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Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning - Accessibility

Introduction to Accessibility

At Western Kentucky University, we are committed to making online courses available to the widest possible audience, including those with visual and hearing impairments, learning disabilities, color blindness, or neurological disorders. Ensuring a quality learning experience for all learners can be easier than you think. Remember: We are always here to help you. Following are some resources to help you get started.

Providing Accessible Documents (Word and PowerPoint)

The most common documents you will use are Word documents, PowerPoints, and PDFs, but all documents you use in your courses will need to be reviewed to ensure they are accessible.

To provide the most accurate tutorials for Microsoft Word and PowerPoint possible for you, please select which type of computer you use and which version of Microsoft Office you use.  Visit the “What version of Office am I using?” website from Microsoft if you don’t know which version of Microsoft Office you use. 

To upgrade to Microsoft Office to 2016, follow the Upgrading to Microsoft Office to 2016 Instructions :

For your WKU computer, you can sign into the WKU Software Center > click Start Shopping > click University under the Process Search bar > find and click on Office 2016, and complete the purchase (free) and downloading process.  You can contact the WKU IT Help Desk if you have problems with this process.

For your personal computer at home, you can obtain a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 from the IT webpage.

PDF Files

Converting from Microsoft Word or PowerPoint to PDF

Many faculty like to save their documents and presentations and share them as PDFs in their courses.  However, PDFs do not maintain the same level of accessibility as DOCX and PPTX files do.  This is especially true of documents and presentations created on a Mac.  With this in mind, you should avoid sharing PDFs in your courses.

Scanned PDF Files

Many faculty members scan journal articles and other artifacts to include in their courses.  However, unless you use an OCR scanner, these scanned documents are simply images rather than files readable by screen readers.  You do, however, have options of what to do to provide such materials to your students in an accessible manner.

  1. Use the OCR Scanner in the Visual and Performing Arts Library (VPAL), which is located on the second floor of Cravens Graduate Center. Make sure you have permissions or the use falls under the Fair Use Act before doing this, however, to avoid copyright violation.
  2. If the document is a journal article, assign students to find it in the library databases to help them practice their information literacy skills.
  3. If the document is a journal article, you can find the article on the databases and post a perma-link for them.

Course Content on Blackboard

The Making Blackboard Accessible written tutorial provides specific information on making information you place in Blackboard Items and tests accessible.   

View the video tutorials for additional details on the following topics:

Other ADA Considerations

Other considerations for accessibility can include:

  • Microsoft Excel Accessibility
  • Use of color in your course
  • Acronymns
    • The use of acronyms in course materials is part of a circuit court decision for our region and not part of the federal ADA law. Most people practice sharing what an acronym stands for before stating just the acronym, and this is fine (e.g., National Basketball Association, or NBA). Another option is to include a list of all acronyms that will be used in a class somewhere in course materials. The important idea here is that students know what acronyms stand for-- the court case revolved around a faculty member not wanting to provide that information.

Audio and Video in Your Course

Written transcripts or closed captions for audio or video materials help those with hearing impairments perceive the information. Distance Learning's transcribing services will work to ensure course related videos are transcribed. However, our transcribers are limited, so courses with students who need an accommodation are given a priority designation. If you have been notified by Student Disability Services that a currently enrolled student is in need of special accommodations, please go to Transcribing Services web page and fill out the priority request form and submit the transcribing request.


Some of the links on this page may require additional software to view.

 Last Modified 8/23/23