Information Services

Creating Accessible Courses in VLEs

General guidance on things to consider when creating your courses in a VLE to make sure they are as accessible as possible for disabled users.

Creating Accessible Courses in Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs)

For some disabled users, purely online distance education may be a positive choice, for example it allows students to study at the time of day most suitable to them or reduces the additional stress of getting to and from a campus. Over the last few years the University has greatly expanded and developed its range of online distance learning courses. All those involved with online distance learning courses have an ethical and legal obligation to ensure their courses are accessible. This guidance will help you to meet those obligations. Accessible content is also likely to be more useable and therefore benefit all users.

Traditional campus-based courses also usually have significant online components, both content and activities. For such blended courses it is equally important that the online elements are as accessible as possible. Making online courses accessible should not be costly, time-consuming or nerve wracking, and the best way to ensure accessibility is making sure your documents and content are accessible before you put them online. For advice on how to make PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoints and other documents more accessible please follow the links on the left hand side navigation bar on this webpage. Wherever possible we would encourage you to involve disabled people in the creation of your online course to provide feedback and advice.


The way the course is structured, formatted and provides navigation links plays a huge role in the accessibility and usability. A well organised course benefits all users. Some points to bear in mind are:

  • Be consistent and clear.
  • Make sure menu options are consistent and meaningful e.g. “readings” – are these all the readings or readings for week 1 etc?
  • Explain all the links and what all folders contain.
  • Make sure any shortcuts make sense.
  • If links open a new window make sure this is clearly stated.

Alternative formats

It may not be possible to make everything completely accessible to everyone. So you should advertise that content can be provided in alternative formats upon request by adding the follwing statement in bold Arial font size 12 or ideally 14 to all content areas.

“If you require this information in an alternative format please contact"

 In practice this may mean providing a Word version of a scanned PDF or a Word version of a PowerPoint presentation or large print versions.

For more information on providing information in alternative formats please visit:


  • Make sure all images have a written meaningful description.
  • Where there are audio clips, these should be accompanied by a text transcription.
  • Where there are videos these should be subtitled and the cost of this built into the cost of producing the course. (Transcripts are often not considered a sufficent alternative as they do not provide the same level of experience).

Actual online site

  • Most VLEs now provide a way of navigating around the course without a mouse. Make sure the links and additional files you use can also be navigated by using keystrokes only.
  • Do not use colour or sound as the only way of conveying information, e.g. priority items in red.
  • Avoid moving, flashing or scrolling text.
  • Ensure error messages are meaningful i.e. that they indicate what and where the error is, and how to remedy it.
  • Ensure tooltips are enabled by default i.e. that a written description of any image automatically appears when you hover your mouse over it.
  • Ensure you can increase the font size without distortion by using "ctrl+" . Ideally when a user has magnifed text the page should reformat so that they only need to scroll vertically and not horizontally as well. 
  • Ensure your course content can be used with assistive technology such as JAWS, Zoomtext and Texthelp Read and Write.
  • Draw attention to the on-line help facility. Ideally, this should be accessible in each part of the VLE.
  • Ensure users can change the style and appearance of any online content. e.g. font colour and type and background colour. Provide links to instructions on how to do this.
  • Wherever possible ensure no items are time limited i.e. the user is logged out after a certain time period.


If you have any further queries or would like an accessibility audit report on your course please contact Viki Galt, Disability Information Officer, details provided below.

Alternative Formats

If you require this document in an alternative format please contact Viki Galt, Disability Information Officer.

Viki Galt

Disability Information Officer

  • Information Services

Contact details



Argyle House
Floor F West
3 Lady Lawson Street

Post Code

BSL users can contact me via contactSCOTLAND-BSL, the on-line British Sign Language interpreting service. Find out more on the contactSCOTLAND website.