ITMAT Education Accessibility Checklist

It is important, especially in online or hybrid courses, to ensure accessibility of course materials. ITMAT Education created the below checklist to help faculty quickly create and revise course materials with accessibility in mind.

Below are multiple levels for accessibility screening. We recommend starting with Level 1. Once your materials have been updated to Level 1 Accessibility, you might consider adding additional accessibility measures.

It's always easier to design accessible content from the beginning, rather than to edit materials retroactively. We recommend revisiting this page or consulting with ITMAT Education staff before creating new course materials so you can have these guidelines at the top of your mind.

Level 1: Accessibility Basics

Make sure your font and background color choices are accessible.

Avoid red text and other difficult-to-read text colors

Red may be a Penn color, but it is incompatible with screen readers and can present issues for audiences with colorblindness.

  • DO: Use blues, blacks, or other dark colors for text.

Examples of good/acceptable text color combinations: black text on white background; white on black/navy; deep blue on white; purple on white; dark green on what.

  • DON’T: Use red, yellow (on white backgrounds), lighter colors in general, or use color alone to differentiate important information.

Poor/unacceptable examples of text color and contrast, including: red text; yellow text on white background; yellow on black.

  • To differentiate one concept from another concept, don’t use color combos that colorblind people can’t see. (Such as: red/green, green/brown, blue/purple, green/blue, blue/gray, etc.)
    • This also goes for figures and graphs. Avoid using these color combinations for line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, and other figures.

Avoid highlighting text or relying on color alone for emphasis

As discussed above, there are many accessible ways to create emphasis for certain information.

  • DO: Use size, bolding, or color (in combination) to emphasize text. Also consider using labels or text markers that can be read by a screen reader or recognized without color cues.

Text reads: IMPORTANT: Combinations of color, bolding, size, and text labels should be used to indicate a point’s importance. (Don’t rely on color alone.)

  • Ideally, use other cues in addition to color to differentiate graphics or important words (such as size, boldness, text labels, and patterns in figures). Below, patterns are used in a figure to differentiate in addition to color.

A bar graph showing "Pets owned by Person" delineates type of pet owned both with color and with fill patterns in the bars.

  • DON’T: Use red, yellow (on white backgrounds), lighter colors in general, poor-contrast highlight, or color by itself to differentiate important information.
    • Text that is only highlighted or only color-coded will not necessarily be emphasized for people who use screen readers or who are colorblind. Use multiple markers of importance.

Alternative text is a type of invisible caption for images or figures. Hidden from average users, alternative text assists people with vision impairments, those who use screen readers, and learners with other types of disabilities. It also helps everyone with context and interpretation of images and figures. 

Image descriptions

Whenever you use an image, you may right-click (or cmd-click) and select “Edit Alt Text” to supply a description.

For example, in a course unit that discusses researchers’ engagement with study subjects…

  • DO: Use descriptive text that replaces the image, no more than a few sentences, and includes context from the lesson.
    • Alt text: A clinician discusses study participation details with a parent and child. Their expression is warm.
  • DO: If an image is for decorative purposes only, mark it as decorative. (Available under the Edit Alt Text menu)
  • DON’T: Leave the default file name as the alt text, or use vague text without context.
    • Alt text: Doctor with patients
    • Alt text: PatientConsult.jpg
    • No alt text

Figure/chart descriptions

In order to be fully accessible, charts and figures should include text-only descriptions that convey the same data. This will assist visually impaired and color-blind students but can also help clarify meaning for all learners.

A bar graph indicates the number and type of pets owned by Joe, Monique, Savannah, Caroline, and Donovan. Savannah has the largest number of pets (6 cats). Donovan has 3 geckoes and 1 parakeet. Caroline has 2 cats and 2 dogs. Monique has 3 dogs. Joe has 1 gecko and 1 cat.

  • DO: Use descriptive text that replaces the table (not just describes it) OR that summarizes the table, with a full description elsewhere.
    • Alt text: A bar graph indicates the number and type of pets owned by Joe, Monique, Savannah, Caroline, and Donovan. Savannah has the largest number of pets (6 cats). Donovan has 3 geckoes and 1 parakeet. Caroline has 2 cats and 2 dogs. Monique has 3 dogs. Joe has 1 gecko and 1 cat.
    • Alt text: A bar graph indicates the number and type of pets owned by several people.
      Later description in text (not alt text):  In the chart above. Savannah has the largest number of pets (6 cats). Donovan has 3 geckoes and 1 parakeet. Caroline has 2 cats and 2 dogs. Monique has 3 dogs. Joe has 1 gecko and 1 cat.
    • Alternatively, you may focus on the content that is most relevant to the lesson.
      Alt text: A bar graph shows that Savannah has the most pets (6), Joe has the fewest (2), and three of the pet owners have at least two different kinds of pets.
    • Consider, also, providing data in simple table formats.
  • DON’T: Leave the default file name as the alt text, or use vague text without context.
    • Alt text: Bar graph of pet ownership
    • Alt text: Bargraph1.png
    • No alt text

Level 2: Accessibility Enhancers

For videos, podcasts, or anything with audio, transcripts or captions are important to make multimedia accessible for people with hearing impairments. Transcripts and captions are also helpful for second-language English speakers, some learning disabilities and learners who prefer to consume information through text. 

  • Zoom includes a live transcription feature. Please turn it on at the beginning of any synchronous course meeting or asynchronous material recording. Learn how to enable Zoom Live Transcriptions here.

A GIF showing how to enable Zoom Live Transcriptions

  • Using Zoom to record asynchronous videos/materials will generate captions using Zoom Live Transcriptions above.
  • Make sure any external videos or audio (not created by you) has captions or a transcript. YouTube videos have automatically generated captions as well.
  • If you’d like to use a video or audio resource but need help creating captions or transcripts, contact the ITMAT Ed staff team.

Hyperlink formatting is an important and efficient piece of accessibility. 

To make hyperlinks accessible for screen readers and to keep them short and easy to read, apply a hyperlink to text rather than pasting a link directly in a document or page. Make sure the display text is descriptive, not vague.

Additional Resources

See resources from Penn and other sources.