Creating an Accessible Syllabus

The following recommendations were developed collaboratively by representatives from the Provost’s office, Disability and Access Services, IT and the Library, and include:

  • Design standards for accessibility
  • Suggested syllabus statements for Disability and Access Accommodations
  • Using Accessibility checker tools
  • Using Google Docs or sharing as PDFs
  • Additional resources on designing syllabi considering accessibility and Universal Design for Learning

Design Standards for Accessibility


  • Structure the document logically using headings, available in Word, Google Docs and Moodle text editor
  • This improves readability for all by allowing users to scan the page for content areas, as well as creating a table of contents for users of screen readers



  • Wherever it makes sense, use the bullets (or numbered) lists feature of your document tool or Moodle text editor rather than manually creating lists or listing items in long sentences
  • Screen readers rely on lists to make connections between the items when reading this content to a non-sighted user

Color Contrast

  • Ensure a strong color contrast between foreground and background anywhere you use color, and ensure that color is never the sole means of providing emphasis of important material: always use boldface type + color to denote important information
  • For online content, use WebAIM’s color contrast checker to check for sufficient color contrast. 
  • Document accessibility checkers in Word and Google Docs will also evaluate use of color for sufficient contrast

Captions & Alternate Text

  • Provide a caption under images or alt text (the tagline a screen reader speaks to a non-sighted user) for any images you include in your syllabus 

St. Olaf Suggested Syllabus Statement for Inclusivity

A full list of Suggested Syllabus Statements can be found on the Student Life Committee website


Option #1

I am committed to supporting the learning of all students in my class. Students seeking accommodations, please contact Disability and Access staff at 507-786-3288 or by visiting

Option #2.

I am committed to supporting the learning of all students in my class. If you have already registered with Disability and Access (DAC) and have your letter of accommodations, please meet with me as soon as possible to discuss, plan, and implement your accommodations in the course. If you have or think you have a disability (learning, sensory, physical, chronic health, mental health or attentional), please contact Disability and Access staff at 507-786-3288 or by visiting

Suggested addition if your course normally would prohibit computers in class:

Laptops and/or other digital equipment may not be used in this class unless you have made special arrangements with the professor.

Using Built-in Accessibility Checkers

The following tools will help you check your syllabus design for accessibility. We recommend running these prior to sharing syllabi with students. 

Use Google Docs for Syllabi

There are several usability advantages to providing the syllabus as a Google doc:

  • You can link to the Google doc from your course in Moodle and elsewhere
  • It’s easier for you to maintain, because you can update the document and have it be “live” in your Moodle course without downloading and reuploading
  • Students can interact with it as a digital resource, without having to download it and keep track of it on their personal device (though they still can download it if they want to)
  • This avoids the multiple-versions-of-your-syllabus-in-multiple-locations problem
  • You can take advantage of Grackle Docs accessibility checker to make designing for accessibility much easier

Sharing Syllabi as PDFs

  • Whatever you use to create your syllabus (Word, Google Docs, Pages, etc) the most widely sharable format is PDF, so unless you’re linking to a Google Doc in an online course, export your completed syllabus as a PDF to share and archive the digital file
  • PDFs are more universally openable on users computers and devices
  • PDFs can retain formatting and “look” of original document across devices
  • Note – PDFs are not editable as easily as a Word document and should be used when end-user editing is not desired 

Additional Resources

  • Accessible Syllabus guidelines from the University of Minnesota 
  • Designing an accessible syllabus video playlist created by the University of Minnesota – a video walkthrough of how to format a syllabus according to principles above. 
  • UDL Syllabus guidelines from UDL On Campus – these address accessibility, but go beyond accessibility to encourage a Universal Design for Learning approach to creating a syllabus that engages students by outlining how the course will provide multiple means of engagement, action and expression, and representation. “Instructors can use the syllabus, therefore, as a powerful way to communicate or model how they will implement UDL principles and guidelines in the classroom.”
  • UDL Syllabus Rubric from UDL Universe – this rubric breaks down the elements of a traditional syllabus and provides guidelines for how each element can move from traditional syllabus to UDL syllabus design

Getting Help with Accessibility in your Documents and Online Courses

The Digital Scholarship Center at St. Olaf (DiSCO) staff are available to assist you with reviewing formatting and performing accessibility audits on your documents and online course content. Visit to submit a request for assistance.