10.1 Consistent Course Design for Accessibility

Examples include consistent layout and structure of each course module, consistent and limited font types, consistent titles and labels for modules and pages

Points: 3 (Essential)

QM Alignment: 8.1


How can you design in accessibility when you create course materials?

Accessible Course Design

An accessible course design will apply principles of universal design to ensure a course that is usable by all students. Design decisions include
  • Page and Document Layout, Structure, and Patterns.
  • Use of Headers, Subheaders.
  • Font Selection, Text Criteria, Readability.
  • Accessible information in all images, charts, graphs, and tables.
  • Accessible content:  audio, digital, video, multimedia.

Accessible Page Structure

  • Header Levels
  • Paragraphs
  • Bullets and Lists
  • Goal: Organize Information

Accessible Text

  • Language Level and Tone
  • Clear and Concise
  • Text Justification to the Left
  • Goal: Skim information and understand it.


  • Use the modules page as the primary place where you build and organize your course.  Think of it as the table of contents or outline or to-do list for your course.  If you have a reading or assignment or discussion for a particular week or unit, add it to the module for that week or unit.  This way, everything associated with that week or unit will be more visible to you and your students.  You can see in a glance if something is not available or unpublished that shouldn’t be, or if a requirement was not set, and so forth.  See How do I add a module?  and How do I add assignment types, pages, and files as module items?
    • Put all your content and activities in modules that have a predictable naming scheme, such as Module 1, 2 or Week 1, 2
    • Use consistent titles for your pages and activities, such as:
      • Module 1 Overview
      • Module 1 Discussion: Please Introduce Yourself
    • Include or link to all the information needed to complete an assignment, discussion, or quiz in the description of that activity. Canvas shows upcoming to-do items to students, and sometimes they will just click on that to jump directly to an activity, skipping other pages or resources in a module.
  • Stick with the built-in text fonts and colors, or else choose sans-serif fonts and high contrast colors.
  • Ensure text has proper grammar, spelling, reading level, and uses plain language.
  • When editing pages and descriptions of activities with the Canvas rich content editor, use text headers to start new sections instead of simply making the text bold or a different color, to be more accessible to screen readers.
  • Rename files or links to files to be readable by screen readers. For example, a link to a file called “Syllabus-Fall2023.docx” might be labeled something like “Fall 2023 Syllabus.”
  • Blackboard Ally can check your whole course for accessibility issues.
  • View your course in the Canvas Student app to ensure that it is accessible to students who access it that way. UCF found that 80% of students access their courses via this app every week.
  • Consider using a Canvas course template that is already accessible to help you more quickly build an accessible course. Search the Canvas Commons for “Canvas starter kit” or filter Commons to show HCC resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need to make my course accessible if I don’t have a student with a disability?
    • Not all students report all disability issues, and while perhaps a minority of students may have permanent disabilities, virtually all of us may have temporary or situational disabilities.
    • Making your course accessible helps all learners. Captions on videos, for example, benefit all students. Think about trying to watch a video in a noisy environment, for example (situational), or having temporary visual/auditory, or motor impairment.

Common Issues

  • Hard to figure out the organization and flow of the course – what students are supposed to do each week.
  • Course has no modules, or little content in modules.
  • Course resources and activities are split between multiple places instead of all in the modules.
  • Text uses bold or colored text only instead of headers.



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HCC Online Course High Quality Standards by Hillsborough Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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