Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




The mission statement of Utah State University (USU) includes “serving the public through learning, discovery and engagement.” In order to engage the diverse 27,932 students (Fall 2018 headcount including regional campuses), USU produces accessible content. Although accessible content is available to USU’s students, it is presented as an alternative to the original product rather than as a product itself. Thus, students must seek out this alternative, accessible content in order to engage with it. This pilot study indicates that content in Canvas should be made accessible from the beginning of its creation as is specified by the Theories of Universal Design. This pilot study researched if these Universal Design Theories are true in the context of inaccessible Portable Document Format (PDF) files vs more accessible Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) content files.

The research was conducted in two parts: an online survey and a literature review. For the online survey, student participants (a pool of USU students) were shown two excerpts, one as a PDF file and the other as an HTML file, and asked a series of questions about their experience reading the two formats. The literature review discusses Theories of Universal Design, which argue that products should be designed for maximum usability regarding everyone, despite differing ability levels. In other words, products designed for people with disabilities are overall better for everyone. The results of this study indicate that HTML content is both preferred and more usable compared to PDF files and that it would be advantageous to conduct further research regarding this topic.



Faculty Mentor

Jared Colton

Departmental Honors Advisor

Keri Holt

Capstone Committee Member

Christopher Phillips