Making Content Accessible

By Ana Marjanovic, Instructional Designer & LMS Admin

This guide serves as a concise, practical resource for creating content that is legible and accessible to all. It provides checklists on key aspects of text and multi-media accessibility like font choice, color contrast, closed captions, and alt text ensuring that creating accessible text becomes a seamless part of your content creation process.


Accessible Text

How to change headings in

MS Word ↗️

Google Doc ↗️

PDF ↗️


Headings in a document are typically the titles or subtitles that help to structure and organize the content. They range from the main title of the document down to sub-sections. These headings help to create a hierarchy within the document, providing an overview of its structure and making it easier to navigate. Individuals using screen readers, often those with visual impairments or who have difficulty reading text, rely on headings to navigate through a document. The screen reader can read out the headings, allowing the user to jump to different sections of the document based on the content they are interested in.

For those unable to use a mouse, properly formatted headings allow for keyboard navigation. In many screen readers, users can use shortcuts to jump from one heading to another, making it much easier to navigate through the document.

The type of font used can either aid or hinder an individual’s ability to decipher and comprehend text. Select a typeface that is not overly complex, such as Arial, Calibri, Century Gothic, Helvetica, Tahoma, or Verdana.

Verdana, Tahoma, Helvetica, Calibri, Arial, Century Gothic




Choose a font size that is large enough to read comfortably (12 -14pt for paragraph text). Use heading styles for titles and subtitles, as they are crucial in sectioning off large text so that people who cannot use the mouse can navigate the document.

Keep the paragraph left-aligned. Even though center-aligned paragraphs may look attractive, they may be difficult to read if they are longer. People who experience dyslexia would have difficulties reading text that is centered on the page.

Keep text decoration to a minimum and emphasize only a few key terms, if needed by italicizing or making the text bold.

The color contrast between the foreground (such as text) and the background should be high. Light background requires dark text and vice versa.

Different color text on top of brush strokes to demonstrate the legible color contrast

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a digital technology designed to transcribe various types of documents—such as scanned paper files, PDFs, or images captured via a digital camera—into editable and searchable formats. For instance, if you possess a photocopied book or screenshots that contain textual or tabular information, OCR enables you to convert these into more accessible formats. Please note that sharing more than 10% of copyrighted books may incur legal ramifications.


Screenshots of text are read as images by screen readers. If you design a beautiful poster advertising an event and save it as a image, people who use screen readers will not be able to read the date, time, or location of the event from the image. This underscores the importance of OCR in making text within images or tables screen-reader friendly.

To address these challenges, see the recommended actions below.

Locate the OCRed version of the document

Initially, you may want to visit the Hostos Library to investigate whether an OCRed version of the desired file is already available. If not, the Inter-Library Loan service can be utilized to obtain a copy from another library. Furthermore, consult with the librarian to explore the possibility of creating an Open Educational Resource (OER) course, thereby ensuring ADA compliance while sidestepping copyright issues.

Hostos Library

Use the free Google Chrome Extension – Sider: ChatGPT Sidebar + Vision & GPT-4 to OCR the document

The ChatGPT Sidebar is a user interface that allows users to have interactive conversations with the ChatGPT model. The tool has OCR capability – it can accurately extract text from images or scanned documents and convert it into editable and searchable text.



Use Adobe Acrobat Pro to OCR the document

Alternatively, you can employ Adobe Acrobat Pro to apply Optical Text Recognition to non-OCRed files. Be advised that a license for Adobe Acrobat Pro is required and can be procured through Hostos IT. This software permits the conversion of these files into accessible and editable formats. To perform OCR using Adobe Acrobat Pro, follow these steps:

  • Open a PDF file containing a scanned image in Adobe Acrobat Pro.
  • Click on the Edit PDF tool in the right pane.
  • Acrobat automatically applies optical character recognition (OCR) to your document and converts it to a fully editable copy of your PDF.
  • Click the text element you wish to edit and start typing. New text matches the look of the original fonts in your scanned image.

Learn More

Contact Hostos Accessibility Resource Center (ARC)

You can reach out to the Hostos Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) for specific accessibility needs. The center offers a variety of assistive technology tools that can complement or provide alternatives to OCR. Consulting with ARC can guide you toward additional resources and solutions to ensure your course materials are ADA-compliant.

Visit ARC


Accessible Media

Incorporating closed captions (CC) in videos enables the accessibility of content for all students. Closed captions provide a text-based representation of audio content within a video, including spoken words. They are designed to assist individuals with hearing impairments but can also aid non-native speakers and diverse learners in comprehending the content. However, while accessibility is paramount, it has to be balanced with the privacy rights of students, especially when videos capture student participation.

CUNY Guidelines on Recording of Remote Classes

While class recordings serve the students’ interests, disseminating a class recording outside its participants without express written consent from all students is a violation of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This includes sharing videos with students’ Personal Identifiable Information (PII) to any future classes and publicly.

Asynchronous Learning (Pre-recorded Videos)

For instructional videos or class recordings that are part of asynchronous learning, we recommend using CUNY Dropbox CUNY-licensed Microsoft Stream to auto-generate closed captions. This ensures that all auditory elements are accurately represented in text form, enhancing accessibility for all students. View the instructions below.

Synchronous Learning (Live Video Conferences)

In the context of synchronous learning, such as live video conferences, CUNY-licensed Zoom and CUNY-licensed MS Teams offer the participants the ability to enable closed captions in live sessions. This feature can help participants follow along with the conversation in real time, making the live sessions more inclusive.

By offering a written version of the audio content, you create an inclusive learning environment that caters to diverse needs and preferences. Providing transcripts with audio files makes it possible that all learners, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, can access the content. Transcripts also aid in comprehension for non-native speakers and provide a textual reference that can enhance learning for all students. Review the post below to learn how to easily auto-generate transcripts from audio files.

How to add alt text in:

MS Word ↗️

PDF ↗️

Google Doc ↗️

LMS (Bb)↗️

Alt text (sometimes referred to as alt attributes or alt descriptions) stands for alternative text, which is a brief description of the content of the image. Assistive technology reads alt text out loud to people with disabilities so they can comprehend the image content.


Accessible Tables & Lists

Keep your tables as simple as possible. Complex tables with merged cells or multiple layers of headers can be difficult for screen readers to interpret.

Make sure each column and row has a clear header that describes the content. This helps screen reader users understand the context of the information. View below how to auto-generate the table headers in MS Word and Adobe Acrobat Pro.

MS Word ↗️

PDF ↗️

Tables should be used for presenting data, not for controlling the layout of your page. Screen readers read tables cell by cell, which can be confusing if the table is used for layout purposes.

Use the correct tags for ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists. This allows screen readers to announce the list and the number of items in it.

MS word list tools

Try to keep list items concise and to the point. Long list items can be difficult to follow, especially for screen reader users.


Accessibility Checkers

Accessibility checkers are digital tools designed to evaluate digital content and ensure it meets universal accessibility standards. Almost every major text and video editor, or content creation tool now comes equipped with a built-in accessibility checker. These checkers scan documents, websites, and other digital materials to identify potential barriers that might hinder users, especially those with disabilities, from accessing the content.

Please follow the steps below to locate and use the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Word.

  • Open an existing document in Microsoft Word and review the content.
  • Select the Review tab in your toolbar.
  • Select Check Accessibility; an Accessibility Checker menu will appear on the right with Inspection Results displayed.
  • In the Accessibility pane, review and address the findings under Inspection Results.
  • In the Accessibility pane, select an issue under Warnings or Errors. The list expands and shows the items and objects affected by the issue.
  • To address the issue, select the down arrow button next to it and open Recommended Actions list.
  • To apply a fix, select an action from the Recommended Actions list.
  • Go through and resolve each issue under Warnings and Errors.
Requires a License

Adobe Acrobat DC Pro accessibility feature can be accessed only on licensed software. Please, contact Hostos IT and make an inquiry about the license.

Below are the steps to locate and use the Accessibility Checker in Adobe Acrobat Pro.


  • Open an existing PDF document in Adobe Acrobat Pro.
  • Select the Tools tab in your toolbar.
  • Select Accessibility from the list of tools.
  • In the Accessibility Tool panel on the right, select Accessibility Check.
  • The Accessibility Checker panel on the left lists the accessibility compliance issues.
  • Review and address the findings under Inspection Results.
  • In the Accessibility pane, select an issue under Warnings or Errors (marked by red x). The list expands and shows the items and objects affected by the issue.
  • Right-click on the issue marked as Warnings or Errors and select the Fix option.
  • Follow the prompt on the screen (it may vary based on the issue; examples may include adding header tags, alt text to images, etc. )
  • Go through and resolve each issue under Warnings and Errors.
  • Save the changes.

Anthology Ally tool is designed to promote inclusivity in online education, ensuring that all students, including those with disabilities, can access and benefit from digital course materials. It automatically scans all course content and provides an accessibility score for each item. This score is accompanied by guidance on how to improve the accessibility of the content.

For instructors, Anthology Ally provides specific feedback on how to make content more accessible. For example, if an uploaded document lacks headings or alternative text for images, Ally will point this out and provide guidance on how to make the necessary changes.

For students, one of the standout features of Anthology Ally is its ability to automatically generate alternative formats of course materials. For instance, if an instructor uploads a PDF reading, Anthology Ally can produce an audio version, an e-reader-friendly version, and more.

Accessibility Resource Center (ARC)


Phone: (718) 518-4454


Website: Accessibility Resource Center (ARC)



Phone: (718) 319-7915


Website: Hostos EdTech

Learn More


Written by the Center for Disability Rights, this source discusses the societal discrimination and devaluation of people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities and advocates for a shift in perspective from viewing disability as a ‘problem’ to recognizing and respecting differences.

Voice Dictation

Voice dictation is a feature that allows users to speak into their computer’s microphone, and the computer will convert the spoken words into written text. It can be used in various applications, including word processors, email, and even web browsers.

NVDA Free Screen Reader

NVDA allows people who experience blindness and vision impairment to access and interact with the Windows operating system and many third-party applications.

Live Transcript – Microsoft Translator

Microsoft Translator, a free app for translating and captioning live presentations, supports accessible classroom learning with live captioning, cross-language understanding, and even multilingual casual conversations to help with student integration.

This Microsoft guide provides a comprehensive list of resources for creating accessible documents in all available versions of the software.

This Microsoft guide provides a comprehensive list of resources for creating accessible PowerPoint presentations in all available versions of the software.

This Microsoft guide provides a comprehensive list of resources for creating accessible Excel files in all available versions of the software.

This Google guide provides instructions for creating accessible Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, & Drawings files in all available versions of the software.

Adobe Acrobat Pro is needed for editing PDFs

To use this software, you will need a license. Please contact Hostos IT for more information.

This Adobe guide provides instructions for creating accessible PDF files in Adobe Acrobat Pro version of the software.

This Zoom guide provides instructions for enabling accessibility in this video conferencing tool.

WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools

WAVE is a suite of evaluation tools developed by WebAIM that helps authors make their web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities. WAVE can identify many accessibility and Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) errors, but also facilitates human evaluation of web content. It is available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, as well as an online version at


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