Accessible Content

Making content accessible

The University of Washington, on all three campuses, provides a wide variety of tools to students, faculty, and staff for authoring electronic documents and web content. When authoring documents is important to follow a few basic steps to assure your document is readable and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities.

Serving all of our students

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of students between the ages of 18-34 that disclosed a disability was 11.4%, more explicitly, group age 18-24 was 3.5% and group age 25-34 was 7.9% (National, 2017, pp. 24-25)1. The actual number of higher students who experience one or more disabilities is much higher. 94% of high school students with learning disabilities receive some form of assistance. In contrast, only 17% of college students with learning disabilities take advantage of learning assistance resources at their school. According to the Hechinger Report,"It can be hard for learning-disabled students to ask for help in college, however, and not just because of ignorance or a perceived stigma associated with disabilities."

Now more than ever, it is important that academic materials are as accessible as possible. When we make content universally accessible, it benefits all students, not just those with disabilities.

1 National Center for Education Statistics. (2017 December). Web Tables—Characteristics and Outcomes of Undergraduates With Disabilities. US Department of Education, NCES 2018-432. Retrieved from:

On this page we have shared a few resources available for creating accessible content:

Electronic documents

The most common electronic document file types are PDF files (.pdf) and Microsoft Word files (.docx). PDFs are the least accessible type of dcoument and require additional work to be made accessible.

The following content will guide through some basics in document accessibility:

To consider before you upload content

Before uploading any electronic document, consider:

  • Can the content be copied and pasted onto a regular webpage? A Canvas page?
  • Can the content be uploaded as an Office document?
  • Does it really need to be a PDF? PDFs are the least accessible type of document.

Webpages use Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML, the most accessible format for information on the web. After HTML or webpages, in terms of accessibility, MS Office documents are next, then PDF. The least accessible type of document is a PDF form.

It is best practice to have information on a webpage rather than within a Word document or PDF when possible. We are so used to creating PDFs that we usually do not deeply think about access and effectiveness when creating content.

If content needs to be shared as a PDF, some basic steps are required so it is accessible. One way involves saving the document properly, followed by checking accessibility in Acrobat Pro.

If the source editable file is not available, then it requires remediation (or making the PDF accessible in a PDF editing program) to ensure the information can be accessed by all users. This remediation can be done in-house using Adobe Acrobat Pro 2015, 2017 or CC or sending the file to a PDF Remediation 3rd Party vendor.

Document & Canvas support

MS Office documents, PDFs, Canvas content

Training for how to create accessible MS Office documents, create Canvas pages or internally remediate PDFs is offered on a request basis to individuals or departments.

For PDF remediation (process to make a PDF accessible), Adobe Acrobat DC needs to be purchased by the department and installed by UW Bothell IT. For more information, please contact Ana Thompson in the Office of Digital Learning & Innovation (DLI).

PDF 3rd party remediation

Need an accessible PDF but lack the time or training? The UW vendor Vastec Inc., charges units about $9.23 per page (three page document = $27.69) to make documents accessible. This cost is for basic remediation and can increase based on the complexity of a document but the majority will fall into this price range. When considering this option, take into account the cost of employees training and remediation work for a more realistic cost comparison.

This vendor can be found in Ariba or you can contact them directly; email for a direct contact with Vastec that the marketing team uses.

Web content  support (Kentico)

To get help on creating and editing accessible web pages within the website, contact the Advancement & External Relation's Web Team. I

In terms of accessible web content requirements, University of Washington follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), version 2.0.