Center for Learning, Experimentation, Application, and Research

Accessibility Online

"There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person as more."  -- Robert M. Hensel

Accessibility Resources for Teaching Online

This page provides you with an overview of accessibility as it relates to online teaching and content development. The subsections in the Teaching Resources menu on the left focus on specific aspects of creating accessible content, from headings and tables, to images and PDFs. If you wish to take an even deeper dive into learning how to make different document formats accessible, from pages in Canvas to MS Word and PDF, you can self-enroll on DSI CLEAR’s Accessibility Training Course.

If you have any other questions about making your online course accessible, we are at your disposal. Submit an Accessibility Consultation Request Form and we will follow up with you to schedule a ZOOM or phone call.

Making Accessibility a Priority

Imagine participating in a classroom where every attempt at retaining information imperative to your success is thwarted by the medium through which it’s delivered. Perhaps the slides on the overhead projector are impossibly blurry, or the instructor’s voice is faint, almost mute. What if the color-coded charts and graphs in your textbook could be better understood with an image description, but the publisher failed to take color-blind learners into account? Now picture addressing these issues with your course instructor only to be told the materials could be retrofitted for accessibility, but it would place you behind the already brisk pace of the course.

Problems relating to accessibility pervade both physical and online classrooms. While online courses can make educational access easier for learners who are less physically mobile, many  students with disabilities continue to struggle with obtaining the access they need simply because their courses were designed without accessibility in mind. This web page is intended to educate our online and hybrid instructors as to the legalities and institutional policies related to designing accessible online materials, as well as provide resources and practical solutions for common accessibility questions you may encounter during the course design process. At CLEAR, we’re dedicated to working with the UNT Office of Disability Access to ensure that all UNT students have equal opportunity to learn.

Laws and Policy

Designing your course for accessibility is not just a recommended best practice, it’s also the law. Many well-respected, American educational institutions have faced lawsuits due to what some judges deemed actionable negligence towards the needs of disabled students attempting to access university materials online. Most individual institutional policies related to online accessibility are upheld by sections 508 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal and federally funded programs to accommodate all individuals with disabilities. Originally enacted in 1973, an amendment (Section 508) to the Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1998 due to the rapid growth of the internet, which takes into account equal individual access to electronic and information technology.

Likewise, at the institutional level, all UNT instructors are required to collaborate with the Office of Disability Access (ODA) to ensure that students have access to materials that are treated to fit their needs. Moreover, both online and face-to-face instructors must include an ADA statement in their syllabi that inform students about UNT’s accommodation resources.

Understanding Disabilities

Before tackling accessibility in your course, it’s important to understand the types of disabilities for which your students may request accommodations. 

Visual

Blindness, low vision, color-blindness

Hearing

Deafness and hard-of-hearing

Mobility

Inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control

Cognitive

Learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information


Identify Accessibility Gaps

Once you understand the types of disabilities, then you can begin to identify accessibility gaps in your existing content. At this point, you should be thinking about the materials in your course and ask questions such as:

These questions address common accessibility issues but you may receive a request that requires special consideration. If you have any accessibility questions, feel free to submit a CLEAR Consultation Request Form.

Technical Resources

Retrofitting or building your course from the ground up with accessibility in mind requires a bit of technical know-how, and the process can be time-consuming. However, both you and your students will reap the benefits of participating in a course that has implemented the best practices. Below are a few technical resources that can help you take the first steps towards a fully accessible course:

Additional Resources and References