Accessible Digital Materials

girl reading ebook while relaxing on a couch

Create accessible Word documents

Detailed instructions for creating accessible Microsoft Office documents are provided by the National Center on Disability and Access to Education

Video instructions are available at

To create a PDF from a Word document

  1. Choose Save As under File
  2. Choose PDF for File Format
    • On a Mac, choose "Best for electronic distribution and accessibility"
    • On a PC, choose "Document structure tags for accessibility" under Options

A PDF made from an accessible Word document is probably accessible. To check the accessibility of a PDF in Adobe Acrobat,

  1. In Tools, choose Accessibility
  2. Click Full Check, then Enter
  3. Accessibility issues display in the left pane
  4. Recommended: Click Autotag Document to ensure a screen reader reads the document in logical order

If a PDF is a scan of a document, what looks like words is actually an image. Screen readers can't read images of text.

Use Find in the Edit menu to search for a word you know is in the document. If the word isn't found, the PDF is a scan. Search for a digital version by typing a phrase from it into a search engine.

Scans of simple clear text documents may be made accessible through scanning using optical character recognition. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) can do this. Also provide the PDF scans of the original document if there is a benefit to students who can see them.

Whenever possible, choose textbooks that have an accessible digital version. Even a digital version that is not accessible is easier to remediate than a print version. The NIU Library has a guide to open education resources.

If necessary, the Disability Resource Center (DRC) will make an accessible digital version of a textbook. Creating an accessible version of a textbook can take two to three weeks.

Digital textbooks are accessible if:

  • Content is not presented only by an image because screen readers can't read images
    • Images have alternative text that explains the information in the image.
  • A table of contents links to the corresponding place in the text to make it easy to navigate through the book
  • Tables have headers so screen reader users can find their place easily
    • Captions are provided that summarize the table
  • Page numbers are included that match the print version of the book
  • Math is written in MathML format so screen readers can read it
  • Video is captioned and audio has transcripts
  • Interactive content is accessible to screen reader users and keyboard only users

Studies have shown that students comprehend more and retain more information when a video has captions than students who view the same video without captions.Select videos that have closed captions whenever possible.

Search for a captioned version of the video


  1. Google Advanced Video Search
  2. Scroll down to subtitles
  3. Choose any, which will search for subtitled and captioned versions


  1. Search YouTube for the video
  2. Choose FILTER
  3. Under FEATURES, choose subtitles/CC

Know how to turn on captions in your smart classroom

If a student who is deaf or hard of hearing registers for your class, the Disability Resource Center will caption the videos. If the DRC has time, it will caption videos in-house. If there isn't time, the video is sent to a captioning service, which is much more expensive. 

Because universities have complained, Qualtrics has published a list of inaccessible question types.

  • Matrix
  • Slider
  • Rank Order (drag and drop, select box)
  • Constant Sum (sliders and bars)
  • Pick Group and Rank
  • Hot Spot
  • Heat Map
  • Graphic Slider
  • Signature
  • Highlight

Check Survey Accessibility - Qualtrics will check your survey for accessibility and recommend different question types for inaccessible questions.

All course materials must be available and accessible in digital format, even handouts, including the syllabus. Follow the best practices under Microsoft Office and PDFs on this page.


Course Applications

Campus Resources