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Accessible Course Materials

Hampshire is committed to providing accessible course materials for all our students. If you are in need of specific assistive technology for a documented disability, please visit our disclosure and accommodation request page to learn more.

While all course-related materials and activities need to be accessible, these instructions focus on reading materials, because they are most common. For reading materials, being accessible means being in an electronic format, with text that can be recognized and read by a computer.

Accessibility Goals for Course Materials

  • Post readings and assignments online in digital form, and as much ahead of time as possible.
  • Make sure the text of readings is selectable and/or searchable by a computer.
  • When possible, use "born-digital" copies of readings from online databases or other electronic sources. If you must use scans of paper documents, those scans should be clean, so text can be recognized easily. We have listed more specific properties of clean texts in the next section.
  • PDFs should have their title and language properties set. They should also contain an outline structure.

Creating Accessible Materials 

1. Scan a clean document

  • Some scanners have a Searchable PDF option that can recognize text for you at this stage. If yours does not, use the regular PDF setting. Do not use an image setting like JPG.
  • Before you scan, make sure there are no handwritten notes or underlining on the document.
  • Text must be legible, and not blurry, cut off, hidden by shadows, or distorted by bent pages.
  • Scan only one document page per PDF page.

Examples

What do accessible and non-accessible PDFs look like? Compare the examples, and watch a text-to-speech program in action trying to read them.

2. Recognize text if necessary

  • Open the PDF on your computer. Check whether you can select the text by highlighting a section of the text or searching for a common word.
  • If you are unable to do these things, use Robobraille to recognize the text.  Robobraille is an online text conversion service used by the College. In addition to recognizing the text, it will also create a basic outline structure.
  • Once you have uploaded your document, choose Document conversion as your output format (step 2) and Tagged PDF (text-over-image) as your target format (step 3).
  • Enter your email information and submit. Within a few minutes you will be emailed a PDF version of your document with recognized text.

Convert a document now!

3. Add title and language information in Adobe Acrobat

Open your file in Adobe Acrobat to make these final adjustments. They ensure that the document is easy to identify, and that screen reader software uses the correct pronunciation when reading it aloud.

  • Add a title: File > Properties > Description > Title
  • Ensure title is read: File > Properties > Initial View > Show > Document Title
  • Add a language: File > Properties > Advanced > Language

Make sure to save the accessible version of your document when you're finished.

Advanced PDF accessibility: outline structure

Following the steps above is a good start and should be sufficient in many cases. Perfecting the outline structure of a PDF for full accessibility requires time and expertise. To do so, see step five of our Create Accessible PDFs page: Adjust Order and Tags in Acrobat Pro.

Contact Us For Help

  • The directer of accessibility services is the primary contact for students needing accommodations, and the faculty who teach them.
  • The instructional technologist (Stephanie Friedman) can give general advice on this topic, or evaluate your existing materials.
  • Your school librarian can help you find electronic versions of articles and resources.
  • Your school administrative assistant, IT school support specialist, or the Duplications Center can help with scanning.

Accessibility Resources

For an in-depth look at making course activities and materials accessible, check out the Five College Accessibility website.

Additional accessibility standards for instructional materials can be found at edX's Accessibility Best Practices for Developing Course Content.

Study Aid Software

Kurzweil 3000, a powerful text-to-speech and study aid program, is available to all current Hampshire students, faculty, or staff. Our site-wide Kurzweil license includes Mac and Windows versions as well as access to the Kurzweil web app, which can be used online or on an iPad. Students using Kurzweil can access the program on their own personal computers. Kurzweil 3000 also has a built-in free library of classic literature.

Learn more and register

Stay In Touch
With The IT Accessibility Working Group
Snail Mail
The IT Accessibility Working Group
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002