Bridges Resource Library Crossing Bridges Together: Secondary Transition In the Field, A Reading Room For Educators

Sources of Accessible Curricular Materials

Updated as of May 27, 2024.


Blind/low vision students need curricular materials that they can access as efficiently, as effectively, and with comparable sustainability as the curricular materials provided to their non-disabled peers. On-time, all-the-time access to the materials their non-disabled counterparts use is required for all students with disabilities, regardless of whether they have an IEP (individualized education program) or a Section 504 plan.  

Please note that curricular accessibility is binary: something is either accessible or it is not. “Partial accessibility” includes inaccessibility. Schools must provide access to curricular content that allows students with disabilities to access that content (including software and hardware) with equivalent ease of use when compared to non-disabled peers. Thus, inaccessibility at any level needs to be remediated or disabled students will not have legally-required accessibility.

Scenarios and Strategies

Scenario: Inaccessible text-based curricular materials

Inaccessible text-based classroom materials prevent blind/low vision students from accessing that curricular content as efficiently and effectively as their non-disabled peers do. While the move toward teacher-created digital materials has increased the availability of classroom materials that meet universal design principles, materials inaccessibility remains a widespread problem.

Strategies to combat inaccessible text-based curricular materials

  • Procure accessible text-based curricular materials
    • Consider obtaining BOTH digital AND hard copy versions of each text
      • Digital versions of accessible materials
        • Allow students to search by keyword (improving efficiency and building important technology skills)Allow students to copy-and paste quotations from materials (improving efficiency and building important technology skills)Access materials on-the-go and without the bulk of hard copy materials
      • Hard copy braille and enlarged print
        • Improve reading skills
        • Reinforce text structure clues, including paragraphing, headings, etc.
        • Work when technology fails (or runs out of battery power)
  • Sources for accessible text-based curricular materials

Scenario: Inaccessible graphics

Strategies to combat inaccessible graphics

Scenario: Inaccessible video content

Most videos shown in classes (or assigned as homework or enrichment resources) contain text-based and graphic-based information, such as words on the screen, charts, etc. Unfortunately, this valuable information is not visually accessible. Thus, unless the producers of these videos include accessible versions of the materials shown on the screen, individuals who are blind/have low vision need audio descriptions (verbal descriptions of the content in the video) in order to access that information.  /

Strategies to combat inaccessible video content

  • Source for educational videos with professional audio-description
    • Available at no cost
  • Provide audio description
    • Best practice: Write the script for audio description BEFORE the class presentation
      • Allows for time to create complete and relevant descriptions of visual content
      • Can provide to the student ahead of time, and student can reference it during class presentation of video
  • Alternative tactile graphics and accessible hands-on activities

Scenario: No textbook!

Classroom teacher does not use a textbook in class. Instead, the teacher relies on materials downloaded from the internet (such as Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, YouTube, and other online resources – many of which are not accessible.

Strategies when there is no textbook

  • Ask classroom teacher to gather all resources used in the class
  • Review for accessibility for your student
    • Utilize tools your student uses (JAWS, ZoomText, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, etc.)
    • Note accessibility barriers
    • Note any areas in which your student might need additional instruction to access the resources
  • Document accessibility of current resources
    • For accessible resources, let the teacher know that, at this time, the resources are accessible. If the tools are subject to updating, schedule regular check-ups on accessibility
    • For inaccessible resources:
      • Communicate accessibility barriers with classroom teacher
      • Collaborate regarding educationally-appropriate accessible accommodations or alternative tools
      • Develop accessible tools
    • Example: Inaccessible online computer simulations
      • Create videos of the simulations and verbally describe each simulation including:
        • Variables used
        • Results when variables change
  • Utilize accessible textbooks and related materials to fill in the gaps
    • In the past, curricular materials consisted mainly of textbooks and teacher-made worksheets. Today, many classes have no textbooks and rely heavily on online resources – many of which are not WCAG-complaint.
    • Nevertheless, accessible textbooks can serve to provide important reference and background information that might be provided to non-disabled peers using inaccessible web sites or software. For this reason, please consider whether accessible textbooks may be appropriate for your student, even in a non-textbook class.

Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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