Threshold Standard: Materials are accessible

Accessible Materials: Introduction

Legislation means that all materials posted online must be made as accessible as possible. This is to ensure that potential barriers to participation are removed for all students, not just those with declared disabilities. To do this:


Accessible Materials 1. Follow the SCULPT model to create more accessible materials from the outset

The SCULPT model is a framework that can be used as the basis of making content accessible. The aim of the SCULPT model is to improve user experience and to ensure that there are no barriers. The six elements of the model are:

  • Structure: the way that a document is organised

  • Colour and contrast: use of colours that contrast in text and background

  • Use of images: the inclusion of alt text when including images and the avoidance of using images of text

  • Links: ensuring words that are used for links are meaningful and noticeable

  • Plain English: the articulation of words in a clear and concise manner

  • Tables :  inclusion of column headers and ensuring that cells aren’t merged, split nor empty


Thinking about these aspects when creating or editing materials will make them more accessible for all, and is more efficient than addressing accessibility issues after creating the material. More information about the SCULPT model and how to apply it is available on Sharepoint.


Accessible Materials 2. Make use of the accessibility checking tools in Microsoft Office to reduce the number of issues as you are creating materials

Accessibility checkers built into Microsoft Word and PowerPoint can help to quickly find and correct accessibility issues in materials as they arise. These checkers are available in both the desktop and online versions of the software, though the dektop version is more powerful. Information on using the checkers is available from Microsoft.


Accessible Materials 3. Use the Blackboard Ally accessibility checker to find and correct issues

When you upload or create materials in Blackboard, the Ally accessibility checker will automatically scan them and provide an accessibility score. This score will be shown as a gauge icon Example of Ally score icon next to the item and clicking it will provide details on any issues found as well as suggestions on how to correct them. A report is available with a summary on the accessibility of the module overall. The Digital Learning blog has a guide with detailed information on Ally and how it can be used.


Accessible Materials 4. Upload files in their standard file format, i.e. don’t convert to PDF before uploading

In the past, the recommendation was to convert files to PDF format before uploading to Blackboard as this was more accessible than other formats, such as Word docx or PowerPoint pptx files. However, in recent years the accessibility of PDF has not advanced while companies like Microsoft have been placing a lot of effort in improving the accessibility of their own software and files. As a result of this, and the fact that Blackboard Ally can generate alternative formats, such as PDF or audio, should a student want them, it is now recommended to post the standard file format rather than convert to PDF. However, if you are required to create a PDF from a Microsoft Word document, the video below will provide you with information on how you can make a PDF accessible.

Accessible Materials 5. Ensure video and audio recordings have a transcript or subtitles available

Captions and/or subtitles are essential for students and staff who have a hearing impairment, for those who don’t understand the language being spoken, or are learning the language, and if someone doesn’t have access to audio (e.g. if they don’t have headphones or are working in a noisy environment). Without subtitles, a student or staff member in any of these situations would find it difficult, or impossible, to engage with the content. Therefore, it is important to have captions on media content or live sessions wherever possible to help with student and staff engagement. Video and audio files should have a transcript available for download or be subtitled.  Panopto can automatically generate and add subtitles to videos and generate a downloadable transcript for videos and audio files.We have this guide on automatic captions on live and recorded sessions.


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