Document Conversion Information for Instructors

Document conversion can take a long time. Content, consumer need, access to files, and file types are some of the factors that affect time required. In order to prioritize the hundreds of thousands of pages we convert each year, we need to know what your priorities are for your courses.


The University’s administrative policy on syllabi states that instructors must have complete syllabi available the first day of class.


For assignments that are due within the first two weeks of class, we require the syllabus and a clear reading schedule before classes start. A student with a disability may require a syllabus up to two weeks in advance of the first class.


Please prepare your syllabi and include the following information:

  • Course #
  • Section #
  • Book/Article/Assignment Title with calendar due dates: Please avoid vague timelines like “Week 5” and include actual dates
  • Instructor and Teaching Assistant name, phone number and University of Minnesota email address
    • University of Minnesota policy states that all business communication utilize a secure University email address - a policy especially important to protect the privacy of students with disabilities. 
  • Additional necessary information such as Web address and/or any password required to access online materials.


We set timelines for completion of document conversion requests based on when requests are submitted, when we receive all materials, and/or the reading schedule as indicated in the syllabus. We prioritize required course readings and will complete optional readings as resources allow. If your priorities and timelines change, please be sure to let us know.

How to promote accessibility of classroom materials:

  • Choose Word documents, Web pages, and HTML textbooks whenever possible. These formats are accessible or can be made accessible most easily.
  • Use the “styles” menu to consistently identify Headings, Footers, hyperlinks etc. in Word documents. This ensures the document reading order and structure are preserved in conversion processes..
  • When authoring new visual information, include an image description as a caption if possible. For example, if you create a pie chart showing group A representing 50%, group B representing 26% and group C 24%, write this information out in text separate from the image.
  • Try to avoid using colors such as red and green on documents/web sites. People who are colorblind cannot differentiate these colors. Colors in general should not be used as the only method to convey information.
  • Use high contrast between text and its background when creating a presentation (e.g., lecture slides).
  • When working in PowerPoint in particular, do not include too much data on one slide.
  • Ask publishers if the book is available in an electronic form.
  • Ask curriculum adoption committees to consider how new curricula will be made accessible.
  • Use interlibrary loan, Access Libraries to U and/or JSTOR to find better copy of old, outdated, unreadable or hard copy-only academic articles. Access Libraries to U will scan a portion of the hardcopy and send a scanned image. This image will not be accessible but it will save a step in the conversion process. Interlibrary loan will also scan the hardcopy. Instructors must specifically request scanned copies from both Libraries to U and Interlibrary loan and there is a fee for both.
  • Use e-journals, which provide online access to articles, which are sometimes accessible.
  • Submit textbook orders early.
  • Check existing resources to see if an accessible version is already available


For more information please visit the Accessible U website. 

When Selecting Textbooks and Readings

Avoid Poor Original Copy

  • Whenever possible, please avoid using documents with these characteristics:
  • Image-based materials
  • Highlighting marks
  • Underlining
  • Handwriting
  • Background noise/pixelation (tiny dots)
  • Photocopied pages from a book laid face down on the photocopier which contain heavy shading in the margins along the spine fold of the book
  • Documents with skewed page orientation

Instructors should:

  • Send us the course syllabus and course materials as soon as a student discloses a print disability (e.g., blindness, low vision, learning disability).
  • Keep original source materials. When a Word document is converted to PDF, the PDF may not be accessible to a screen reader but the original Word document may be. Often, poor scan quality becomes a bottleneck in the process of converting print documents to accessible electronic formats.
  • Identify handouts and other course materials and request assistance from us two to three weeks in advance of when the student needs to read them.
  • Include a disability access statement on your course syllabus. Include language approved by the Education Policy Committee in 2009.

When Working with Document Conversion and the Disability Resource Center

Including the Disability Resource Center on your Syllabi

We recommend that all University instructors use the following statement on their course syllabi to inform students of the instructor’s willingness to provide reasonable accommodations:


The University of Minnesota is committed to providing all students equal access to learning opportunities. The Disability Resource Center is the campus office that works with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations. Students registered with the Disability Resource Center, who have a letter requesting accommodations, are encouraged to contact the instructor early in the semester. Students who have, or think they may have, a disability (e.g. psychiatric, attentional, learning, vision, hearing, physical, or systemic), are invited to contact the Disability Resource Center for a confidential discussion at 612-626-1333 (V/TTY) or [email protected]. Additional information is available at the DRC website


In June 2006 the Provost’s Committee on Student Mental Health developed and endorsed the use of the following syllabus statement to inform students of campus resources:


As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via Safe Campus Mental Health Resources.