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  4. Getting Started with Accessibility & Inclusive Design (A.I.D.)

Getting Started with Accessibility & Inclusive Design (A.I.D.)


Headers are an essential organizational tool; they help students better understand the main points of each section and allow your students to skim the page. In addition, headings define the structure of the document or content page.

Headings are necessary so students using screen readers can navigate through content. When headings are used correctly, they allow individuals to move through the information based on the heading topic rather than line-by-line. Headings are also a great way to ‘chunk’ material into digestible pieces for students and prevent cognitive overload.

Watch Headings Example Video (CC)


Lists must never be created manually. Instead, always use the built-in list styles available in your chosen tool, such as Canvas, Microsoft Word, and Google Docs.
Use ordered list styles when items have a specific order (e.g., steps in a procedure or recipe) and unordered list styles when things do not follow a hierarchy (e.g., list of book titles or shopping list).

Remember, screen readers can detect ordered and unordered lists but do not distinguish indentation levels.

Some of the information that the screen reader announces about an ordered or unordered list include:

  • The size of the list
  • The position of each item in the list
  • When the reader has left one list and has entered another
Watch Lists Example Video (CC)

Properly formatted hyperlinks help students scan for important information and identify outside resources. When a screen reader identifies a hyperlink, it states ‘link,’ so it is best to avoid using ‘link’ or ‘link to’ in your hyperlinked text.

Screen readers can also make a ‘Links list’ that allows users to listen to the list of available links on a page and navigate directly to the desired link rather than being forced to listen to the entire page, line-by-line. However, a ‘Links List’ is only helpful when link text is descriptive.

Watch Hyperlinks Example (CC)

Color contrast 

Color contrast helps the readers distinguish objects from each other and guides their attention as they navigate content. Appropriate color use plays a significant role in creating accessible digital resources. Since colors are used to convey meaning, and many people have disabilities related to color vision, you should ensure any information conveyed through color is accessible. Do not rely on color as the only means of conveying importance.

Inaccessible colors can cause eye strain and make it difficult even for people without disabilities to read text. This is especially true when text is small. 

Watch Colorblind: A Colorful Guide to Colorblindness 
Watch Color Contrast Example (CC)

Alt text

Alternative Text or Alt Text describes the images on your page, aiding those with visual impairments. It describes the function and appearance of a photo or graphic and is critical for those with disabilities and if an image does not load correctly.

Watch Alt-Text Example (CC)


If incorporating tables within your course, make sure that they are labeled correctly so that assistive tech can accurately read the information displayed

Table Accessibility in Canvas Guide

Things to avoid and why

  • Underline infers that it’s a hyperlink
    Avoid emphasizing or differentiating text with an underline. Because underlining is associated with links, users might think the underlined text is a link. Convey emphasis instead by the tone of your writing and the words you choose.
  • Italics for dyslexia and processing
    Italicized text is difficult for dyslexic readers because the letters have a jagged line compared to non-italic fonts and lean over, making it hard to make the words. 
  • All caps for processing
    Readability is reduced with all caps because all words have a uniform rectangular shape, meaning readers can’t identify words by their shape.
  • Small text (smaller than 12pt)
    When the text is small, it’s even more illegible. A better way to emphasize text is to use bold text, which is clearer and gives better contrast. However, remember that screen readers do not distinguish between regular and bold text.

A curated list of A.I.D. Resources in a Google Doc for your reference.

Getting Started with Accessibility & Inclusive Design by Kristi O’Neil-Gonzalez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Updated on September 8, 2022

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