43 Accessibility Supports

Designing with accessibility in mind can sometimes be a challenge. In order to best support all of our students, sometimes we need a little help. Universal Design for Learning can eliminate the need for many types of accommodations. However, there is no such thing as a perfectly accessible class.

Most institutions have a wonderful team of professionals who offer accessibility services and supports. If you have questions about the technology and tools you are using to support your course, they would be excellent folks to partner with. If you have questions about accommodations, and how to better incorporate accommodations into your class at the design level, start with Accessibility Services at your institution.

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Organizing for Accessibility

Consistency and predictability are two principles that will help any student navigate your online course. When you label material, including modules, topics, activities, and documents, be descriptive and consistent. Make sure students know when and how to use material. When you can, make sure that your course outline or syllabus is consistent with your organization online. If you provide a course schedule, make sure that its organization is mirrored in your learning management system. If the content is organized into class dates, or into topics or themes, consider using the same principle online. If the material is to be used at different times throughout a week or theme, consider using labels to help clarify. For example, you might organize content into Before Class, During Class, and After Class. You might choose to label a reading with the author name and title, and provide a complete citation in the description field.

Transparency is also an extremely important principle. This means you will want to ensure students know what they are learning and why they are learning it. Often, we offer this to our students with clear learning goals or outcomes. We can also support this work by offering ways for students to track their own growth and development. You may  want to look into features that help students track their progress in your course. Progress bars, checklists, and other tools can help students find success in completing tasks at the right time.

Incorporating Documents and Texts

Like we reviewed in the UDL chapter, having choice in how students engage with your course material is helpful. Multiple formats, like text, audio, and/or multimedia, will drastically increase the accessibility of your course. If you use documents and text in your courses, here are a few useful considerations:

  • use a plain sans-serif font
  • avoid extraneous colour or using colour only for emphasis
  • use the Accessibility Checker built into Office 365 to check for common errors
  • make use of headers
  • make sure pdf files are provided in searchable and readable formats

Incorporating Images and Multimedia

Multimedia adds a lot of interest and potential engagement for our students. However, not all multimedia is accessible to all. Take time to provide alternative texts to accompany images, infographics and other multimedia. Consider providing transcriptions, scripts, and close captioning to accompany the multi-media you create. Many programs now offer automatically generated captions and transcripts that you can then edit for completeness and accuracy.

Accessible Technology Resources

In addition to the principles above, there are a number of fantastic tools you can use to help you design more accessibly. Here are a few to get you started:

Thank you to Julie Fillmore and Accessibility Services at MSVU for helping collate this list.


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