Office of Inclusive Design

Classroom Accessibility

Assign Accessible Materials 

Ensure course materials are available in accessible online/PDF formats. 

  • Check for EPUB 3 standards of accessibility  
  • Students with cognitive, motor, learning, and visual disabilities can all benefit from online materials that are screen-reader accessible, do not require the use of a mouse, and can have the font size altered.  

Use Microphones for in-person Lectures  

Using microphones is helpful for both in-person and asynchronous learners. Individuals who are hard-of-hearing identifying benefit from microphone use while attending in-person lectures, especially in large lecture halls where the acoustics are not optimal. Students watching Panopto recordings also benefit from microphone usage, as it may be difficult to hear recordings without a microphone.  

Build your curriculum with different learning types in mind  

Everyone learns differently so providing multiple pathways to the same content can benefit all students. For example, if you assign reading, making sure that you use a document that is screen-reader accessible. This will help both visual and auditory learners have access to resources that work with their learning styles. Similarly, if you can find videos or other multi-media that describe the same materials, make sure to provide your students with those resources.   

Make Course Materials Accessible on your Course Website

  • This provides students with mental illness, student parents, commuter students, students with learning disabilities, students with cognitive disabilities, and students who had to miss class for reasons of illness, family emergency, and mental/physical health issues with equal opportunity to learn course materials regardless of what is happening in their lives outside of school.  

Provide Trigger Warnings for ANY Sensitive Materials  

  • Many topics including sexual assault, violence, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, suicidality, self-harm, mental illness, physical or psychological abuse, and many more can create an unsafe learning environment for many students, which inhibits their ability to participate fully in the course.  Providing trigger warnings can help potentially prevent traumatization or any psychological detriment from taking place within your classroom environment.  

Make your Classes Asynchronously Available 

  • Through resources provided by the university, all faculty members have the opportunity to make their courses accessible to any students who cannot make it to class for any reason. By making courses materials, quizzes, tests, and participation available online/asynchronously, students can keep up with course work and lectures when they are unable to attend class in person. Asynchronous learning accessibility is specifically paramount to the creation of inclusive learning environments during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some students may be excited to return to in-person learning, others may feel uneasy about the transition due to health concerns, living with individuals from vulnerable populations, financial stressors that create barriers in finding housing close to UW, and more. Providing these asynchronous learning options removes barriers that are currently being faced by many students and makes the general learning environment at UW more inclusive.  
  • Please make sure that any online content such as videos includes either CART captioning or ASL interpreters as well.  
  • Showing students lenience with deadlines can also prevent barriers to full and equal classroom participation.  
  • Be sure to provide clear and detailed grading criteria so all students have the highest possibility of success in your classroom. Avoiding ambiguity in curriculum and grading criteria makes classrooms more accessible to all students.  

Caption Videos  

  • For Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, video captioning is a necessary element of effective learning and communication. If you record lectures through Zoom or Panopto, make sure you enable captioning and/or transcription services so individuals who need to watch course content asynchronously can do so without access barriers. Additionally, if you assign videos or podcasts, please make sure there are accurate captions or transcripts available for those resources.  
  • If you are presenting through Microsoft PowerPoint, you can turn on live-captioning services for your presentation!  

Use Alt-Text for Images  

  • Alt-text for images is necessary to provide for students with vision impairment. Without alt-text, these students will miss the contextual cues or important information conveyed by your carefully selected visual content. You can do this in the notes section of PowerPoints, below images on slides/documents, and through creation of accessible PDFs on Adobe Acrobat. If you need assistance creating accessible teaching materials, please contact or see full resource on alt-text and image descriptions.

Make Your Visual Materials Accessible 

  • For visual materials like PowerPoints, posters, and paper materials, make sure your document is available with large-print and braille formats.  
  • Make sure all visual materials are high color contrast for individuals with visual impairments.  

Ensure Your Physical Space is Accessible 

Make Your Classroom a Scent-Free Space  

  • Individuals with allergies and chemical sensitivities may not be able to learn in spaces with strong scents. In order to create a scent-free space, simply ask all students not to wear/use products with strong scents during class.  

Ensure your Teaching Space is Wheelchair Accessible.  

  • Regardless of the classroom space you are assigned, you can make the space as physically accessible as possible by doing the following: 
  • Make sure furniture is spread out enough to make the space accessible for students with mobility-aids. 
  • Remove any hazards (loose cords, miscellaneous items) from the floor.  

Respect the Identities of Your Students  

Ask Students to State Pronouns  

  • Asking individuals to verify their pronouns will make the space much more accessible for students, as it creates a space for everyone to clarify how they identify and removes the burden of correcting those who misgender others.  

Verify Preferred Names  

  • Individuals may use names that are different from those listed on the student directory. Asking everyone to say their name before speaking is an easy way to make sure they are being addressed the way they are comfortable with.  

Create a learning environment that is inclusive for all students  

  • Ask students if they need any reasonable accommodation that is not provided by DRS. DRS does not always provide comprehensive accommodations, some students register with DRS too late to receive accommodations for a specific quarter, and some students avoid formal disability registration services due to the negative stigma surrounding disability. In these cases, doing what you can to make your course more accessible to students can mitigate many learning barriers.  
  • Ensure an accessible learning space by setting course standards that celebrate and include all the diverse identities held by UW students.  

 If you need any additional support or resources, please contact the Office of Inclusive Design (