To make instructional content more accessible and inclusive, consider how you format, organize, and distribute content, as well as how you design in-class and online activities.
Accessibility matters in every course. You cannot know all of your student’s needs. Students with (or without) various types of disabilities can experience the same barriers in the classroom. Barriers can also vary significantly from student to student, even when they share the same disability.
Understand Classroom Barriers
Rather than learning about types of disabilities, it is useful for instructors to understand classroom barriers (online and face-to-face) and how to mitigate them. Common barriers include:
- Inconsistent naming conventions
- Unclear deadlines and inconsistent information
- Poorly formatted or disorganized text-based materials
- Poorly formatted or disorganized Canvas or online course sites
- Timed quizzes or single-format responses
- Light sources (poor or changing sources)
- Uncaptioned video content
- Inaccessible online applications or features
- Inaccessible or inactive hyperlinks
- Color choices that can’t be distinguished
Don't Focus on Disabilities
Students in your courses may not always disclose their disabilities to you. A student may not disclose because they may:
- Not yet be aware that they have a disability
- Have developed other strategies to navigate their learning
- Be unaware of the DRC and their role in seeking accommodations
- Have experienced stigma in disclosing or using accommodations
- Be concerned that others will think they’re getting a special advantage
Plan for accessibility and inclusion from the beginning, at the point you’re developing or modifying a new course or new activity, rather than as an afterthought to your course development. This way, you’ll create a more inclusive atmosphere that meets more students’ needs and acknowledges students’ gifts rather than what may be perceived as limitations.
Incorporate Inclusive Classroom Activities
Vary the way you present content, activities you use in class, and assessment techniques to create a more inclusive classroom for everyone. Rethink traditional classroom activities and resources to meet diverse student needs.
Create Inclusive Course Materials
The same things you do to a document or media file to make it accessible also make course materials more usable for all your students. As a first step, learn the 7 core skills and use them in all your course materials. Then, periodically identify and correct materials that are improperly formatted, inconsistent, or disorganized.
Use the Accessibility Checker that is built into Canvas (UDOIT).
Create Accessible Syllabi
Your syllabi should be formatted for accessibility in the same manner as any other digital document. Adding a personalized accessibility affirmation to the UMN Accessibility policy in your syllabus will set a more inclusive tone for your class.
Develop a Plan B
Students with a range of abilities should be able to participate in whatever learning experiences you design for your course. We recognize that inaccessible apps and technologies will make their way into classrooms, so we encourage you to think about a plan B: How will a student with a disability have an equivalent experience if they can't use that app? Don’t hesitate to reach out to an access consultant in the Disability Resource Center.