Introduction to accessibility

Accessibility, in simple terms, is how a student can function in your class. Accessibility might look like a professor needing to use the microphone in the classroom so everyone can hear, even when they think everyone can hear them fine without it.

Accessibility varies from accommodation. An accommodation is specific to an individual and is reactive. A student who needs an accommodation goes through a process to have their requests met based on their specific circumstance. Accessibility is equitable, involves everybody, and is proactive – it’s something you do to ensure all students can access your content.

Digital Accessibility

Digital Accessibility involves everything in the technological world. While you might not be teaching in a classroom, you still need to have your materials accessible to everyone. If you record a lecture, you should have it captioned so students who may be visually impaired can still access the content.

Digital accessibility is increasingly important in our forever evolving digital world. We have a diverse student body and we need to be able to serve all.

Universal Design

When thinking about building a course or class materials, it’s important to consider Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In short, UDL is designing your class for everyone. You can think about UDL this way – when you see a ramp next to stairs outside a building, it is not explicitly for wheelchairs. People with strollers and bicycles use them, too. Closed captions aren’t just used by hearing-impaired people. It’s also used by people learning a different language, someone sharing a room and watching TV with a person with a different sleep schedule, and even people working out in gyms. When you keep universal design in mind when designing course content, everyone benefits.

What needs to be accessible?

The short answer is everything in your classes should be accessible. Documents (Word, Google, PDF), PowerPoints, Excel files, audio files, video files, and content in your Sakai sites (Lessons, Discussions, Assignments, Resources, Announcements, Syllabus).

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