Key Concepts

Where to Start

Whether you’re writing a syllabus, creating a poster, or drafting a web page, there are six key concepts you can start to employ now to create accessible digital content. The following handful of practices are a great place to start if you’re new to considering accessibility in the work you create.

  1. Headings
  2. Lists
  3. Contrast
  4. Audio and Video
  5. Links
  6. Alternative Text



Using headings within a document, slideshow or web page serves two purposes: it provides a more readable visual layout, AND it makes it possible for visually impaired users to use a screen reader to make sense of the content.


Like headings, lists aid in readability of your content by grouping related items and guiding the eye. Lists also help screen readers identify related items for visual impaired users.


Contrast is another characteristic of digital content that can be used as both a design element (think bold font, or distinct colors), and as a consideration for accessibility. For example, a light gray font on a white background doesn’t provide sufficient contrast to be readable, and especially by visually impaired users. In this way, when referring to contrast and accessibility, it’s typically in terms of color contrast and making sure that fonts are readable against the background colors they appear on.

Audio and Video

All video and audio content that is shared via school websites, within departments or via courses should have text-based alternatives available. Captions and transcripts benefit hearing impaired users, as well as those learning the language used in the content, or any user who finds reading preferable to listening given their situation.

Furthermore, some applications allow keyword searching of captions/transcripts to make it easier for users to locate relevant content, such as in Panopto videos’ captions interface.

You’re likely familiar with linking to content within digital documents and web pages as this is a core asset of digital media. Learning how to use links in effective ways can benefit users of all types.

Alternative Text

Alternative text (often referred to as “alt text”) is a behind-the-scenes label that describes what that image or graphic is. It is something that is set in the tool you’re using to create digital content, but it will not appear within or next to the image itself.

Like other key concepts mentioned above, alt text is used by screen readers to describe what an image is to a visually impaired user, so it is essential to help users make sense of your content. In addition, alt text is read by search engines and is therefore useful for search engine optimization, or SEO. Finally, alt text is also what is shown on a webpage if the image doesn’t load for whatever reason.