Accessibility in Teaching and Learning

Accessibility is an important consideration in all aspects of teaching and learning, and especially critical online in learning environments. We receive the most requests for accessibility assistance with professional captioning for course videos. Please see this tutorial on How to Submit a Video for Captioning.

The following resources provide information on Universal Design for Learning (or Instruction), which is also a common topic in online course design.

Contact Jackie Austin, IHCC Director of Accessibility Resources, or Melissa Fletcher, DCTC Director of Accessibility Resources, for more information on the following resources or to obtain further resources on accessibility pertaining to teaching and learning.

The universal design of instruction (UDI) framework is gaining increased attention and application by educational researchers and practitioners at K-12 and postsecondary levels. UDI means that, rather than designing for the average student, you design instruction for potential students who have broad ranges with respect to ability, disability, age, reading level, learning style, native language, race, and ethnicity. Regarding students with disabilities, UDI challenges the instructor to go beyond legal compliance to proactively design an accessible course and integrate practice so that other students benefit as well. UDI can be applied to all aspects of instruction, including class climate, interaction, physical environments and products, delivery methods, information resources and technology, feedback, and assessment.

UDI can be discussed as a goal, a process, or a set of principles, guidelines, and practices.

This Faculty Kit is offered as a start-up tool for anyone wanting to initiate training of faculty or Instructors. The Kit includes an FAQ sheet on UDE and a flier about the ACCESS-ed Website, which includes one side that discusses the 7 Principles of Universal Design, as applied to education.

Fonts are the style of “typeface” used to display text, numbers, characters, and other “glyphs” as they are often called in the typography industry. Typography refers to the arrangement and appearance of text. Typography concerns not only the look of the glyphs but how they are placed on the page (page margins, the amount of empty space between paragraphs or lines, the alignment of text, etc.).

Educators are constantly seeking ways to understand the UDL framework and they are always asking for examples. While I love videos, most don’t show the most important piece — design thinking. A podcast felt like the perfect medium to dig into that design piece. I thought it would be a great way for educators to share their own experiences of why and how they used the framework. The 15-minute part made sense because most people can give their attention to something of value for 15 minutes.

Accessible File Formats in School Environments 

As university faculty and elementary and secondary school teachers become more comfortable using technology in their classrooms, they are increasingly providing materials to students in electronic formats such as Portable Document Format (PDF), Hypertext Markup Language (HTML-the formatting code used to create web pages), word processing formats such as Word or Word Perfect, presentation formats such as PowerPoint, spreadsheet formats such as Excel, and graphical formats such as BMP, TIFF, and JPG. The most commonly used formats in schools tend to be PDF, HTML, Word, and PowerPoint. For example, a professor might create a website or use a courseware management system such as Blackboard or WebCT to post materials so that students can access them when they are off-campus. Some of these materials might be posted in HTML. The professor might also upload documents such as articles and course notes for students to read. These documents might be in PDF or Word format. Finally, the professor might post the presentation overheads used during lectures. These files would likely be in PowerPoint format.

All of these formats can be created in ways that make them accessible to individuals with disabilities who use assistive technologies such as screen readers or text-to-speech software. However, without careful forethought, these materials can also be created in ways that block access for users with print disabilities (for example, blindness or low vision, learning disabilities, or motor control issues that prevent an individual from holding a book). In such circumstances, information technologies that could significantly benefit individuals with disabilities instead become an impediment.