UDL Principles for Course Materials: An Overview

A quick introduction to general Universal Design for Learning principles for creating more accessible class materials

UDL Principles for Course Materials: An Overview

Multiple formats

When ordering textbooks, allow students to choose from multiple formats, including digital.

Digital documents

Whenever available, digitally generated documents are easier to make accessible than scanned documents. Some scans can be improved by using OCR (Optical Character Recognition technology) to make the text searchable and copyable if it isn’t already, and Adobe Acrobat Pro (which BU faculty have access to via a Creative Cloud subscription) contains OCR and other tools for increasing the accessibility of PDFs. That said, old files can be idiosyncratic and difficult to repair: creating new digital files is often a better option than trying to improve old scans. If you have a lot of old scanned readings, reach out to BU Library to see if they can provide access to digital versions of any of your texts (they may even purchase them). Librarians may also be able to create clean, higher-quality scans if your scans are old. Reach out to mugarres@bu.edu or 617-353-3739.

Reading/viewing/listening time

When possible, label course materials such as videos with the time it will take to watch/listen, and readings with the approximate time it will take to read (you can use an online tool such as WordCounter to estimate reading time for digital texts). This practice helps all learners, but especially those with learning differences that interfere with time management.

Adjustable multimedia 

When possible, give students the ability to adjust playback speed and volume on multimedia materials.


  • Provide transcripts for audio files, and captioning and visual description for video files. In addition to supporting those who have low hearing, transcripts and captions make it easier for most audiences to process multimedia content.
  • You can reach out to BU resources such as EdTech (askedtech@bu.edu) to explore captioning options (for example, automatically generated captions from Zoom, MyMedia or YouTube are free, but contain frequent errors that need manual correction; BU will pay for professional captioning services under some circumstances).

Sources and Further Reading

Gain access to Adobe Acrobat Pro with a Boston University Creative Cloud subscription

Create and verify PDF accessibility with Acrobat Pro

WordCounter can estimate reading time

Request digital or scanned course materials for BU Library Course Reserves 

Suggest that BU Library acquire a resource you will use for your class 

Captions and Transcripts in MyMedia

How to provide access to course materials for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students

CAST’s Accessible Educational Materials site: Creating Accessible Videos  

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

        Last updated 2/25/24