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Faculty and Staff Learning Modules

Learning Module 1 - Students Needing Disability Accommodations: Faculty and Student Responsibilities

Disability Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, along with the Amendments Act of 2008, prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. 


Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states: “No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States... shall, solely on the basis of disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance”... 


Office of Civil Rights (OCR)

The Office for Civil Rights enforces several Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education


Civil rights laws enforced by OCR extend to all state education agencies, elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries, and museums that receive U.S. Department of Education funds. 

Areas covered may include, but are not limited to: admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, student treatment and services, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, vocational education, recreation, physical education, athletics, housing, and employment.

Student Responsibilities

Student with disabilities have the following responsibilities.

  • Students seeking accommodations must provide documentation of disability (from a certified health care provider) to SAS.
  • Students seeking accommodations must register with SAS.
  • Students who need accommodations must request their accommodation letter each term for their professors. This is completed through ClockWork (Tutorials for this process are on the SAS web site).
  • Students with disabilities must meet the same academic expectations as all other students at UNF. 
  • Students with disabilities must adhere to the same behavioral expectations as all other students at UNF. 
  • Students with disabilities must request accommodations in a reasonable timeframe. Example - Exams in SAS should be scheduled 5 business days in advance.

Faculty FAQ - Teaching Students with Disabilities at UNF

Can students with disabilities earn a failing grade in my course? Yes, as long as the mandated accommodations have been appropriately provided. Students with disabilities need to meet the same academic rigor as all other students in the course. 

Do I have to allow extra time on assignments completed outside of class time? Extra time on assignments is not a mandated accommodation and therefore is at the professor’s discretion. 

What if a student with a disability has flexible attendance as an accommodation and misses a good many class sessions? Please see our guide for flexible attendance at the following link Accommodations Requests web page

What if a student with a disability is disruptive during class time? All students are held to the same Code of Conduct at UNF. If the student has behaviors that are not intentionally disruptive such as asking too many questions and does not respond to verbal corrections by the professor, contact SAS for further assistance. 

Do I have to permit the student extra time on quizzes. The quiz is very short and should not take near that long. Yes, students should always be allowed to have their accommodated testing time. 

Do I have to permit the student to go to SAS for a short quiz? Taking a quiz, exam, mid-term or final in SAS should always be at the student’s discretion. 

I think a student in my course might have a disability, but has not presented me with documentation from SAS. What should I do? Faculty and staff should not inquire about a disability condition. A best practice is to ask the student if they need further assistance and provide all of the resources available at UNF, including SAS. 

What if I am concerned about the general well-being or mental health of a student with a disability in my course? Contact the Dean of Students Office at 904-620-1491 or at the Dean of Students web page to submit a concern for the SOS Committee. 

Additional Exploration

Reasonable Accommodations Explained at the following link.

APA Reasonable Accommodations web page

Faculty and Staff Training Module 1 Power Point is available upon request.

Learning Module 2 - Disability Types: Accommodations and Strategies

Topics Include

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), Low vision or blindness, Hearing loss or Deafness, Learning disabilities,

ADHD, Speech Disabilities, Chronic health disorders, Physical disabilities, Traumatic brain injury,

Mental health disorders

Getting Started Each Term

The approved ADA statement for all UNF syllabi is the following:

Students with disabilities who seek reasonable accommodations in the classroom or other aspects of performing their coursework must first register with UNF Student Accessibility Services (SAS) located in Building 57, Room 1500. SAS staff members work with students to obtain required documentation of disability and to identify appropriate accommodations as required by applicable disability laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After receiving all necessary documentation, SAS staff determines whether a student qualifies for services with SAS and if so, the accommodations the student requires will be provided. SAS staff then prepares a letter for the student to provide faculty advising them of approved accommodations. For further information, contact SAS by phone (904) 620-2769, email (, or visit the following SAS website link. (SAS home page).

Also consider including a statement in your syllabus inviting students with disabilities to meet with you privately to discuss their accommodations in your class.


As your professor, I am committed to making educational opportunities available to all students. I ask any students who need disability accommodations to schedule time to meet with me as soon as the semester starts. Please ensure that I have a copy of your accommodation letter prior to meeting.

Person-first language 

  • Describes what a person has not who a person is...
  • Allows each person to define themselves...
  • Prevents stereotypes from being perpetuated.



Student with a learning disability, He/she has autism, The student uses a wheelchair


Disabled student, Autistic student, Handicapped student

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.

Students with ASD typically have the following traits.

  • Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people.
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.
  • These also include symptoms that impede the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life.

Social communication and interaction behaviors may also include following traits.

  • Making little or inconsistent eye contact.
  • Tending not to look at or listen to people.
  • Failing to or being slow to respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention.
  • Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation.
  • Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond.
  • Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said.
  • Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like.
  • Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.
  • Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia
  • Having overly focused interests.
  • Getting upset by slight changes in a routine.
  • Being noticeably more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature.
  • People with ASD may also experience sleep problems and irritability. 
  • Although people with ASD experience many challenges, they may also have many strengths, including:
  • Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time.
  • Being strong visual and auditory learners and excelling in math, science, music, or art.

ASD Course Strategies

  • Include a specific statement in your syllabus on expected classroom behavior (use of phone/computers during class time, interruptions, attendance/late policies).
  • Use clear, unambiguous language (spoken and written) and avoid or explain metaphors, irony, etc. and interpret what others say – give explicit instructions and check that the student is clear about what he/she has to complete.
  • Provide a schedule of the course (due dates, what to complete/be prepared for prior to class start time).
  • Let students know ahead of time, what to expect during class time.
  • Provide notes/PowerPoint when available (students can review notes and write down questions before class lecture starts – avoiding interruptions/confusion).
  • Allow time at end of class for questions.
  • Use verbal and written reminders (using both will also benefit students without ASD).
  • Encourage use of concrete, realistic goals to assist motivation. E.g. “If you want to become an engineer you must complete all parts of the course, even the essays” or “If you want to earn a bachelor’s degree, you must complete all general education required courses”.
  • Use detailed, clear instructions (grading rubrics are a great resource for assignments).

ASD Classroom Behavior Strategies

  • To minimize distraction, have student sit in preferred location (front of class, next to instructor desk)
  • If student interrupts or asks too many questions, limit the number of times a student can raise their hand or ask a question during class time (they can write down additional questions, send email, wait until after class, or attend professor office hours) Implement this strategy in private to not draw attention to the student.
  • Explicitly state the type of permitted questions asked during class time (all questions must be limited to the topic of class, not previous classes, or future classes, etc.)

THRIVE is our specialized support services just for students with ASD. Contact the THRIVE Department for further assistance at the following link.

THRIVE Program web page

email follows;

Blind or Low Vision

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with vision impairments are the following.

  • Recording sessions with a digital recorder or similar device.
  • Brailler or computer for note taking
  • Having participants state their names prior to speaking during discussions.
  • Verbal descriptions of visual aids and demonstrations.
  • Handouts in Braille, recorded, or in electronic format that can be read before the discussion or work group meeting.
  • See Learning Module 3 for more information about assistive technology resources to assist students with vision impairments. 

Hearing Impairments

Students with residual hearing or who use hearing aids may require amplification during lectures or discussions. Other students may need to lip read or use sign language interpreters/CART. Certain environmental conditions may impact a student's ability to hear or read lips effectively. 

CART – (Communication Access Real-time Translation) - Real-time captioning used by hard of hearing and deaf people who use English as their first language and/or their language of instruction. 

A cart provider will join the class and provide live captioning similar to a court reporter in a court room. 

For example, hearing aids may pick up extraneous background noise and interfere with the clarity of sound. Poor lighting may make it more difficult to lip read. Likewise, background lighting from a window can cast shadows on a speaker's face. 

Keep in mind that some students with a hearing impairment may also have a speech impairment.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with hearing impairments are the following.

  • Sign language interpreters
  • Real-time captioning where words are immediately transcribed and presented on a computer screen (CART)
  • Captioned video presentations
  • Assistive listening devices (ALDs) which combined with a student's personal hearing aid can augment and amplify sound in a group setting.
  • Microphones for these devices can then be accessed by the person who is speaking.
  • Preferential seating during the discussion for optimal listening and/or lip reading.
  • Options for electronic discussion.
  • See Learning Module 3 for more information about assistive technology resources to assist students with hearing impairments. 

Communication strategies that can facilitate access for students with hearing impairments include the following.

  • When speaking, face the student directly.
  • When speaking, avoid obscuring lips or face with hands, books, or other objects.
  • Repeat discussion questions and statements made by other students.
  • Write discussion key points, questions, and answers on a white board or overhead projection system.
  • Speak clearly and at a normal rate.
  • If the student uses an interpreter, speak directly to the student, not the interpreter.
  • Indicate who is speaking by gesturing or pointing.

CART (Communication Access Real Time)

CART is a transcribing accommodation for students who do not use sign language and prefer to read the lecture.

The transcript is a verbatim copy of the lecture material and any other conversations or comments that occur during the class.

The hard copy is provided to the student to study the material related to the class.

The CART provider is a certified professional who will be in the classroom with the student.

Learning Disabilities

A learning disability is a neurological condition that interferes with an individual’s ability to store, process or produce information.

Learning disabilities can affect one’s ability to read, write, speak, spell, compute math, reason and also affect an individual’s attention, memory, coordination, social skills and emotional maturity.

Auditory Processing, Dysgraphia (writing), Dyslexia (reading), Dyscalculia (math), Language Processing, Visual/Visual Motor Processing


Note: Learning disabilities are different than intellectual disability. An intellectual disability means the person has an IQ less than 70. Students with learning disabilities can have an IQ in any range. 

Auditory perception and processing—the student may have difficulty processing information communicated through lectures or class discussions. 

Visual perception and processing—the student may have difficulty distinguishing subtle differences in shape (e.g., the letters b and d), skip words or repeat sections when reading, or misjudge depth or distance. He or she may have difficulty processing information communicated via overhead projection, through video, in graphs and charts, by email, or within web-based distance learning courses.

Information processing speed—the student may process auditory and visual information more slowly than the average person. He or she may be a slow reader because of the need for additional time to decode and comprehend written material.

Memory (long-term, short-term)—the student may have difficulty with the storing or recalling of information during short or long time periods.

Spoken and written language—the student may have difficulty with spelling (e.g., mixing up letters) or with speaking (e.g., reversing words or phrases).

Mathematical calculation (Dyscalculia) —the student may have difficulty manipulating numbers, may sometimes invert numbers, and may have difficulty converting problems described in words to mathematical expressions.

Executive functioning (planning and time management)—the student may have difficulty breaking larger projects into smaller sub-projects, creating and following a timeline, and meeting deadlines.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with learning disabilities include the following.

Recorded sessions, Note takers, A laptop computer in class for note taking, Options for electronic discussion via email where there is sufficient time to formulate responses, Consideration that processing time may be slower, Use of a screen reader (dyslexia)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Inattention - Student wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.


Hyperactivity - Student seems to move about constantly, including in situations in which it is not appropriate; or excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. 

Impulsivity - Student makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.


If a student appears to be distracted, recommend that they sit in the front of the classroom, away from windows, doorways, heating/cooling systems, or any other sources of potential distraction.


Students with ADD/ADHD frequently find it difficult to stay on task for long periods of time. If a class is longer than the traditional 50-60 minute session, then offering a break after 45 minutes would be helpful.

  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in a visual format (e.g. chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Provide assistance with proofreading written work.
  • Encourage the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.

Speech Impairments

Students with speech impairments may have difficulty speaking in discussions. Some students with speech impairments use augmentative communication. Many of these devices are computer-based and can be programmed to provide speech output.


Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with speech impairments include the following.

  • Adequate wait time to allow the student to speak.
  • Assistive technology to aid in communicating.
  • Alternate method to display knowledge that does not require oral presentation. 

Chronic Health Conditions

Students can be disabled by chronic illnesses.

Some examples include; asthma, arthritis, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Lyme disease, migraines, cardiac conditions, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, seizure disorders

Students with chronic medical conditions may need the following taken into consideration.

  • Flexible attendance above and beyond what is listed in the syllabus as the attendance policy for all students in the course. The SAS website contains a guide to flexible attendance.
  • Link to Faculty and Staff Resources web page follows; Faculty and Staff web page
  • Notetakers, use of laptop, and/or audio recorders in class. The student or SAS may ask for the instructor’s assistance in locating a volunteer for note taking. 
  • Extra time and/or special arrangements for exams (e.g., computer, scribe, audio-recording answers or oral exams).
  • Extra time for assignments outside of class (this is typically at the professor’s discretion).
  • Adjustable tables, lab benches, drafting tables, etc. may need to be made accessible for students in wheelchairs.
  • Help manipulating tools, laboratory equipment, and/or chemicals. An assistant or lab partner, who merely functions as the student’s hands or legs, also may be needed.

Physical Disabilities

Includes physiological, functional and/or mobility impairments can be fluctuating or intermittent, chronic, progressive or stable, visible or invisible.

  • Progressive conditions - These disabilities get worse over time but can fluctuate.
  • Multiple Sclerosis – neurological deterioration
  • Muscular Dystrophy – muscular disorders
  • Chronic Arthritis – inflammation of the joints
  • Non-Progressive conditions - These disabilities are non-progressive and remain stable.
  • Cerebral Palsy – neurological condition
  • Spina Bifida – congenital malformation of the spinal cord
  • Spinal Cord Injury – neurological damage resulting from trauma

These disabilities are non-progressive but can fluctuate.

  • Fibromyalgia – chronic pain condition
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – chronic fatigue condition

Typical Accommodations for students with physical disabilities.

Proper access for mobility devices, Specialized chair, desk and/or table, Speech recognition software, Screen reading software, Augmentative and alternative communication devices (such as communication boards), Academic software packages for students with disabilities.


Student accessibility is likely to be the biggest concern for instructors planning to meet the needs of students with physical disabilities in the lab setting. The following page provides a list of suggestions to make lab settings more accessible. 

Lab Settings Recommendations for Students with Physical Disabilities

  • uncluttered lab; clear, wide aisles, preferential seating to avoid physical 
  • barriers and assure visual access to demonstrations,
  • mirrors above the instructor giving a demonstration,
  • an enlarged screen, wheelchair-accessible, adjustable-height work surface,
  • non-slip mats, utility and equipment controls within easy reach from seated position,
  • electric stirrer, container filler, support stand, beaker and object clamp; test tube rack
  • handles on beakers, objects, and equipment, surgical gloves to handle wet or slippery items,
  • modified procedures to use larger weights and volumes,
  • extended eyepieces so students who use wheelchairs can use microscopes,
  • flexible connections to electrical/water/gas lines,
  • single-action lever controls in place of knobs,
  • alternate lab storage methods (e.g.,"Lazy Susan," storage cabinet on casters)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A brain injury can be classified as mild to profound. Even with mild TBI, the student may have cognitive problems such as headache, difficulty thinking, memory problems, attention deficits, mood swings and frustration.

More severe brain injury can cause impairment of higher level cognitive functions to comatose states. Students may have limited function of arms or legs, abnormal speech or language, loss of thinking ability or emotional problems. 

Suggested Classroom Strategies

  • Allow additional time to complete in-class assignments
  • Allow for breaks as needed.
  • Provide student with instructor’s notes or help student obtain quality notes from other students.
  • Allow student to audio record lectures for later playback.
  • Provide both oral and written instructions; clarify instructions.
  • For lectures, provide student with an outline or study guide when available.
  • Allow use of a portable computer with spelling and grammar checks for assignments and note-taking.
  • Permit referencing a dictionary or thesaurus for assignments.
  • Provide preferential seating at or near the front of the classroom.

Students with TBI often say...

  • I study twice as long as I used to, but I’m doing much worse.
  • I can’t remember anything I read no matter how many times I re-read the same thing.
  • I study hard and feel like I know the material. Then I go into the test and can’t come up with the answers.
  • Essay exams are really tough. I need 20 minutes to think of what I want to say and then the time has run out.
  • I get so tired I can barely get through the school day. At night, I’m just too tired to do my homework.
  • I’m so distracted. I can pay attention for five minutes and then my mind wanders.
  • I go to every class, but nothing sinks in.

Mental Health Disabilities

Anxiety Disorders - Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that actually refers to several distinct disabilities that share the core characteristic of irrational fear: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia), and specific phobias.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - OCD is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors (handwashing, counting, checking, or cleaning) are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. 

Bipolar Disorder - Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is a serious medical condition that causes dramatic mood swings from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood.

Conduct Disorder - Conduct disorder refers to a group of behavioral and emotional problems in youngsters. Children and adolescents with this disorder have great difficulty following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way.

Eating Disorders - Eating disorders are characterized by extremes in eating behavior—either too much or too little—or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape. Females are much more likely than males to develop an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, binge eating, and bulimia nervosa are the three most common types of eating disorders.

Psychotic Disorders - Psychotic disorder is another umbrella term used to refer to severe mental disorders that cause abnormal thinking and perceptions. Two of the main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs. Hallucinations are false perceptions. 

Students with some mental health conditions may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention for learning. They may have difficulty taking notes.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with psychiatric conditions can include the following.

  • Note takers, Recorded sessions, Preferred seating, Flexible attendance, Allowing the student to take short breaks as needed.
  • Creating a classroom environment that makes all students feel welcome and respected.
  • SAS and Counseling Center work collaboratively to support our students with mental health conditions.

Faculty and Staff Training Module 2 in Power Point format is available upon request.

Learning Module 3 - Assistive Technology, Document and Online Accessibility

Topics Include


  • Technology in the Classroom, Auditory Access to Digital Documents, Speech to Text, Accessible Document Guidelines and Creation,
  • Converting Hardcopy to Electronic File with Proper Formatting, Adobe PDF Accessibility, Accessibility Considerations in Online Environments,
  • Further Resources to Explore


Technology in the Classroom


  • The following are examples of technology used for classroom accommodations.
  • Audio recorder, Sonocent note taking software with computer or smart phone, Laptop computer, FM hearing systems, Augmentative and alternative communication devices, Mobility devices


Auditory Access to Digital Documents


  • A document can be read aloud once it is in electronic format by a screen reading software.
  • Individuals with vision loss can use a screen reader to navigate a computer desktop environment with key commands without a mouse.
  • Windows Narrator is proprietary to the windows operating system as document reader with partial screen reading capabilities. It can be found in Windows Ease of Access Center with other built in accessibility applications. Apple’s Voice Over is its counterpart.
  • Examples of more robust commercial screen readers include JAWS, NVDA and Central Access Reader.


Speech to Text 


  • Speech Recognition and Dictation
  • Control over the computing environment and software as well as verbal dictation into a word processor can be handled with a speech recognition program. This type of program can benefit individuals with visual disabilities and those who have limited physical dexterity.
  • Both Windows and Apple operating systems have native text to speech applications. Popular text to speech applications also include Dragon Dictate and the Google Docs Dictation Chrome extension. 


Accessible Document Guidelines and Creation

Accessible Word Documents


  • It is easier to structure an electronic document in Word and then convert those documents to PDF then the other way around.
  • Setting the heading structure of a Word document assists document navigation for individuals who use screen readers.
  • Use “Heading 1” style for the main heading, and “Heading 2” for sub-headings under Styles in the Home tab.
  • For lists use the proprietary formatting tools for ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists instead of manually typing them. This helps screen readers properly recognize and announce them.
  • To apply alternate text for an image right click on it and select “Format Picture” and then select the “Alt Text” dialog box.
  • Tables can be challenging for screen readers to announce properly. If possible present the same information in a different format or a descriptive summary of the information contained.
  • If using a table is the only option be sure to identify the row that contains column headers. Select the column headers row, right click on it and then select “Table Properties” and “Row” from the dialog box. Select the option for “Repeat as header row at the top of each page”. 
  • You can convert a Word document into PDF format and maintain its structure by selecting “PDF” from the “Save As” drop down box and selecting “Options” to ensure “Document structure tags for accessibility” is selected.


Converting Hardcopy to Electronic File with Proper Formatting

Converting Hardcopy to Accessible Electronic Files Scanning 


  • A computer using an application that supports Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can scan a document into an electronic file format such as Word or Adobe PDF with searchable text. 
  • Adobe Acrobat Professional will allow you to OCR scan a hard copy document into accessible electronic format.
  • To confirm that recognizable text has been created in a PDF document, try to select the body text with your mouse curser. 
  • If the text cannot be selected the PDF is an image file only. You can select "Recognize Text" under the "Tools > Enhance Scans" to create a PDF with searchable text.
  • You can then export your PDF with searchable text into a number of other formats such as Word or Text (Accessible) that can be utilized by accessibility software.
  • It is good practice to provide multiple document output formats from source material for use with screen readers. Examples RTF, Word, PDF and Plain Text (Accessible).
  • These OCR recognized documents can be enlarged by a computer screen magnifier and/or read back by in synthetic speech by a computer screen reader.
  • Both Windows and Apple computers have proprietary screen magnifiers and readers.
  • Use high quality source documents for the conversion process. Use documents that are high contrast with clearly defined text that is free of underlining, highlighting and handwriting. Excessive italics can reduce OCR accuracy.
  • Ensure that no text has been cut off in the source document and that pages are straight without excessive darkness in the margins that can obfuscate text. 


Adobe PDF Accessibility 

Reviewing Adobe PDF’s for Accessibility


  • PDF security features should remain unlocked. Locked PDF’s interfere with screen reader functionality.
  • There is a built in accessibility checker in Acrobat Professional (as well as MS Word). To run a “Full Check” go to the Accessibility menu under Tools. 
  • Check to see if the PDF has searchable text, if it does not use “Recognize Text” under the Tools Menu.
  • Review the PDF for tags. The Document Properties dialog box will state whether a PDF is tagged or not.
  • Tags can be added and changed by selecting View > Tools > Accessibility > “Add Tags To Document”.
  • Tags can be changed by right clicking on them, selecting properties and then choosing the appropriate one form the present list of alternatives.
  • You can locate a tag by choosing “Find tag from selection” in the Tags pane by selecting a section of text.
  • Tag heading levels can be changed in the Tags Panel. Choose View > Show/Hide > “Navigation Panes” > Tags.
  • The “Touch Up Reading Order” tool under the “Accessibility” tab can be used to see what order a screen reader will announce a PDF in. The tagged reading order can be changed in the “Show order panel”.
  • To add alternate text to an image right click on it and select “edit alt text”. Images that don’t convey information can be hidden from screen readers by clicking on them and selecting “background”.
  • Table accessibility features can be accessed by clicking on the table and selecting the “Table Editor”.


Accessibility Considerations in Online Environments


  • Information Perceivability
  • General guidelines for accessible print materials can be taken into consideration when formatting online resources.
  • Remember to use multiple modes of transmission for the presentation of important information.
  • All electronic documents uploaded should contain searchable text. If the document is an image a text based description of the image should be included as well.
  • Provide descriptive text equivalents with any images, charts, graphs and important non-text elements that are presented. 
  • Use high color contrast between font text and the background and color should not be the primary way that information is conveyed or interacted with. 
  • Multimedia should not auto play when a page is opened and users should have the ability to adjust playback and volume levels of content. Background audio can be turned off is necessary.
  • All multimedia video and audio content should be presented with captions or have a transcript made available.
  • Additionally, a descriptive text track which describes on screen action and visual details is sometimes available for multimedia content. 
  • It is good practice ensure captions or a transcript are already available for specific media content prior to their adoption in a course.
  • Navigation of Online Content for Individuals with Disabilities.
  • Content that is well organized with descriptive titles and headings will allow a user to easily find important information. It is important to provide textually based navigation cues as to where they are within the flow of information.
  • Remember to give users meaningful textually based navigation aides not reliant on color/size/aesthetics to imply meaning.
  • Web links utilized should make sense out of context and should describe where and where they’re linking. Don't use "click here" or "email me"
  • Avoid underlining text when possible due to its association with hyperlinks.
  • Try focusing navigation though keyboard interactions and short cut keys vs relying on visually based mouse operations
  • Keyboard accessibility an environment that is equally functional by keyboard or mouse. All content can be navigated and interacted with using a keyboard alone without a user being trapped on any specific element.


Further Exploration 

Universal Design link follows:

Universal Design information web page

Accessible Print Documents links follow:

APH Print Accessibility web page


Web Accessibility links follow:

W3 Web Accessibility web page

OSU Accessibility Evaluation Information web page

Faculty and Staff Training Module 3 in Power Point format is available upon request.