Skip to main content

Designing for Accessibility with POUR


Designing for Accessibility with POUR

Many of the learning materials educators use in the classroom are self-created. This has been made possible by the greater availability and improved ease of use of authoring tools. These tools now often include options for adding accessibility into the content creation workflow, and standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide guidance for how to do so. WCAG, which is now at version 2.1, is the international standard for making web content accessible. It is the foundation for many national accessibility laws, including Section 508 in the U.S.

The WCAG guidelines are written in technical language that can be confusing to even veteran developers. Fortunately, they can be distilled into a set of simpler principles, as captured by the acronym POUR, that define four qualities of an accessible user experience.


Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.

View in glossary


To make sure learners can see and hear your content, you will learn how to:

  • Add alternative text to images and other visuals
  • Close caption videos or provide transcripts
  • Provide sufficient color contrast between text and its background
  • Make sure content does not rely on color alone

Alt Tag (alternative text)

Brief description of a single image designed to be read by a screenreader as an alternative to the image.

View in glossary


To make sure learners can interact with your content with a variety of tools, you will learn how to:

  • Provide a clear structure with properly marked up headings
  • Create descriptive links that make sense out of context
  • Provide sufficient time for interaction and response
  • Avoid content that can trigger seizures


To make sure learners can understand your content and enjoy a predictable experience, you will learn how to:

  • Clarify expectations through clear directions and models
  • Follow conventions to ensure a predictable and consistent experience
  • Use plain language
  • Indicate the language of your content


To ensure your content works well with current and future technologies, you will learn how to:

  • Add metadata to make content easier to find and use
  • Perform an accessibility check
  • Perform basic assistive technology testing



Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

View in glossary


One or more pieces of descriptive information about data.

View in glossary

The AEM Center has also created two handouts that focus on a subset of the best practices addressed in this section. The handouts use the mnemonic SLIDE (for Styles, Links, Images, Design and Empathy) to make the best practices easier to remember.  


Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.

View in glossary