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Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) Accessibility Standards and Procedures

Required Texts for Courses

​AccessAbility Services (AAS) is responsible for securing textbooks in alternative format for approved students who request them.

Students request specific texts from AAS based on what they learn in my.mtholyoke about their course readings. Faculty can assist in this effort by submitting book information and will find detailed submission instructions in my.mtholyoke.

  • In accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, citation information for required texts must be submitted to the course listing page by the following annual deadlines:
    • Fall semester deadline:  July 1
    • Spring semester deadline:  December 1
  • Please include the full title, author, publisher, edition, and ISBN-13 if available.
  • No books? Please indicate “no books required” in my.mtholyoke.

E-books and digital textbooks are not always accessible.  Every effort should be made to select E-books that are accessible.  If you plan on using e-books or digital textbooks in your class and know that you have a student with an alternative format accommodation, please contact AccessAbility Services.

Content You Create

In general, documents (Word documents, Google documents, PowerPoint Presentations, Excel spreadsheets, web content, and PDFs, etc.) can be made accessible for the majority of readers. Follow the tips below to optimize your documents' accessible features:

  • FONT-Use Sans Serif fonts (e.g. Arial, Tahoma, Verdana) whenever possible. Use at least 12 point font whenever possible.
  • COLOR- Choose effective color contrast and avoid these color combos: red/blue, red/green, dark green/black/blue/black, shades of gray or tan.  A useful tool to confirm optimum color contrast is the Paciello Colour Contrast Analyser. Do not use color alone to convey meaning.
  • Use semantic markup such as headings, lists, etc.
  • Provide appropriate alternative text for images.

  • Hypertext (link text) should be descriptive and unique. Avoid “click here” links or links with vague names.

  • If you are using Microsoft Office documents on a PC, run Microsoft's Accessibility Checker.  If you are using a MAC with Microsoft Office 2016 and greater, here's a link to the MAC Accessibility Checker
  • Provide alternative format(s) and/or provide contact info for users to request an alternative format.

JPG, PNG, and other image types (including image-only PDFs) are not accessible to screen readers.  If you are distributing an image of text, the text of your image must be replicated in the body of the email or the webpage so that a screen reader can read the text.

PDF documents must include “selectable text” to be accessible.  Double-click on a word to test this (as if you were going to copy/paste the word).  For help on creating accessible/selectable PDFs, see below under How to Make Your PDF More Accessible.

A concise resource guide on creating accessible Microsoft Office documents can be found on the National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) webpage.

See also Dos and Don'ts on Designing for Accessibility from the UK Government for handy posters that you can hang near your computer as design guideline cheat sheets.

Universal Design Tips

  • Faculty should post in-class handouts and Powerpoint slides to Moodle before class so that students may review the material before class.
  • If you plan to project the document during class or for a meeting, be certain the font size and projected color contrast is sufficient from all areas of the room. It is best to test this in your particular classroom at the start of the semester.
  • Consider providing written feedback in digital format. Track Changes is problematic for screen reader users.   
  • If you are using Microsoft PowerPoint, utilize default auto layouts that best fit the purpose of your slide content. Avoid using text boxes because tect within a textbox will not be viewable in Outline View.  You can check your content and reading order by viewing the PowerPoint presentation in Outline View.

Tips for Print Flyers, Brochures, Posters, etc.

  • Many of the tips above are relevant to your printed documents as well. Please read the guidelines above regarding fonts, color contrast, etc. and do not use color alone to convey meaning.
  • For posters, use a minimum font size of 16.  24 point is even better.
  • If your flyer or brochure is advertising an event, please make sure to include information on how participants can request accommodations for the event.  Typically this is through the department hosting the event, e.g. LITS is committed to providing universal access to all of our events.  LITS’ event spaces are wheelchair accessible.  Please contact to request disability accommodations.  We ask that requests for accommodations be made as early as possible.
  • Anything that you provide in print form should also be available digitally somewhere else (e.g. in an email blast going out to the campus, on your website, or on my.mtholyoke). Consider adding this statement to your printed document: This publication is digitally available on our website and available in other alternative formats upon request.  

Faculty - Scanned Documents for Courses

Use already digitized articles whenever possible.

  • Most of the articles in our MHC Library databases are already in accessible format for a majority of users.
    • Link to the article from Moodle or download the PDF and upload it to Moodle.  
    • Quickly search for an article by typing the title in the “Discover Supersearch” box on the LITS hompage.
    • For help with searching, contact the Research Services librarians.

LITS can scan materials for courses, either personal materials or materials held in the library’s collection.  

If you choose to scan your own documents, please follow these best practices:

  • Understand copyright and fair use guidelines.
  • Include the book's title page and copyright page.
  • Post to Moodle scanned documents as PDFs.
  • Scanned PDFs must include high-quality text and pages need to be free of dark shadows or blurred text in the margins. See Scanning using the Multifunction Devices (MFDs) for techniques to avoid these issues.
  • PDF documents should include “selectable text”.  You can test this by trying to select, copy, and paste an excerpt of the text.  If you can do this then your document has Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
  • If your text is not selectable, run OCR your documents in Adobe Acrobat DC or Adobe Acrobat Pro to recognize text in image-only PDFs.  See How to OCR a PDF document.

Universal Design Tips

  • In Adobe Acrobat DC or Adobe Acrobat Pro, delete unnecessary pages that were captured during the scanning process.  Rotate pages that are sideways or upside down.  
  • Make sure to include page numbers in your scanned documents.  
  • Handwritten bibliographic information is ok but also include it typed in the course syllabus.
  • Upload 1-page scans and avoid multiple page-scans.  This reduces cognitive load and eye-strain from reading small font.
  • Be consistent with document filenames and be sure they match the syllabus reference.  Recommended filename format is: author’s last name_title.
  • Copying and pasting a selection of OCR'ed text into a word document will also allow you to check the text quality.  AAS can survey your scanned documents for accessibility issues.

Scanning Accessibly Using the MFD (copier)

MFD's (or multifunction devices) are located in many offices and in several public locations throughout the campus.  Scanning is always free on any MFD.  To scan accessibly:

  1. Select the Email button on the MFD home screen
  2. In the Device Address Book, select your name/email address and "To" or select "Create new Contact" and enter email address, then X to close.  
  3. Advanced Settings tab: Resolution should be 300 DPI. Double check that the Output Color is black and white (text only) or grayscale (text and photos). Scanning in color produces very large files, so please only scan in color when color is important for the content.
  4. Layout tab: For books, select Original Size > Custom Scan Area.  Measure the book page and enter the coordinates, click OK. For printed pages, use the auto detect setting and use the document feeder on the MFD.
  5. Job Assembly tab: Click Build Job, and turn it on.      
  6. Scan pages needed, making sure to press down hard on the spine of the book to avoid shadows in the margins.
    • Scan your document as a 1-page rather than 2-page scan.
  7. Select Submit Job to finish a section.
  8. See How to OCR a PDF Document.

Scanning Tips and Tricks

  • Working with big/fat books that don't lay well on the scanning bed:
    • Make sure there is pressure on the spine of the book.
    • If the pages are bigger than tabloid, the MFD will not be able to scan the item.
    • Pages can be scanned in landscape and then rotated in Adobe Acrobat DC or Adobe Acrobat Pro.
    • Or,  if this is for a course ask LITS to do the scanning for you.  See How to Submit E-Reserves.
  • Use only “clean” source materials, e.g. avoid handwritten notes, underlining, and color highlighting.  
    • LITS may be able to help you get clean, print copies.  LITS also may already have e-book or PDF access or can acquire access.  To discuss options, please search the library catalog or contact the Research Services librarians.
  • When text on the opposite page shows through thin paper pages:
    • On the MFD, from Advanced Settings, choose Image enhancement > background suppression.


How to Make Your PDF More Accessible

PDF documents must include “selectable text”.  You can test this by trying to double-click on an individual word or trying to select, copy and paste an excerpt into a Word document.  Optical character recognition (OCR) is the conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded and "selectable" text.   If your text is not selectable, OCR your documents to recognize text in image-only PDFs.   


  • Recognize text tool in Adobe Acrobat DC or Abode Acrobat Pro
  • Convert document to a Tagged PDF using Robobraille
    • ​Robobraille is a free, accurate, and safe document conversion tool. To use robobraille, follow the link above, upload a file, choose a preferred format, and enter your email address.  The converted file is emailed to you within minutes!

Tips for Creating Forms

  • Avoid creating PDF forms in Adobe.
    • Use Google Forms.
    • Use Drupal (contact for help).
    • For forms that need to be printed and signed,
      • create them in Microsoft Word
      • when you are done, save to PDF
      • make BOTH the Word version and the PDF available to your users.  Screenreaders will have much more success with Word versions.
  • For Microsoft Word forms, think linearly.  Also, the simpler, the better!
    • Instead of this formatting:
      • Last Name: _________________  First Name:_________________
    • Do this (on separate lines):
      • Last Name:
      • First Name:
    • Instead of this formatting:
      • Signature: _________________  
      • Class Number:  ____________________________  
                                          (e.g. LATAM-180-01)
    • Do this:
      • Signature (required):
      • Class Number (e.g. LATAM-180-01):
  • Follow general best practices for creating accessible documents:
    • Use at least 12 point font whenever possible.
    • Use Sans Serif fonts (e.g. Arial, Tahoma, Verdana) whenever possible.
    • Use real bullets (not just type-your-own asterisks).
    • Use styles to identify your section headings.
    • Don't use color alone to convey meaning (e.g. don't simply put required fields in red text).
    • Use alt text for images (including for the Mount Holyoke logo).
  • If you are including a table on your form:
    • Make sure header row is selected and first column, if needed, is also selected, so that a screenreader knows what the column/row headers are.
    • Repeat header rows so that the header repeats if the table crosses onto a new page.
  • If the form is online only, put the hyperlink link behind descriptive text (e.g. Mount Holyoke Access and Inclusion homepage).  If the form will be printed, use both descriptive text and the URL.  Put the descriptive text first, so that the user knows where they are going before the screenreader begins to read the hyperlink letter-for-letter. (e.g. Mount Holyoke Access and Inclusion homepage (
  • It is best to avoid using Microsoft Office checkboxes.  But if you really need them, use real checkboxes, don't just insert symbols representing boxes.
  • Avoid password-protecting your documents.
  • When you are done with your form in Word, save as PDF (do not use Print to PDF).
    • Note that "Saving as PDF" on a Mac is problematic with versions of Microsoft Word earlier than Office 2016.  Please use a PC for this step if you do not have Office 2016 or later.
  • Make BOTH the Word document and the PDF document available.

Tips for Email

Here are a few basic best practices to ensure your email content is accessible to all of your audiences. If you're already familiar with web accessibility, these tips should come pretty easily to you.

Understanding Copyright and Fair Use

  • Content that is uploaded to Moodle for access by all students or distributed via email for courses (or otherwise) must comply with Fair Use.  See LITS resources for understanding Fair Use.
  • Additionally, providing accessible content to individuals with disabilities is widely considered a fair use in and of itself.  If you have a specific request for an individual student with documented need, please work with AAS.
  • Fair Use is complicated!  For help, please contact the Research Services librarians.  LITS is happy to work with you to discuss options for effectively meeting your needs.
MHC Accessibility Barriers Form