Making Courses Accessible

Course materials, referenced resources, and Learning Management System modules, can be made accessible in order to fully adhere to principles of UDL.

What is Universal Design for Learning, or UDL?

UDL is a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice which:
  • provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and
  • reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient.

Characteristics of UDL

According to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, UDL:
  • is intentionally and systematically designed curricula address individual differences;
  • is based upon flexible approaches can be customized and adjusted for individual needs; and
  • creates a better learning environment with no need to retrofit or adapt materials.

How to make an impact with UDL

1. Take responsibility.

2. Utilize transcripts, captions, and audio descriptions.

  • Use transcripts for audio content.
  • Use captions along with transcripts for video content.
  • Use audio descriptions to indicate actions that are happening within videos.
  • For explanations, see WebAIM resources.

3. Consider color choice.

4. Create and utilize accessible documents.

5. Assign “Alt Text” to images.

  • Use meaningful text equivalents.
  • Keep the context of the image in mind.
  • If adjacent text describes an image, use a shorter Alt Text.
  • If Alt Text is longer than 150 characters, link to a full description elsewhere.

6. Use relevant link text.

  • Use descriptive and meaningful link text.
  • Avoid vague or repetitive link text such as “click here” or “read more.”

7. Utilize proper heading structure.

  • Within documents and web pages, a heading structure allows individuals to utilize screen readers effectively.
  • Use descriptive heading text and nest headings sequentially, just as in an outline.

8. Create and utilize accessible tables.

  • Use simple table formats.
  • Convert complex tables into multiple simple tables whenever possible.
  • Make sure to identify row and column headers and include a caption or summary.

9. Make math/technical content accessible.

For math and technical content, ensure that:

  • equations are either in MathML or images with an ALT tag (see how to use Math ML);
  • technical symbols are supported on a student’s screen reader; and
  • all charts can be interpreted without color and include a properly tagged data table.

10. Research available technologies.

  • Research accessibility features of products and services before recommending or purchasing them.
  • Ensure that they meet business needs and accessibility requirement.

If you have specific questions, contact your instructional technologist, unit accessibility liaison, or the IT Accessibility team.

Did you know?

  • In the United States, about 55 million people have a disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • About 1 in 5 Americans have some kind of disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • The percentage of people affected by disabilities is growing as our population ages.
  • Two popular, free screen readers are VoiceOver (Mac OS and iOS) and NVDA (Win).
  • Good accessibility practices can improve the search ranking of your website.
  • Form fields without labels can cause problems for some assistive technology users.
  • Low color contrast makes content difficult to see, especially for users with low vision.
  • Documents linked on a website need to be accessible too (e.g., PDF and Word files).
  • Audio content, like podcasts, need transcripts for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Online videos should be captioned for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Using HTML tags correctly is very important for accessibility.
  • Descriptive link text helps make a website more accessible. Avoid using "Click here" or "Read more."
  • A "screen reader" is an application that reads content aloud to a user.
  • There is no "alt tag" in HTML. "Alt" is an attribute used with the img tag.
  • HTML uses the alt attribute to provide a text description of an image.
  • Alt text should describe an image, if the purpose of the image is to convey information.
  • If an image is a link, the alt text for the image should explain where the link goes.
  • If an image is only being used for decoration, the alt text should be null (i.e., alt="").
  • If a table has headers, using header tags (<th>) will make the table more accessible.
  • An accessible website is one that can be navigated and understood by everyone.