Accessibility and Universal Design

Good design tends to be accessible by a diverse a range of users, including users with visual and other impairments. This approach is called Universal Design. Further, many schools and organizations require materials to be accessible by all students. While this page won’t cover everything, it will provide some suggestions to improve accessibility.

Color and Contrast

Some students are color blind. They can’t differentiate between reds and greens. So avoid pure red or green, or make the colored content clearly differentiable. For example, instead of using red and green check marks, you could wither use blue or orange ones, or use a different symbol for each case.

Some students can’t read low contrast content. For example, black lettering upon a dark blue background might not be readable. So make certain to include a sufficiently high contrast.

Image Alternative Text

The visually-impaired often cannot perceive images. This can be somewhat mitigated by including a description in the Alt Text field for the media (see the metadata fields for media items in the Media Library). Alt Text should not merely repeat the caption. It should add descriptive information for those who cannot see the image. For example, the alt text for a volcano could be “pointed mountain with smoke puffing out of top”.


To help audio-impaired persons, videos should ideally be captioned. There are several services who will do this as well as software that allows you to enter such. An alternative that might be sometimes acceptable is to provide a transcript of the video that includes some description of visual elements.

Captioning can also be very helpful to readers whose primary language is different than that of the speakers in the video, or to those accustomed to a different accent.

Interactive Content

Interactive content, such as embedded or linked Javascript applets, can be a challenge for the impaired to fully use, and often don’t even work in all platforms for any users. You should provide an alternative for interactive content just in case it won’t work for some users.

Further Reading

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

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