Three young people around planning board

UDL Principles for Course Communications

This resource provides advice for designing or redesigning course communications based on the foundational UDL principle of Multiple Means of Representation. Learners vary in how they process information: they may learn best through vision, hearing, touch, or a combination. This resource will support you in offering or creating multiple formats and options for communications with students, including through Blackboard, Boston University’s Learning Management System (LMS).

General Principles

Accessible Syllabus 

Creating an accessible classroom environment begins with the syllabus. Consider both accessible policies (warmth, flexibility, and choice; see links below for more resources) and accessible document design (see “UDL Principles for Course Materials and Documents” in this guide). 


When communicating with your class, especially important announcements and assignments, provide information in multiple places and modes (ex. written and spoken, live in-person and recorded, etc).


Create consistency in your patterns of communication. If assignment instructions are always discussed in class and made available in written form on your LMS, it will confuse students if, mid-semester, you suddenly send an email about a major change to the assignment without also discussing it in class or making it available in written form on your LMS. They are likely to fail to process this information or miss it entirely.


Provide commentary, annotations, or accompanying materials that guide students to identify your course content’s most important moments, features, or takeaways. You can preview homework reading in class, offer videos or podcasts that complement your lectures on Blackboard, annotate equations, alert students what to look out for in an assigned video, and so forth.

Sources and Further Reading

Accessible Syllabus Design

Hall, M. (2015, February 25). Visual Explanation of Mathematics. Agile Scientific.

LaTeX package for annotating equations

LMS (Blackboard) Design Basics

White space and bullets

Long chunks of text can overwhelm readers. Instead, whenever possible, break up paragraphs into bullet points or numbered lists. It’s good to see lots of white space!

Sufficient color contrast

Choose colors with sufficiently high contrast (for example: avoid dark blue text on a blue background). Note: red-green is the most common type of colorblindness.

Alt text for images

Alternative text is read aloud by screen readers, so it should be concise (no more than a couple of sentences), focusing on what makes the image relevant to your content. Blackboard generally prompts you for alt text when you add an image; in a discussion forum, you can go into the source code of your post to add the alt text.

Descriptive links

When adding a link in Blackboard, make the title text informative and descriptive (ex. “instructions for assignment 1”). Don’t paste in raw URLs, which screen readers will read aloud.


If audio or video clips are included, be sure to include a transcript/turn captioning on. In addition to supporting those who have low hearing, transcripts and captions make it easier for most audiences to process multimedia content. See “UDL Principles for Course Materials and Documents” in this guide for more about captioning.

Sending Emails

Descriptive titles

The email subject line and titles of any attached files should be descriptive and informative (for example, “Assignment 1 Guidelines”; not “One more thing!” or “8675309.jpg”).

Descriptive links

When including links, don’t paste in raw URLs (which screen readers will read aloud); instead, select a descriptive phrase (ex. “instructions for assignment 1”) and link it. Since some screen readers pull links out of documents and list them separately, make sure the linked text is descriptive, not just “click here.” 

Clear fonts

Simple, large-sized (at least 11 or 12 point), sans-serif fonts are preferred. Avoid non-standard fonts, changing font sizes, colors, and animated/blinking content.

Sufficient color contrast

If colors are used, choose high-contrast colors (for example: avoid a light grey text on a white background). Note: red-green is the most common type of colorblindness.

Describe images

If images are included, describing them is helpful not just for students with low vision; your description will also help students understand what is important about the image and what they’re supposed to perceive.

Presenting in Class

Provide copies 

Both during and after your in-class presentations, provide copies of your materials (slides, handouts etc) to your audience. For PowerPoint presentations, exporting to PDF makes the files more manageable, and if the slides are designed accessibly (see “UDL Principles for Course Materials and Documents” in this guide), these features will be retained in the PDF.

Be audible and comprehensible

When available, use the provided microphone. Speak at a moderate pace, not too fast or too slow. 

Describe what’s on the screen

When presenting from slides, read the text aloud (you don’t have to read it word for word, but communicate all essential ideas), and describe any images, graphics, and charts. Like alt text, live image descriptions should be concise and focused on what your audience needs to know about the image. Even if you don’t have students with low vision, not everyone may be able to see the screen equally well, making this a good practice in general.


If audio/video clips are included, be sure to include a transcript/turn captioning on. See “UDL Principles for Course Materials and Documents” in this guide for more about captioning.

Further reading

Digital Accessibility Office. Providing Spoken Descriptions of Visual Content. University of Colorado, Boulder.

This resource was created by Amy Bennett-Zendzian, Lecturer, College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program

Last updated 2/24/2024