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Accessibility Guidance

The University is committed to improving accessibility to ensure that all students can engage effectively with content. In addition, when publishing content online, including via myUCA, the University is required to comply with the accessibility requirements outlined by Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile applications) (No 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

For information on acquiring accessible formats for students and staff with assessed needs, see - Accessible Formats Service.

Key Principles
When publishing content online the following key principles should be considered -

Consider the font you are using in documents. The colours, size and style will impact how readable your document is. While the legislation has no minimum font size requirement it is advisable to consider a larger font size to make your document more accessible. A font size of 12pt and above will make your document more readable. Use easy to read font styles such as Arial, Calibri, Century Gothic, Helvetica, Sans Serif, Tahoma and Verdana. Use bold for emphasis and avoid italics and underlining. Any colours of text should contrast with the background colour.

Get into the practice of adding a heading structure to documents, this will help students better navigate your document. It is also advisable to align text to the left and avoid columns where possible.

Use background colours that provide sufficient contrast between the background and the text or foreground. Be cautious of using colour over text to convey meaning, visually impaired students may be excluded. Instead use alternative ways to emphasis text, such as bold text, larger text, use space.

Use of images
Ensure you provide textural descriptions for any images using Alt text.

Ensure hyperlinks are clearly labelled. Describe the purpose of the link and avoid using common, non-descriptive phrases such as ‘Click here’ or ‘Read more’. Instead add the link in the text, so for example, ‘For more information, visit the Victoria and Albert Museum’s webpage on the History of Fashion'.

Plain English
It sounds obvious but write with the reader in mind as clearly and concisely as possible. Plain English means avoiding long overly complex language such as jargon, unexplained acronyms and long words.

If you add a table into a document, ensure headings are put in the first row.

These principles are based on the SCULPT Model developed by Worcestershire County Council as a guide to everyday inclusive digital practice.

Guidance on creating accessible content using specific tools such as Word, PowerPoint, and formats such as image, pdf and video are detailed on the tabs above.

To ensure your Word document is fully accessibility ensure you use the Accessibility Checker Tool in Word (see the guidance below). This will highlight important accessibility requirements such as ensuring images have Alt Text and that you have a headings structure.

Microsoft offers an automated accessibility checker which can identify issues and how to rectify. To run the accessibility checker, select Review >Check Accessibility. Start to get into the practice of using the accessibility checker when compiling a document, this will ensure your document is sufficient for those with different disabilities and so no one has major issues with your content.

Adding Alt text to an image provides a written description which can be read aloud by a screen reader. To add Alt text in Word, right click on the image and select view Alt text from the drop down menu.

Text laid out as a Header and subheadings. An image of a cat with a drop down menu and the 'View alt text' option

The format picture panel will appear and may automatically generate text that describes the image or alternatively you can add your description of the image.

Text laid out as a Header and subheadings. An image of a silver rubbish bin with the Alt text menu displaying to the right. Image is demonstrating how to add Alt text in Word.

Alt text descriptions typically should be brief and not exceed 125 characters. A useful guide to learn more about writing Alt text descriptions is the Poet Training Tool.

Microsoft Word has built in styles for titles, headings, bullets and numbers, which help create a structured document. Both screen reader users and sighted users (from the Navigation pane) use headings to navigate lengthy documents. Headings can be added by highlighting the desired text and selecting in the Home Panel > Styles and select Heading 1. For the shortcut on a mac press ⌘⌥1 , ⌘⌥2 or ⌘⌥1 to apply header style 1, 2 or 3 respectively and the shortcut on a PC is Ctrl+Alt+1, Ctrl+Alt+2 or Ctrl+Alt+3 respectively.

Microsoft Word file with the text Getting Started highlighted. Image is demonstrating how to add a heading in Microsoft Word.

To change a heading, select the Styles Pane in the home panel.

Generally, when creating headings, it is recommended,

  • To use Sans Serif Font with a text size of 12.
  • Use Bold text to emphasise rather than italics.
  • Align text to the left.

Ensure any lists are numbered or bulleted. This will help individuals with screen reader technology, to navigate the list. Lists should be created from the Paragraph section in the Home tab. Chose to insert either a numbered list or a bulleted list. To create a multi-level list, press the tab key to indent text.

Microsoft Word file with a text heading of  Getting Started and then subheadings with  bullet points. Highlighted are the Numbering and Multi-level list buttons in the toolbar. Image is demonstrating how to add headings in Microsoft Word.

Ensure when adding hyperlinks, you don’t use terms such as ‘click here’ or ‘see here’ but rather describe the purpose of the link and provide context. For example, Lecture 1 The Fashion Bibles (slides from lecture)

To insert a hyperlink, highlight the text you want linked, right click and select ‘link’ or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+K or ⌘+K.

It is important to remember that screen readers will naturally read content one row at a time from left to right. To ensure the table is comprehendible ensure you add headings in the top row and not in a column down the side. Making the top row a designated header row you can improve the accessibility of the table; some screen readers will read out the row name before reading out the data in each individual cell.

Also, provide Alt text for the table which gives an overview of the information the table contains.

Ensure references are properly formatted. Select the word or sentence you would like to cite and then select References from the main menu > select Insert Citation. Complete various fields to create a reference in the text.

PDFs must be accessible. If a Word document has been converted into a PDF it should retain the accessibility features established in Word, however, it is always worth checking by using the Accessibility Checker in Adobe Acrobat (see below for guidance). The Accessibility Checker will highlight key issues such as text not being OCR'd, no document tagging or images without Alt text.

Whether the PDF has been converted from a different format or is a direct PDF created in Adobe Acrobat, it is always worth running a check using the Accessibility checker. This can be found under Tools > Accessibility. From here you will be able to select Accessibility Check > an Accessibility Checker Options window will open > select Start Checking.

Adobe Acrobat interface with PDF file loaded. The Accessibility Checker Options window is open and the option to Start Checking the document is highlighted.

This will produce a list of potential issues.

Adobe Acrobat interface and Accessibility Checker window is open displaying accessibility errors.

There will typically be various issues flagged up in this report with a red cross, however it is advised to focus on rectifying Tagged PDF, Title, Headings, Primary Language, Alt text missing and Colour Contrast. The guidance below will detail how to address these issues using the Accessibility Checker report.

Manually tagging a PDF is very time consuming therefore you want to set an automated process to do this. This can be done by selecting the Accessibility Checker and generating a report as detailed above. Once you have run the report and have the results, look for ‘Tagged PDF’, if there is a red cross next to it, right click on ‘Tagged PDF’ and select ‘Fix’.

Adobe Acrobat interface and Accessibility Checker window is open displaying accessibility errors. Highlighted is the text Tagged PDF - Failed and the option to Fix is also highlighted.

If this does not resolve the issue of tagging (sometimes the case in merged PDF documents), it may be advisable to return the document back to its original format and check accessible settings (for example, in Word), or consult the Adobe Guide on Tagging for further guidance.

In the Accessibility Checker report look for Title, if there is a red cross next to this field right click on ‘Title’ and select ‘Fix’

Adobe Acrobat interface and Accessibility Checker window is open displaying accessibility errors. Highlighted is the text Title - Failed and the option to Fix is also highlighted.

This will automatically add a title or present a window where you can add a title for the document. This same window can also be accessed and modified by going into the document Properties, found under the File menu.

Adobe Acrobat interface. Window titled Document Properties is displayed. Title field is highlighted with the text 'What is an IPTC header.docx' entered.

In the Accessibility Checker Report look for ‘Language’ and if flagged up with a red cross, right click and select ‘Fix’. This will present a window where you can confirm/select the relevant language.

Adobe Acrobat interface. Window titled Set Reading Language displayed with option OK highlighted.

To input Alt text into images, check the accessibility report and look for Figures alternate textFailed with a red cross next to it, right click on ‘Title’ and select ‘Fix’. A pop-up window will be displayed titled Set Alternate Text. If the image is decorative then you can tick the box next to decorative figure.  If it is a photographic image you must reflect in textural form what the images conveys, do this by completing the empty field and select Save & Close.

A useful guide to learn more about writing Alt text descriptions is the Poet Training Tool.

Adobe Acrobat interface. Window titled Set Alternate Text displayed. Text in the alternate text field reads 'Image of silver rubbish bin with grey background'. The Save & Close button is highlighted.

In general, a dark colour (black, navy blue, dark grey) on a light background (white or light grey) will make a document accessible. Setting the background colour to an off-white or a light grey colour, as opposed to pure white can be beneficial to readers with dyslexia.

Use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to identify and adjust text so that it can be read aloud to students with assistive technology. To apply OCR, have the PDF file open in Adobe Acrobat DC, select Scan and OCR from the toolbar and then Recognise Text > In this file.

PDF file showing a partial scan from a book. In the tool bar to the right the option Scan and OCR has a green circle around it and a green arrow pointing towards it.

To ensure that your Powerpoint presentation is fully accessible use the Accessibility Checker tool in Powerpoint (see guidance below). This will review the content and give a list of any errors or warnings with recommendations on how to fix issues. In particular, ensure images in your presentation have Alt text applied.

It is possible to run an Accessibility Check in PowerPoint. To do this using a mac select Tools > Check Accessibility. On a PC select Review > Check Accessibility. This will give a list of issues that need to be rectified. Common things that the check will identify are:

  • Images with no Alt text
  • Unclear hyperlinks
  • Missing slide titles
  • Unclear reading order.

If you click on each issue, it will identify the exact slide number which has that issue. The list will tell you how to fix an issue or you can use this guide to help rectify issues.

Accessibility checker window in PowerPoint with a description of how Steps to fix issue with reading order

Give each slide a descriptive title, this will make it easier for screen readers.

If you are using bullet points it is advisable to put a full stop after each point to ensure the screen reader can identify each individual point.

Avoid posting whole URL strings into the presentation text, instead embed the link.

To add Alt text to images in PowerPoint, right click on the image and select View Alt Text this will then load a window on the right hand side.

PowerPoint slide with image, displaying drop down menu with the option ‘View Alt Text’ highlighted

The ALT text window in Powerpoint

Complete the field providing a brief description of the image or if the image is decorative tick the Mark as Decorative box. Alternatively, you can select ‘Generate alt text for me’ and an automated description will appear in the field. A useful guide to learn more about writing Alt text descriptions is the Poet Training Tool.

Screen Tips provide descriptive text when a cursor is hovering over a specific button, image or hyperlink. This can be useful to add additional information about specific elements in your presentation. To add screen tips right click on the element, select Link and then select the button marked Screen Tips. An empty text box will appear and you can type in your ScreenTip.

Videos embedded in a PowerPoint should be made accessible. Ensure videos have captioning added (see the tab around video content).

Sending out slides in advance can give individuals with disabilities time to access relevant materials with assistive technologies. Including a glossary of terms or acronyms can be helpful for those with reading difficulties and non-native speakers.

  • Use a good quality microphone and speak slowly and clearly.
  • Use plain English and give time for the audience to process the information.
  • Describe all visuals.
  • Avoid text-heavy slides. Use keywords or phrases instead.
  • If you are planning any activities, consider whether they are accessible for all and offer alternatives.

Making audio and video content accessible is important to ensure all content is accessed in a fair and equal way. This may involve adding captioning or a transcript.

Panopto is the University’s lecture capture system. It allows academics to record their teaching sessions or upload recordings and then make these available through myUCA. Within Panopto you can apply captioning to videos, the captioning is computer generated and can be inaccurate now and then.

  • To access Panopto, log in to your course unit and Select Panopto video from the menu on the left-hand side.
  • The Panopto page for the course will open.
  • If you have created a video under this course unit, the recording will appear in a list below the search box.
  • Select Edit.
  • The video will load.
  • Select Captions.
  • From the ‘import captions’ menu select Import Automatic Captions.

Panopto interface. A screenshot of a recorded lecture and  menu. The option Captions is highlighted and the option Import automatic captions is also highlighted.

Panopto interface. A drop down menu has the option 'Import captions'  selected. A transcript of captions is shown.

The captions can be edited to improve their accuracy.

If you are interested in further guidance on captioning consult the Panopto Guide.

If you require a transcript of the Panopto captioning, Select Edit, Select Captions, Select Import captions > Upload or request captions. A pop-up window will be loaded and under ‘Available Captions’ select the arrow next to the language this will give the option to Download the captioning as a file. Be aware the file downloaded will include time stamps.

Accessible video tips
  • Plan well in advance for live captioning to be added.
  • Consider speaker visibility, ensure the presenter’s face is visible in any recording to ensure users who use mouth movement to understand spoken language.
  • Avoid large, bright flashing in video content that is flashes more than 3 times per second as this can trigger a seizure.

In a similar way to video content, uploading an audio file (such as a podcast or a recording of a lecture) to Panopto will enable you to add captioning. You will also be able to generate a transcript. It is useful to note that transcripts can be beneficial to users who cannot access audio on their computers. 

Accessible audio tips

  • Use a high-quality microphone.
  • Where feasible record in a room that is isolated from external sounds.
  • Avoid rooms with hard surfaces such as tile or wood floors.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, this will help the automatic captioning to be generated and be accurate.
  • Pause between topics.

Blackboard is UCA’s virtual learning environment, known as myUCA and is a key part of every unit and programme taught at UCA. Blackboard Ally is a tool within myUCA that helps you make course content in Blackboard accessible to all users. The tool automatically scans course content and provides accessibility scores. In addition the tool will feedback how to improve the accessibility of content.

Once you have uploaded a file to myUCA, observe the gage that appears on the left-hand side. This will be coloured coded red (low), amber (medium) or green (high) to indicate the level of compliance with accessibility regulations.

Graphical interface of VLE with list of files some with red gage symbols next to them and others with amber or green gage symbols

If you click on the gage icon, a window will open and detail the main priority issue with the file you have uploaded. You will also be able to select options to see an explanation of the issue, how to rectify the issue and the option to display all other accessibility issues with that file.

Graphical interface of VLE with gage showing 6% highlighted in red. Text reads This PDF is untagged

Blackboard Ally can also create alternative formats of your files if the student wants to. To do this the student can click on the Alternative formats icon to see the different formats available.

Blackboard ally alternative formats icon. An A beside a downward facing arrowThe alternative formats are created for the student however please note the more accessible the original content created is, then the more alternative formats will be available. By selected this icon the student will be able to download course content in the format that best suits their learning (PDF, HTML, ePUB, audio files, BeeLine Reader, Immersive Reader).

If you require further help with Blackboard Ally, visit the help site.

Further Guidance

The UK Government Digital Service has produced guidance on performing an accessibility check.

If you require specific assistance in making your online teaching content more accessible contact the Learning Technology Team at

If you have a student or are staff member with an assessed disability and require an accessible copy of something from the Library, see Accessible Formats Service.

Further Reading