Creating inclusive teaching materials

Updated on 2 April 2024

This guide provides brief background information on accessibility and its importance. It also offers practical help so you can make inclusive teaching materials, including Word documents, PDFs, presentations, and videos.

On this page
Accessibility training

This guide has been created to help you quickly assess and improve the accessibility of your materials.

We recommend that you complete Microsoft's Accessibility Fundaments course. It gives a more in-depth look at the challenges of creating accessible learning and teaching materials. It also offers badged accreditation. 

Accessibility Fundamentals course

Why inclusive learning and teaching?

Accessibility – essential for some, better for all

Higher Education is more diverse than it has ever been. We know that different groups of students have different rates of completion and attainment. We need to ensure that learning, teaching, and assessment do not disadvantage any groups of students and allows all students to reach their potential.

We also have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students in all aspects of their University experience, including access to the online learning environment

This advice aims to support the inclusion of disabled students as well as other student groups such as international students, carers and care providers, socio-economically disadvantaged students who may need to work, and distance learning students.

Inclusive teaching respects the diversity of students and enables all students to take part. It ensures different student learning needs are met and removes barriers that prevent students from learning.

Accessibility is about removing barriers to enable participation for all

Within the University, disabled students may have an adjustment report which details the impact of their disability on the study and recommends reasonable adjustments to teaching and assessment which will remove barriers and reduce this impact.

Many of the recommended adjustments relate directly to accessibility. Having accessible teaching and assessment improves the learning experience for all and can reduce the need for individual adjustments.

The social model of disability

The medical model considers the individuals to be disabled, that is ‘less able’, as a consequence of their medical condition. The social model of disability recognises that disabled people are disabled not by their impairments or health conditions but by disablist attitudes and by organisational and physical barriers in society.

The social model of disability recognises that digital one-way, one-medium teaching and learning, producing the knowledge that’s supposed to be absorbed in one medium, may not be effective for all people.

The following three videos provide insight into the social model from three different groups:

POUR – Four principles of accessible digital content

In order to be accessible, digital content should be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR). These are the four principles of accessibility. Learn more about the POUR (YouTube video, 2.27 minutes). This duty to provide reasonable adjustments is anticipatory.

We will not know the requirements of all of our students, some may complete all assignments through voice-input, others may require to use a screen reader or magnification software, and others may only be able to work in short bursts before taking a break. Accessible content enables all to access the content with no loss of information.

Legislation and regulation

We are legally required to provide accessible teaching materials. Beyond legal requirements, the guiding principle should be to enable access to education for all. Detailed information and guidance available at JISC – Accessibility regulations – what you need to know


Accessibility tips

Use Styles in MS Word (Heading 1, 2, etc.) to help students navigate the content. In PowerPoint, use the Title box for slide titles and make sure these are unique. This will improve the experience for any student using a screen-reader and will improve readability for all.

Sans serif fonts (Arial, Calibri, etc.) are easier to read than serif fonts. Font size should be 11-12 pt. as a minimum. PowerPoint slides should ideally use a minimum of 20 pt. font

Great for navigation but for students using screen readers avoid only using the URL and instead add descriptive text to the link so this is read out to the student.

Avoid using colour as the sole means of conveying information. – Use Dashs- patterns, labels, shapes, spacing differences  Some colour combinations are problematic for people with colour vision deficiencies (1-in-12 males). Try to avoid using green/red, blue/purple and light green/yellow combinations. Ensure that images and diagrams have good contrast and avoid overlaying text on patterned backgrounds.

Images and labelling alternative text
If your document has images then they must have an alternative text which describes the image often referred to as alt text. This allows blind and visually impaired students using screen reading software to understand the information in the image. This is particularly important when the image is intended to convey essential information.

General guidance

  • Prioritise accessibility of new and updated teaching materials
  • Where possible ensure teaching material is provided in advance of teaching (recommended two weeks or more, minimum 48 hours)
  • Updates and minor changes can be sent or distributed closer to the time of teaching.
  • Ensure My Dundee modules are consistently formatted
    • Why? Some students require time in advance to read and process the material so they can concentrate on the lecture and process additional information and explanations. Students may adapt the material before the session to enable effective note-taking strategies or need to share this with an assign language interpreter to review in advance or for remote interpreters to prepare and learn new language and concepts.
  • Provide teaching material in the original (e.g. Word, PPT, Latex) and PDF or ePUB
    • Why? The original format provides the best chance for the student to change the presentation of the information to suit their learning style. PDF and ePub is widely supported across most smart devices and does not disadvantage those that have older or cheaper technology

      Not all PDFs are accessible to disabled users. You can perform some quick tests:

      • Can you copy the text into a word processor?
      • Can you zoom in without the text pixelating
      • Can you view the PDF on a mobile screen without horizontal scrolling (does the text reflow similar to kindle eBook when font size is increased)?
      • Does it have meaningful navigation (a table of contents) on the side panel?

Microsoft Word

How to make your Microsoft Word documents accessible:

Self-directed learning for Word

If you are new or require a refresher to styles, alt text and accessible word creation, follow a self-paced guide available in this simplified accessible templates pack (Zip file, 6MB)

Microsoft Powerpoint presentations

How to make your Microsoft Powerpoint presentations accessible:

  • Use light coloured (not white) background and dark foreground text
  • Use a minimum of size 20pt text
  • Place additional text and diagram descriptions in the speaker’s notes section
  • Add alt text to images used in the slide (Microsoft provide this support guide: Add Alternative Text to an image)
  • Use PowerPoint auto live captioning for live presentations -note the captions are not saved
  • Run the built-in Microsoft Powerpoint accessibility checker before uploading

Self-directed learning for Powerpoint

If you are new or require a refresher to accessible PowerPoint, follow the self-paced guide in the simplified accessible templates pack (Zip file, 6MB).

PDF documents

Not all PDF documents are the same. Like e-books, there many different versions:

  • Some PDFs are created using old software
  • Companies other than adobe can make PDFs
  • Some PDF files are images of text
  • Some use copy protection

Guide to checking if your PDF is accessible

Video material

When to use captioning/BSL

Please see this guide from the Alternative Formats Service on when to use BSL, Human captions, auto-captioning for video and live video events.

Live presenting

Consider using Microsoft Present Live. With Live Presentations in PowerPoint, audience members can see a presentation on their devices and read live subtitles in their preferred language while you speak. They can use "pinch to zoom" to see the slides more clearly on mobile devices, give feedback, send live reactions to the presenter, and navigate back to review previous slides.

Microsoft Present Live can also analyse your Powerpoint content to help you improve captioning accuracy. The Apple Safari browser is currently not supported for presenters but works fine for audience members.

When using Blackboard Collaborate, you can turn on auto-captioning. If using Microsoft Teams for your presentation, you should turn on captions. This only works for pre-scheduled meeting and events, and not chat meetings.


An important step in making your videos accessible is to add descriptive captions that summarise the video's action and sound. You can create captions for any videos used for teaching purposes using Blackboard or Yuja:

We recommend that you don't rely on automatic captioning. Always read through captions that have been created by the software.

Live online events

Blackboard Collaborate with human captioning

  • In Blackboard Collaborate session, select the option to ‘create a guest link’.
  • This guest link can then be sent to the remote captioner/supplier or person requiring captioning
  • UoD has a working relationship with Ai-Media, please invite via email to as soon as possible
  • Include basic event details(and the person it is required for) for them to match up bookings and accounts
  • Please note funding of the service is required
  • Typically funding is in place for students who have the  recommendation in their teaching adjustments
  •  Once the Captioner joined the session, the session moderator can change that person’s settings to give them access to the live closed captioning.
  • Support (How to use Blackboard Collaborate – contact CITL on Captioning Account management (
  • Disability Services remote captioning guide on live captioning

Microsoft Teams

  • Integration is not possible. See the guide for alternative solutions or seek advice from
  • Invite the captioner to the session and captions will be provided via a separate webpage
  • UoD has a working relationship with Ai-Media, please invite via email to as soon as possible
  • Include basic event details(and the person it is required for) for them to match up bookings and accounts
  • Please note funding of the service is required
  • Typically funding is in place for students who have the  recommendation in their teaching adjustments

Other platforms

Other platforms may provide integration for captioning.


The person requiring captioning can share their video stream with Ai-Media via zoom. This introduces a delay. (The content is streamed from the presenter to the participant and then duplicated onwards to Ai-Media via zoom where a live text transcript is provided on a separate website. This setup requires 3 live connections over participants broadband and 3 applications for the participant to manage and should be avoided if possible) 

Reading lists

  • Can the material be downloaded, is DRM free, enable content to be copied and pasted and viewed in a range of apps/software (i.e the system does not force to use their tool)?
  • Books that require Adobe Digital editions are not accessible – if required choose an alternative if possible
  • Books that require the publishers or distributors own system to access content on the balance of probabilities will be inaccessible or present usability barriers.
  • If you find the platform difficult to use, it is likely to be inaccessible
  • Make a reading list using the Library system
  • For photocopied teaching material (for example, chapters of a book, newspaper clippings, etc), use the library's Digitisation Service. They will make such material accessible and CLA compliant
  • Review the Reading List policy – UoD Policy and guidance on Reading and Resource Lists

Factors to consider when selecting reading materials

  • e-book formats generally offer greater access
  • Materials published post-2009 are more readily available in suitable accessible formats
  • Materials produced by publishers in the EU/Australia overall provide greater access for print disabled people
  • Identify a range of suitable alternative publications and/or resources
  • The Alternative Formats Service will make fully accessible copies of reading material for individual disabled students. As this process can be time-consuming, advance notice of reading lists is helpful. The service does not have the resources to adapt or convert general teaching materials such as PowerPoint slides
  • Custom accessible Office templates (Word, PowerPoint) are available on request

Numerical-based subjects

Making number/maths-based subjects accessible requires additional thought and information.

Assessing your content

You can use Blackboard Ally to audit your teaching content. Blackboard ALLY automatically assesses MyDundee modules and advice is provided on improving the accessibility of the teaching content.

Read the Blackboard Ally audit guide


If you have a question or need support for making or delivering inclusive digital practice please send an enquiry using Help4U. Your enquiry will then be assigned to the appropriate team who will contact you to provide support.

You can contact Centre for Technology and Innovation in Learning (CTIL) directly for advice on the use of Yuja and the Ally tool within Blackboard/My Dundee.

Guide category Accessibility