Ensuring an online course is fully accessible will depend on the provided content and how it is presented. This section will give a broad overview on making certain content accessible and, in some cases, provide general information on how this can be done.
Please note that the information presented here is not a comprehensive list of accessible items, nor does it fully explain every possible scenario or situation. We encourage users to continue learning more about accessibility through other training resources, research, and discussion with peers.
Content Creators and Their Importance
Every single person who uses a digital device (e.g., computers, tablets, or smartphones) to create and/or share words, images, audio or videos is a content creator. This information will help you create content that is accessible to the widest possible range of ability levels.
As content creators, we have the power and the responsibility to create an informative, persuasive, and entertaining experience for users of all ability levels. The most accessibly designed tool can still be "broken" if we, as content creators, neglect to pay attention to the accessibility of our content created using this tool.
Universal Course Design
Universal course design is the practice of designing a course to be flexible and accessible for as many students as possible. Instead of a single approach to a course, faculty and course designers carefully consider the potential needs of their students as they design the course to avoid the need for future changes once the class starts.
Universal course design goes hand in hand with accessibility. By employing universal course design, faculty and course designers can address common accessibility concerns at the beginning and avoid having to quickly adjust materials on the fly during the semester in the event a student reports a disability. For example, deciding on the course materials (e.g. textbook, syllabi, homework) beforehand will allow you to identify which of your materials are inaccessible to some students. You can then adjust your content or provide alternative formats.
- Start work on your course early with universal design – Implementing universal design in course development can prevent headaches down the road. If content is made universally accessible from the beginning, then the likelihood that content will need to be updated during the semester decreases. With a little upfront work, you can make life easier not only for yourself but for your entire class.
- Reach out to your accessibility office – Accessibility offices have a knowledgeable staff that deeply cares about students’ academic success. Take the time to reach out to them and learn how you can make your course materials more inclusive and welcoming for students with disabilities.
- Communicate with your students early – Once class begins, let students know that they can reach out to you or your school’s accessibility office for assistance. It may also be helpful to provide a link to your institution’s accessibility policy so students can have it on hand. Some students will not reach out because they are afraid of inconveniencing their faculty and thus suffer in silence (with their grades potentially being seriously affected). Letting students know that they are free to approach you with their concerns will help those who have fears or doubts that their needs will be addressed.