Accessibility Resources

It is estimated that 1 in 4 adults have some form of disability. While our campus and college has services and systems in place to make accommodations, many of our visitors, students, and colleagues have undisclosed disabilities. We strive to offer an inclusive environment for all. 

If you need assistance with the information provided on this page, identifying additional resources, or have questions, contact Andy Blacker, the FAA representative on the IT Accessibility Liaison committee. 

Campus Resources

Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES), a unit of the College of Applied Health Sciences, serves as the designated office of the University that coordinates campus-wide services for students with disabilities.

The ADA Coordinator is responsible for coordinating and monitoring the university’s efforts to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (codified in 29 U.S.C. 701), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the rights of persons with disabilities.

The mission of Accessible IT Group (AITG) is to promote a campus environment that integrates the universal design of information technology resources through outreach, evaluation, collaboration, education, research, and adaptive technologies to ensure the inclusion of students with disabilities in the Illinois Experience.

General Information

The Accessibility 101 course is intended to increase understanding and awareness of accessibility, as well as in the context of information technology (I.T.). The course is free but does require the creation of an account. 

Disability Awareness and Etiquette was a presentation made by Lindsay Haitz and Mark McCarthy to the IT Accessibility Liaisons. You can view the video of the presentation for general information, terminology, and suggestions on creating a welcoming environment. 


When planning events such as lectures, conferences, and/or symposia, it is important to be mindful of the physical space and access to the meeting spaces as well as to the building and parking/public transportation. Floorplans of campus buildings featuring accessible entries and exits, interior access routes, and more details are available on the Facility Access Maps website

It is important to include a method for participants to contact the event planner on your event flyers, advertisements, and emails. Include a statement such as, "If you are a person with a disability that requires accommodation(s), please contact X by X date. Accommodation requests received after X date will be given due diligence to be filled, but may not be guaranteed."

Plan to provide your materials at your live event or electronically in advance. If you are using a presentation, make printed copies available at the event. It is important to be aware of your presentation design; presentations with backgrounds or colors may not translate well when printed and cause readability issues. If you are including a video or movie in your presentation, these should also be shown with Closed Captioning enabled.

For information about creating accessible documents, please see Documents below.

For information about captioning and interpeting, see below.

For your Zoom meetings and events, you should untilize Live Captioning or an interpreter. When your Zoom meeting is created, make sure that you have enabled Closed Captioning under the Settings tab.  

Zoom does have automatic Live Captions available, but they are not ADA compliant. They are about 94% accurate, but the captions only appear in the "main Zoom room," as the captions are not available/don't work in the "break out rooms." It is an option to always plan on using Zoom automatic Live Captioning until you get a request for ADA-approved Live Captioning from a Deaf/Hard of Hearing person.

Captioning and Interpreting

DRES provides Closed Captioning and Live Captioning for English. More information and service request forms are online.

  • Closed Captioning: Captions created after a video is produced or recorded; it should be verbatim. It will include sound effects and speaker identification when needed. They can be toggled on and off.
  • Live Captioning: Captions provided in "real-time," by a live person. (Similar to a court stenographer in a courtroom).  A transcriber is creating the text in real-time and displaying that text to the user. Live captioning can be verbatim or meaning-for-meaning depending on the type of Live Captioning.

DRES offers two ADA approved types of Live Captioning: TypeWell and CART. CART is 98% accurate and most widely used for campus-wide events, courses, and grad-level work.

Request Form for DRES Live Captioning

Sign language interpreters may be requested through DRES for your in-person and Zoom events. University events and departmental requests should be made at least 2 weeks in advance using the Interpreter Request Form. Interpreter and captioning will be billed to departments at the DRES rate structure.


Sharing documents is extremely helpful however if you are making documents available electronically as Word docs or PDFs, these should be created in an accessible matter.

Word Documents

Watch a video presentaion made by Mark McCarthy to the IT Accessibility Liaisons where the below guidance is explained in more detail. 

  • Word Automated Checker
    • Microsoft has a built-in accessibility checker. It appears in the lower-left corner of Word near the word count. Office 365 has this on by default. If it does not appear, turn it on under the Review tab of Word titled “Check Accessibility”.
    • However, don’t rely on this checker to catch every accessibility issue in Word.
    • The Word automated checker is good for finding things like missing alt text for images, but doesn’t understand if the alt text is helpful. The automated checker can also miss things such as proper use of headings in Word
  • Headings
    • Larger/bold text does NOT mean that something is a heading!
    • A heading must be made in word using the Heading options in Word (located under the Home tab)
    • Creating headings via the built-in Word tool ensures they are recognized as such by screen readers.
    • For your title, using Heading 1 (not the Title heading, as Adobe Acrobat considers that a Heading 4 for some reason)
    • If you want a specific style for Heading 1 (or 2, 3, etc.), right-click Heading 1 in Word while highlighting your Heading 1 in the style you want. Then, select the option to “Update Normal to Match Selection”. This change affects the ENTIRE document!
    • Use Header 1 first, then Header 2, etc.
    • For information of the same hierarchy level, it is ok to use the same Header type such as multiple Header 2. This is NOT true for Header 1, though. Only use one of those.
    • Aside: Strikethrough is read inconsistently by screen readers, so try and avoid it or give extra explanation (ex. deprecated before strikethrough section)
  • Lists
    • Make sure your visual lists in Word documents are considered lists by Word! Otherwise, they will not be read as lists by screen readers.
    • To do this, make sure you are making a list using the Word tool (or that Word has automatically applied the list formatting to your document)
  • Alt Text
    • Make the image alt text useful for the given context and useful.
    • An image that is purely decorative can be “marked as decorative” in word in the Alt Text menu by checking a box.
    • Keep alt text to a few sentences at most. Otherwise, the information is better included outside of the image.
    • Pretend you are describing the image to someone on the phone who does not have access to the image visually.
  • Cognitive Accessibility
    • Indent paragraphs and separate long paragraphs to give readers mental breaks
  • Paragraph Markings
    • Use page breaks instead of using the Enter key to space out sections
    • Using Enter generates paragraph markers that are read as “Blank” by screen readers and take quite a while to remediate when in a PDF
    • Using page breaks also helps your content format better when adding more content
  • Table of Contents
    • For a large document with MANY different sections, a table of contents will help people navigate your document
    • Put your table of contents early in your document
    • Under the References tab, use the automatic option to generate a table of contents
    • If your content has headers, this automatically generated table will be pretty good!
    • Hold down the Ctrl key and click the desired content in the table to navigate to it
    • Right-click the table and select “Update table” to mark changes to your headings in the table of contents
  • PowerPoint
    • A lot of these Word tips are also helpful for PowerPoint
    • In PowerPoint, try to use the built-in styles and themes, as they are built to be read by screen readers (whereas custom ones may have issues)
    • Also, avoid animations and text boxes (text boxes don’t sit in-line with text

PDF Documents

This information covers quick checks to determine if a PDF is accessible and some basic remediation methods.

  • Why are accessible PDFs so much trouble?
    • PDFs were developed in late 1990’s as an export option, just like a printer or image file
    • Most times they were scanned paper documents and saved as image files
    • Never intending to be an editing environment
    • When introduced the use of Assistive Technology to read PDFs was not available
  • PDF has a standard (PDF UA)
    • ISO standard for accessible PDFs. Example items in it are:
      • Set clear rules for developers and authors of tagged PDF documents and forms
      • Tags must correctly represent documents semantic structures (headings, etc)
      • Graphics have alt text
      • Security settings must allow assistive tech to access content
      • Fonts must be embedded, and text mapped to Unicode (normally happens automatically)
  • ·PDFs are very common, so helpful for us to know if it is functionally accessible and technically accessible
    • Accessibility checkers only give you an overview and is technically accessible, but might not mean it is functionally accessible
  • Structure of an accessible PDF
    • Visual Layer
      • What we visually see of the PDF
      • This is sometimes called the hard copy layer/ physical layer
    • Text Layer (Invisible)
      • Needed for accessibility
      • Contains all the text
      • Enables searching and editing in the document
      • If you turn on read aloud, this is what is read
      • Reads top to bottom, left to right with no formatting 
    • Tags Layer (Invisible)
      • Needed for accessibility
      • Enables it to be accessible because it gives the document semantic structure
      • Where you assign texts tags like headings, paragraphs, etc
      • Give the text meaning
  • Quick Checks to see if PDF is accessible or not
    • Is scanned document?
      • Can open PDF and run the accessibility checker or can do the following quick checks:
      • Open it up and it says it is a scanned document – not accessible
        • Might need to go to original document and export to
    • Text vs. Image Tests
      • Place cursor in a text area of document. If the i-bar shows up (instead of the + sign) you know it is text and not an image:  
      • Also, if you can highlight some text, then it is text and not an object/image
    • Check for existence of Tags
      • Open Tags panel
        • If it states No Tags available, then the doc is not accessible
          • Might find that Acrobat has tried to give it tags (say paragraphs) but might not make sense or be appropriate.
      • If there are Tags, are they correct? In the correct order (ex: semantic order of headings correct or out of order) and items look correctly mapped
    • Alt-Text Quick Test
      • Open the Reading Order dialog box and items tagged as “Figures” (non-text elements like images)
        • If no alt text then it is not accessible
        • If alt text present, then make sure it makes sense to figure.
    • Verify Reading Order
      • If straight top to bottom document, then might not need this step
      • Open the tags panel
        • Select the first tag in the tree and then use down arrow to move through the document to ensure that it is following logically with the text and in the correct order.
  • Remediation:
    • Tag the document will often be enough
    • Run a report via the Accessibility Checker
      • Make sure all checking options are checked.
      • You don’t have to do a report but can if you want. For example, if you need to provide it to another person.
      • Logical reading order and color contrast need manual checks
      • If it identifies tag issues
        • Do not use the Fix option
        • Open Reading Order:
          • Clear tags
          • Then highlight the element you want to tag and then in reading order pane indicate what type of element it is (ex: heading 1)
          • Continue down the page highlighting items
          • For tables, you want to define it as a table and then go into the table editor
      • The checker is quite good at finding issues
    • If a document created in in-design with lots of images, best solution is to go to the original document and make it accessible in the original document before going to PDFs
    • PowerPoint to PDF
      • Make sure each slide title is unique (will become headings)
      • Use accessibility checker
      • Stick to using the standard layouts since they are designed to use correct reading order