disability Services, Suite 1202
  • Rose Library Accessible Technology Lab Room 1204
  • Carrier Library Accessible Technology Lab Room 119

CAMMO Training: Creating Accessible Material in Microsoft Office (CAMMO) training is offered through IT Training during Disability Awareness Week in March, register in MyMadison.

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