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Is It Accessible? Questions to Ask Before Selecting Educational Materials


Accessibility guidelines can be confusing to educators. The POUR principles of Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust can help. Each principle stands for straightforward ways to make digital materials and technologies accessible. The questions in this document will help you with procurement decisions. They will help you make sure all students can use the materials selected in your school, district or state.


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

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

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Perceivable materials present information in a flexible formats to account for the varied ways in which learners recognize information. To determine if materials are perceivable, consider the following questions:   

  • Does the material provide options for customizing the display (e.g., adjusting the text size and changing the background and text colors  to increase the contrast)?
  • Does the material include accessible alternatives for embedded media (e.g., alternative text for images, captions for videos, transcripts for audio)?
  • Does the material include accessible alternatives for special notation (e.g., MathML for math equations)?

Alt Tag (alternative text)

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

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Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.

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MathML (Mathematical Markup Language)

XML-based markup language used to display mathematical content.

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Operable materials provide flexible navigation options for the content and give learners multiple ways to control the interface. To determine if materials are operable, consider the following questions:

  • Does the material provide flexible options for navigation and response where appropriate (e.g., keyboard shortcuts, screen gestures, voice control)?
  • Does the material include location supports to allow readers to track progress (e.g., page numbers, progress bars, table of contents)?
  • Is the timing or pace of presentation flexible and customizable (e.g., option for extending session time limit, flexible playback speeds for audio and video)?
  • Does the material avoid the use of flashing content that could trigger a seizure?

Tip: Take the No Mouse Challenge to experience your content as a keyboard-only user. As you use the Tab key to navigate through the content, are you able to tell where you are?  


Understandable materials behave in an intuitive, logical and predictable way and let learners focus more of their energy and attention on understanding the content. To determine if materials are understandable, consider the following questions:

  • Is the language of the material appropriate for the intended audience?
  • Does the material include definitions of key terms that are essential for understanding (e.g., a glossary, expansions for abbreviations)?
  • Does the material provide guidance for expected responses (e.g., rubrics, length requirements, suggested formats)?
  • Does the material behave in an intuitive, predictable and logical manner (e.g., consistent navigation, explanations of unique features to help new users)?
  • Is feedback provided in multiple ways (e.g., errors identified with more than color or sound)?


Robust materials work well with both current and future technologies. To determine if materials are robust, consider the following questions:

  • Does the material work on different operating systems and platforms (desktop as well as mobile)?
  • Does the material need special plug-ins to work?
  • Does the material have copyright protections that could block assistive technologies?
  • Does the material include an accessibility statement along with some way to report accessibility issues?

To learn more about designing educational materials that include accessibility from the start, visit Designing for Accessibility with POUR.