The University of Pennsylvania has an accessibility statement you must understand and do your best to follow: 

Web accessibility is a shared, continuous responsibility for members of the Penn community involved in the development, creation, publishing, or sharing of digital resources. 

Penn websites and content are accessed and used by diverse people within the U.S. and around the world. Some users have visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments that create challenges in accessing website content, and require the use of assistive technologies, such as screen readers and text-only browsers. Other users of Penn websites may be using outmoded technology, or have very slow connection speeds. As such, it is imperative that Penn ensures its online presence and content remain accessible to the widest array of users.” 

Source: Penn’s Accessibility Statement

What are the Seven Core Skills of Accessibility?

Accessibility is a very broad concept that includes a huge array of considerations, but essentially you are hoping to design your digital materials so that people can interact with your site in a variety of ways. Your goal is to make sure that people with disabilities can access your content equally, but these considerations also help a variety of users in many ways.

Information adapted from the University of Minnesota.

Below, this concept is broken into seven basic principles to help you implement simple design elements to make your site accessible to the most people. You can watch this video or read the tabs below (hint: multiple modes makes the content more accessible!).

Alternative text, or “alt text” describes the content of images, graphs and charts. It should be added to every image that conveys meaning. If you don’t include alternative text with an image, a visually impaired person or user who disables image loading or encounters a broken image won’t know what the image is meant to convey.

Ensure a strong color contrast between foreground and background on every document, slide, and web page. Always use color plus another visual indicator (for example, color plus boldface type or color plus size) to communicate important information. Screen readers don’t offer a way to search by color, and people in or with a wide variety of conditions and in certain environments won’t be able to see the difference either.

Structure your document using paragraph styles (for documents) or heading tags (for web pages). Headings make the structure of your documents accessible to screen readers while improving both scannability and maintainability. Structure is critical for adaptive technology users, who rely on properly formatted headings to understand and navigate documents and web pages. Without this structure, there is no easy way to navigate a document because the document is read as a single long section.

You can improve both the usability and accessibility of links by making them concise, descriptive, and meaningful out of context. Well-written and well-placed links help both sighted people and those who use screen readers or other adaptive technology to consume content. Research has shown that sighted users typically scan pages for links to help them find what they’re looking for. People using screen readers can do something similar by touching a button and hearing a list of all the links on a page. Well-placed links provide enough context to help all users make an informed decision about which links they want to follow.

Presenting a “wall of text” in a document or website can discourage reading. Instead, present key concepts as lists where possible. Lists help users comprehend text more quickly. Writers can use them to reduce reader fatigue resulting from trying to comprehend dense or complex paragraphs. Lists can provide a break in the document flow and encourage users to stick with the content.

Accessible tables are simple, rather than complex, have an identified header row, and include a table summary, either as a caption or as alt text. These techniques help screen reader users read the information contained in the table. When sighted users focus on a table cell, they are able to visually determine which row and column the cell is in by scanning up and down or left and right. This adds context to what the value in a particular cell means. On the other hand, a screen reader can only read aloud each cell one by one from left to right and top to bottom. If the table is not formatted correctly, there is no easy way to determine what label a particular value in a cell might have.

Video and audio content, such as podcasts, videos, and narrated slideshows, are increasingly being used to enrich and deliver online experiences. Videos should include accurate captions and audio descriptions. Audio-only content should include an accurate transcript. When sharing audio and video recordings, don’t use auto-play. 

How do I make sure the materials I use on my Domains site are legal?

Answer: Attribution! Copyright law is complex, so in this section, we will breakdown the basics you need to know to make sure you are within your legal rights to post material to your website. The first, and most important, thing you need to remember is to always give credit where credit is due. In other words, provide citation information anytime you post text, images, videos, or any other materials you did not create yourself. Here is a fun animation that illustrates why this is so important (sorry for the ear worm!):  

Transcript of lyrics


What is Copyright?

Copyright in its most basic form is actually just that: the right to copy. The term “copyright,” however, is a bit misleading: copyright is not just one right – it is several exclusive rights that an author (usually the creator) has over their work. copy rights. The copyright holder has the exclusive right to do (and allow others to do) the following:


Exclusive Rights of the Copyright Holder

  • reproduce the work
  • prepare derivative works
  • distribute copies or transfer ownership
  • publicly perform the work (e.g. show a movie, perform a play, or play a song recording)
  • display the work publicly

What Works Are Protected?

Examples of copyrightable works include:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings, which are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds
  • Architectural works

These categories should be viewed broadly for the purpose of registering your work. For example, computer programs and certain “compilations” can be registered as “literary works”; maps and technical drawings can be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”

What gets copyrighted and when?

Copyright is applied to any original work of authorship in a fixed, tangible form.  This means that once you  prepare a creative work and write it down, you own the copyright to it.  Many of the original, creative works you prepare in your daily life are subject to copyright – owner, you!  That holiday letter I (finally!) sent off to my family this morning? Copyrighted.  The selfie I took last night? Copyrighted. The notes I took in class last semester? Yes, those are copyrighted, too.  The grocery list I prepared for my roommate?  Not so much.  While it is written down, there is nothing “original” or “creative” about it.  It is just a factual list of things I intend to pick up from the market – it has no creative spark! 

For More Information, See:



The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. 

The following is a simplified flow chart to help you understand how to determine what is in the public domain. However, it should be noted that the years listed will change every January (making most things published after 1923 in the public domain). 

Infographic: is it in the public domain? A flow chart to help determine which items fall into the public domain. This was created in 2019, and will need to be adjusted every year.

For more information, here is an exhaustive chart to help you determine what is considered public domain.

 And here is a resource to help you find works in the public domain to use in your digital projects. 

What determines Fair Use?

According to Section 107 of the Copyright Act “. . . for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple uses for classroom use), scholarship, or research is not an infringement of copyright.”  Subject to the following four factors: 

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such a use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes 
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work 
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work 

 Fair use is about balancing of the 4 factors 

Four Factors of Fair Use

  • You do not need to meet all of the factors 
  • The more you meet the better 
  • Fair use is highly case specific 
  • Therefore, you must do case by case analysis of every image, text, etc 

Not all educational use is fair use  

Using rules of thumb like certain percentages or numbers of words is not actually protected – it is a better idea to use only as much as necessary to get your point across and not rely on certain numbers or percentages 

  • It is a common myth that any use under 10% or under 100 words is fair use 

The 4th factor may not be the most important factor, but it is an incredibly important one 

  • 4th factor dictates the risk you are taking on 
  • If you are working on something that has a healthy market and a copyright holder (e.g., Disney) is making a lot of money, then you are putting yourself at greater risk

Transformative Fair Use

A meme using the Grumpy Cat image that reads "I modified this image in case I get sued by this cat" in capital letters.

One of the factors weighing in favor of finding fair use is when the use of the original material is “transformative.” Transformative uses take the original copyrighted work and transforms the appearance or nature to such a high degree that the use no longer qualifies as infringing. What exactly is transformative use, and when does it apply?

The standards of “transformative” continuously evolve. Still, the status of a transformative work seems to be defined by two questions:

  • Has the material taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning?
  • Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings?

One example that you see everywhere are memes! Think of Grumpy Cat or Success Baby – these memes take an image and transform them with new captions or text to convey new information.

I found a great resource. Can I use it?

Infographic: This image/article/quotation/clip is great! Can I use it?

Source: University of Pittsburgh Library System, Copyright and Intellectual Property Toolkit

Additional Reading

For more information, see Dr. Kenneth D. Crew’s full explanation (Links to an external site.).

Fair Use Basics:

Copyright Resources to Support Publishing and Teaching Links to an external site.

Fair Use ImagesLinks to an external site.

Links to Fair Use Databases:

Finding Open Access Images: Creative CommonsLinks to an external site.

Where do I find citation resources?

Now that we’ve talked about why you need to give attribution, and where you can find materials to post that are fair use, you need to know how to give proper attribution. Luckily, every discipline has clear guidelines on how to cite a source. You might have learned about citation styles in your Critical Writing course or another writing-centered course in your major. This video will provide a quick reminder of how to avoid plagiarism on your sites. 



How do I give attribution to the creator of a text, image, or media object I want to share?

Bookmark this link to the library guide to refer to as you are searching for citation help.

And, since images will be so crucial to most of the work you are publishing on Domains, here is a guide to finding images and navigating how to cite images properly