Skip to main content

How to Incorporate More Accessible Educational Materials into Online Learning

  • 3 Min Read

This blog outlines different ways you can incorporate accessible educational materials into online learning

Accessibility is essential for leveraging technology and providing equal online educational opportunities for all learners. One way to create a meaningful learning space for students is by incorporating accessible educational materials (AEM). These are print and technology-based readings and core materials that are designed to be more usable across a wide range of student needs.

This blog outlines four different ways you can incorporate AEM into online learning.

Digital Text

An important principle of AEM is digital text. In simple terms, this can be described as text that includes hyperlinks, interactive images, or diagrams. A key feature of digital text is that it’s malleable, meaning that the content can be altered by changing size, fonts, colors, and contrast to accommodate the needs of the learner. Digital text can also be used alongside assistive technology, such as text-to-speech readers, which speak aloud the digital text to the student in a digitized voice.

Alternative Text

Another aspect of AEM focuses on including alternative (alt) text with images. These are descriptions that function behind the scenes of an image within an HTML code to describe the appearance and function of an image on a document or webpage.

Alt text promotes more accessibility to an online course, as it can be used with screen readers and other assistive technologies. Although these tools can tell when an image is present, they cannot be used to analyze the content. Use your learning management system (LMS) to include alt text that can be read in place of an image so students can understand the meaning of the image and its content.

When writing alt text, it’s helpful to keep the following questions in mind: What is the purpose of this image? What additional content is it supporting? What information is it presenting? The main focus should be on sharing the intent, purpose, and meaning of the image.

Headers and Content Descriptions

AEM includes material designed or converted into forms that make it usable for a wide range of students. AEM incorporates headers that tell readers what a specific section of text is about. Proper headers let assistive technologies quickly identify the material on the page. This helps learners to navigate content effectively and to skip irrelevant material.

Headers can be included in readings, presentations, assignments, as well as within your LMS to organize this content. Use the HTML editor in your LMS to help select the text you want to use as a header from a formatting drop-down menu.

Rather than telling students to click here or read more, use descriptive link text to describe the purpose of the link. This makes it easier for students to understand the context of the link and helps your course meet more accessibility requirements.

Example: Read about accessibility standards at

Descriptive link example: Visit D2L for additional information on accessibility.

This is especially important for users with screen readers, as descriptive hyperlinks make it easier for users to know what the link is about, rather than reading out every dash and letter in a URL. Implementing clear and effective links in your online course is a simple way to improve the accessibility and usability of your content.

Help Make Learning Accessible with Brightspace

Incorporating accessible educational materials provides students with different ways of accessing, understanding, and engaging with content. This not only helps to benefit students who require accommodations, but it also enhances efficiency and learning for students in an online course.

D2L believes that learning technologies should never limit learning opportunities. That is why accessibility is part of our organizational culture and is an integral part of our development cycle. Join us at this brief webinar as we highlight the accessibility features within D2L’s Brightspace platform.

We will cover:

  • How learners and instructors using assistive technologies can use Brightspace
  • Features built into the platform
  • Features we offer through third-party integration

Watch now

Written by:

Zeina Abouchacra
Zeina Abouchacra

Zeina Abouchacra is the EDU Content Marketing Specialist at D2L. She has worked in the higher education sector in various communications positions as well as a researcher and a teaching assistant. Specifically, teaching undergraduate-level communication university courses. Zeina is currently working towards completing her Master of Arts Communication degree at the University of Ottawa.

Stay in the know

Educators and training pros get our insights, tips, and best practices delivered monthly

Table of Contents
  1. Digital Text
  2. Alternative Text
  3. Headers and Content Descriptions
  4. Descriptive Link Text
  5. Help Make Learning Accessible with Brightspace