This page is a collection of information and resources focusing on designing accessible STEM content. Designing accessible STEM content, from the start, will not only provide equal access to people with disabilities but also will significantly improve overall functionality and usability for all students.
In this Resource
- Designing Accessible STEM Content
- Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan (EEAAP)
- Best Practices
- Testing for Accessibility
- Additional Resources
Designing Accessible STEM Content
Creating accessible STEM content will help all students. This section highlights the opportunities to incorporate accessible instructional materials.
Providing alternative text (alt text) allows people who are blind or have low vision to have equal access to information presented in visual formats. Alt text is added to images in documents or on the web. Taking the extra step will ensure that instructional images are accessible to all learners.
Resource: Image Descriptions Guidelines for Assessments (PDF)
This resource is a comprehensive guide to support writing alternative text for instructional assessment images. This guide also applies to document or web-based images. Please see part 3 for Math and part 5 for Science.
How to Describe Images for Math and Science
Periodic Table of the Elements
Captions, audio descriptions (for slide content and images), and transcripts ensure lectured content is accessible to all learners. These multiple means of representation allow: 1) all viewers to interact with the video using search filters on transcripts, 2) gain access to slide content for people with low-vision or blindness, and 3) allow captioned video content to be viewed by people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Captions, audio descriptions, and transcripts will not only benefit people with learning differences, but various studies have shown how captioned video will increase the amount of time spent watching the video and improve comprehension.
Explore: UDL in Higher Education- Video
CSUN Resource: Captioning
CSUN Captioning: Request Services
Designing accessible documents, like a syllabus or handouts, can provide access for all students. Formatting will not only improve accessibility but will increase functionality by 1) using heading styles will automatically populate a table of contents, 2) writing meaningful links that reflect the title of the linked page will enhance readability, and 3) running the Accessibility Checker will increase overall accessibility. A tutorial for creating accessible documents can provide additional information.
CSUN Resource: Document Accessibility
Transcripts of an audio file or podcast allow auditory content to be presented using multiple ways of representation. Transcripts can reduce barriers for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, understand English is a second language, or have cognitive learning differences. In addition, transcripts allow users to search for keywords, jump to specific sections, and navigate more extended clips.
Explore: UDL in Higher Education- Audio
MathML and LaTeX
Equations can be represented in many ways, i.e. images, MathML, or LaTeX. Images require the addition of alternative text (alt text), while MathML and LaTeX are fully accessible formats and don’t require additional markup. Penn State provides a general overview of Equations: MathML, Images, and LaTeX.
Resource: EquatIO- Digitally create fully accessible equations. Equat10 features: voice, write or type equations; make predictions; and can add equations or formulas into Google docs, forms, slides, etc.
Third-Party Vendor Products/Tools
Selecting and integrating third-party tools and apps is a critical step while designing STEM curriculum. Identifying accessible third-party tools and apps is equally as critical. Anyone can check for basic accessibility functionality of tools or apps. First, reflect on the overall user experience: 1) What barriers will students have while logging in, interacting with, or completing work? 2) Does this tool provide equal access to all students, i.e. students who are Blind, Deaf, Cognitive, or have other learner differences? Consider the following questions while using the tool or app:
- Font: Is the test styling easy to read?
- Color: Is text easy to read?
- Keyboard: Can a user navigate through the content using only a keyboard?
- Enlarge: Does “Ctrl +” and “Ctrl –“ resize the screen?
If third-party tools or apps are inaccessible, a Plan for Alternate Access (PAA) will be required to provide equal access to all students. Additional information about completing evaluations, please visit the Universal Design Center website for Evaluation Tools page. To work with an Instructional Media Accessibility Consultant, please email email@example.com
Plan for Alternate Access (PAA)
A Plan for Alternate Access (PAA) is a document used to record accessibility gaps for the product you have chosen to purchase. The main purpose of the PAA is to identify known workarounds and describe how equally effective alternative access will be provided should an accommodation request arise. To complete a PAA, please use the Plan for Alternate Access Template (DOCX). For directions to completing a PAA, please see UDC's Plan for Alternate Access page.
- Develop accessible STEM content from the start by creating: alt text on images, closed captions on videos, accessible documents, transcripts for podcasts/audio files
- Use MathML or LaTeX to provide access to equations
- Consider accessibility while selecting/renewing third-party vendor products and tools
- Complete an Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan (EEAAP) for inaccessible third-party products
Testing for Accessibility
WAVE is a free browser extension that will scan any web page for any potential errors or warnings. Scanning a Canvas page for accessibility takes a little time and can alleviate inaccessibility issues in the future. When all editing is complete, scan the page. First, download the WAVE browser extension and scan the Canvas page for accessibility. Second, use the accessibility evaluation guides on the Conducting Accessibility Evaluations website to gain a deeper understanding of how to read the report.
Authoring tools, like Word, have built-in Accessibility Checker that will automatically scan documents. These powerful tools are available in Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Google Docs, and Acrobat. General testing information can be found on the testing and learning tools page or specific software tutorials can be found on Document Accessibility.
For additional support or questions, please contact the Universal Design Center at 818-677-5898 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Access STEM (University of Washington)
- Math and STEM Content (Penn State)
- STEM Accessibility (Salt Lake Community College)
- MathyType- MathType is compatible with Microsoft Word, and it is also available as an add-on for Google Docs.
- EquatIO- Digitally create fully accessible equations. Equat10 features: voice, write or type equations; make predictions; and can add equations or formulas into Google docs, forms, slides, etc.
- Desmos- The next generation graphing calculator.
- Microsoft OneNote- The Immersive Reader feature built into Microsoft applications such as OneNote and Word uses text to speech to read math expressions aloud. Microsoft OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote Online also feature a Math button that allows learners to get additional support with math expressions.
- Accessible Math (AEM)
- How to Describe Images for Math and Science
- Chandra X-Ray Observatory- Collection of free tactile, 3D prints, tactile and Braille posters, audio descriptions of images, and much more.
- Describing Science Images (National Center for Accessible Media)
- Periodic Table of the Elements
- How to Describe Images for Math and Science