Accessibility Standards for Online Instruction

As we consider ways to create online learning environs that include the diversity of ways our students engage with information, the Office of Accessible Education makes the following recommendations:

The Golden Rule:

Build universal accessibility into your courses from the very beginning. These design principles improve learning for everyone, and building them in from the beginning means you do not need to make difficult and time consuming accommodations later in the course.

  • Apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles when developing course goals and presentation :
  • Recording lectures is a staple of Universal Design. Video and audio recordings of instructors and what they display on the screen (such as slides and demonstrations) let students review instructional content at their own time and pace. Students who have difficulty taking notes while listening to lectures, or cannot attend class due to illness or for whom English is not the first language all benefit from this approach.  Remember that shorter videos are easier for you to produce and for your students to watch.  Any notes you reference in a video should also be supplied to students.
  • Videos as a tool to disseminate lecture information also help all students prepare for tests and assignments, particularly those involving complex terminology and concepts.
  • While developing a course avoid structures that pair students.  If one student becomes ill or incapacitated for an extended period both students are negatively impacted. Small groups of learners (three, four or five at most) allow a student managing a health issue with an opportunity to manage an illness (without the stigma of “letting down” a partner) and return to class.
  • Consider a course structure in which most graded work will be submitted during the first half or third of the semester. This allows students who are managing health issues with maximum time to catch up or to work at a more moderate pace.  It allows students who have maintained optimal health to refine assignments and to explore subject matter without penalty.
  • Build in opportunities to virtually meet with students throughout the semester (ie. mandatory office hours). Students may be loath to disclose difficulties in a group format.  If students are having trouble keeping up with readings and/or demonstrating content knowledge in spite of devoting significant time to your course, they may benefit from academic accommodations.  If this is the case contact the Office of Accessible Education.
  • If purchasing supplemental software or instructional materials to be used by students it is mandatory that the product allow for the modulation and amplification of sight, sound, hearing features –
  • Follow these steps to create content that is accessible to all students:
  1. Use captioning when you record lectures and edit for accuracy. You can record with captioning and edit closed captioning in Zoom. You can also edit captioning in recordings you upload into YouTube.
  2. Run the accessibility checker when you create Word Docs, PDFs, and/or PowerPoints for dissemination. Correct errors and warnings as you work.
  3. Use the heading and list functions in Word and use an accessible font, like Verdana.
  4. Use high contrast colors and avoid using underlining and bold to make a point
  5. Provide links to online resources and/or order a digital course packet for hard to come by resources instead of scanning and uploading as a PDF.
  6. Include only necessary and content-driven images and add the alternative descriptions as you work.
  7. Check with the Office of Accessible Education if you have specific questions about the accessibility of your content and OIT for help with the technology.  Individual students may and will have particular needs based on factors beyond your control.  In these circumstances appropriate modifications can always be made.