Technology & Learning Program

Syllabus Accessibility

Quick start:

Download the Accessible Syllabus Template

State law and the Chancellor's Office require that all California State University instructional materials be accessible to all students, regardless of ability. The Technology & Learning Program supports campus achieving the Accessible Technology Initiative goal of making course material accessibility.

The syllabus is a perfect place to start evaluating your course materials for accessibility. It is both most likely distributed in a digital form and usually contains information in a variety of forms such as paragraphs, lists, and tables. Making your syllabus accessible will familiarize you with the core features of an accessible document.

What is an Accessible Syllabus?

An accessible syllabus is a document that conveys the goals of your course in a way that all students can read and understand without problems. Whether you create your syllabus in an app like MS Word or directly in Learn, the following features are common to accessible documents because they empower the reader to quickly find information on the screen, on paper, or using a screen reader.

Resources to Make Your Syllabus Accessible


The Office of Accessible Technology and Services (OATS) works with staff, faculty, students, administrators, and community members to ensure that Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and CSU ATI standards are met in all aspects of the university.

Our "Make Your Course Syllabus Accessible with MS Word" is a one hour hands-on faculty workshop. Bring at least one course syllabus in Microsoft Word format to incorporate the accessibility lessons shown. See our current workshop offerings(opens in new window) or contact our department lead to make arrangements.

Read our tutorials in the TLP Knowledge Base. These provide many pointers and guides to get yourself going in building an accessible syllabus.

Basics Of A Strong Syllabus

However you create your syllabus, the following features are common to accessible documents as they promote the ability of the reader to quickly find information regardless of how the material is being read.

Reading Order

Text should make sense if every line is read from left to right. Tables or text boxes should not be used to position text.

Heading Styles

Syllabus section titles use Heading styles to provide an outline structure.

Table Headers

Tables are used to organize columns of correlated information or data. Tables have a specified header row containing column labels.

Alternative Text for Images

Alternative text descriptions (alt-text or captions) are provided for any images which convey meaning.

Learner Resources

A syllabus should contain or link to relevant course-specific and campus resources such as the library, academic policies, and disability support services.

Checklist In Depth

Contact Office of Accessible Technology (opens in new window)

Consult our accessibility tutorials wiki page(opens in new window)

Reading Order

Because a screen reader may not correctly read text which is contained in specially inserted text boxes. Information which is positioned using tabs to simulate a table or column may also not read properly either. Tabular information such as a grading chart or calendar should be created using a table instead. Contact OATS if you want assistance determining the reading order of any document and if it presents a problem for students.

Heading Styles

A syllabus should be structured as an outline with major and minor headings representing the different levels of the hierarchy. For instance, "Course Requirements" might be a heading level 1, while the sub-section "Attendance" might a heading level 2.

Microsoft Word heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3) are located in the Styles and Formatting palette.

Web Page heading styles are a very prominent editing feature in HTML creation. Contact us if you need assistance using headings or configuring the appearance of headings in any web-based syllabus.

Table Headers

Tables should include a header row describing the content of each column to assist in accessing the table's content.

Microsoft Word: To define the header row, check the box marked "Repeat as header row" in the table properties dialog box.

Alternative Text for Images

Images used to convey information should always contain a text description or "alternative text" to convey meaning for users of Assisi technology. Purely decorative images may not require an alternative description.

Microsoft Word: Alternative text can be added to an image from the web tab of the properties dialog (Format Menu).

Learner Resources

As defined in the Rubric for Online Instruction, online materials should support student success in a course. The syllabus is a great place to put some of the resources beneficial to student success in the course, including contact information, expectations of student performance, and a statement inviting students with disabilities to make arrangements for accommodations. Other resources can be placed in either the syllabus, other supporting documents, linked through the course's BbLearn shell, such as library guides, a link to the Student Learning Center or degree program requirements. For more information, see the Rubric for Online Instruction's Learner Support and Resources category or contact us for additional support.