Guidance for creating accessible teaching material

This guidance is aimed to assist staff to produce high quality teaching materials for their students. Fundamental to the quality of teaching materials is good design. Thoughtful design will ensure that students will be able to get the most from their learning materials, and will allow access to them in a variety of means, tailored to their learning style and needs. Simple considered steps make this possible, and can make a huge difference to the student experience.

University strategy policy makes reference to a curriculum which is “inclusive”, “flexible” and “accessible”. The aim of this guidance is to support staff to create teaching material that makes all of the above possible, by adopting very simple principles at the design stage.

How does the guidance work?

The guidance has been designed to work on different layers. There is a quick tip, list style presentation, of the key concepts, for those who perhaps feel more confident about their use of IT packages. For anyone who would like further detail on each of the tips, there are full instructions on how to carry out these tasks. Also, there is be a section to explain exactly why good design matters. It looks at how students access their material, what software packages they might be using and why. The aim of this multi layered approach it to meet the needs of staff across the institution. For those who want a deeper understanding of why accessible materials are so important, this should be provided. For those who want to find out how to change certain features within their documents, and finally for those who wish to have a quick check of the overall principles. The guidance is designed to be as fluid and simple to use as possible, whilst addressing the key issues.

How accessible is your teaching?
GCU is committed to the development of learning opportunities which are inclusive by design and which do not discriminate against disabled learners. Many of the approaches that will benefit students with disabilities will be helpful to all students and should be adopted within an inclusive teaching framework.
It also provides an opportunity for identifying barriers and biases in programme material/activities. Additionally, it aligns with the Strategy for Learning Principle of inclusive, accessible learning and supports the University’s compliance with the Equality Act (EQA) 2010.
The following Inclusive and Accessible Learning & Teaching Checklist  provides guidance for academic colleagues who are involved in the design or delivery of modules and programmes has been produced. 
This is intended as a quick look check list but for more detailed inclusive practice guides relating to making teaching material accessible and specific disabilities please go to Staff Materials section of the GCU Disability Team webpage or contact your departments Academic Disability Co-ordinator (ADC). You may also contact the Disability Team directly for advice and signposting. 
Recordings of lectures by disabled students

For some students, audio or video recording will be recommended as a reasonable adjustment to address the disabling impact of a long term condition or impairment on e.g. note taking or concentration.

Where the recommendation is that a disabled student audio record their lectures, this recommendation will be recorded within a Recommended Adjustments Page (RAP). It is assumed under the terms of the 'Inclusive & Accessible Learning & Teaching Checklist', part of the FAIR Curriculum, that the student will be permitted to do so, and where a RAP makes this recommendation, it is also assumed that they do not have to explicitly seek permission from individual staff members prior to making such recordings.

Where the recommendation is that lectures are video recorded, further guidance regarding appropriate arrangements will always be provided by the Disability Team.

If a member of staff were to withhold permission for a disabled student to audio record, it is likely that the student would be placed at a substantial disadvantage, and that this action would constitute unlawful discrimination under the terms of the Equality Act 2010.

If a member of staff does withhold permission to record, that member of staff has a duty to seek an alternative (equally effective and practical) means of ensuring that any disabled student is not disadvantaged. In these rare circumstances, the member of staff is encouraged to contact the Disability Team for advice.

How does the guidance work?

Students access their learning materials in a variety of ways. Some will prefer to print material off and read a hard copy, other will read from screen and some will use assistive software to help them with their reading. This guidance supports the creation of learning materials in such a way that all of the above is possible. Within the disability team we can work with students to show them how to manipulate their materials into a format that is best suited for them. This however, is contingent on the material being provided in an accessible format.

Students who meet with the Disability Team can be shown different ways of accessing their materials, using assistive software, to allow them to work effectively. Some of the key reasons students may visit the Disability Team include difficulties with reading speed, reading comprehension, visual impairments and comprehension. All of which have an impact on how written material is accessed.

Below are details of some of the assistive software packages used by students. These are all available on campus.

Software for literacy support

The most commonly used software package to assist with academic reading and writing, at GCU, is Read and Write Gold. One of the features of this software is the ability to have text read aloud. The university has a site licence for this software, meaning all students and staff have access.

As a result, there may well be many more students using this than we are aware of, making good design of teaching materials imperative. Students who present to the Disability Team may be advised to use this software if they have difficulties with areas including reading comprehension, processing or concentration and memory. The ability to have text read aloud, whilst reading along can have a major impact on comprehension of material. Well-designed teaching materials work well with this software.

Another key feature of this software is the ability to change or tint the background colour on screen. For many students, reading black text from a white background can be uncomfortable, and by showing students how to change this feature, they have better access to their material. This also reduces the requirement to print out hand-outs on different coloured paper.

Screen reading software

Screen reading software is used by students with visual impairments. The software will read aloud everything on screen to assist with navigation. For example, icons, screen prompts and menus will be read aloud, to allow the user to open files or applications.

One of the most commonly used examples of screen reading software is JAWS. Students would use this software in all aspects of their computer usage, such as opening files, accessing the internet, producing written work and accessing their reading material. This guidance provides details and advice on how to best structure your documents to ensure that a JAWS user can successfully navigate them. There are a number of pre-set formatting options within Word to help with this. Simple use of these features can make a huge difference for students using JAWS, or other screen reading software.

Magnification software

Some students with visual impairments will make use of magnification software. This software allows everything on screen to be powerfully, and accurately, magnified to a comfortable reading level. The guidance will touch on some important issues to consider when producing teaching materials, which may have an impact on students using this software.

On campus, students can make use of ZoomText, which is a piece of magnification software.

Further information on software

The Disability Team offers training on assistive software packages to all students and staff. If you are interested in finding out about any of these packages mentioned, or indeed any other assistive software packages on campus please look for any upcoming sessions at our Eventbrite page, or contact the Disability Team directly (

Having an awareness of the types of software used by students on a daily basis can help to anticipate any potential barriers when creating new material.