Use multiple means of representation, engagement, actions, and expressions in your classroom activities.
Barriers to information are the primary causes of inaccessible classroom situations. When designing your course and starting a new term, first consider what online and face-to-face classroom barriers your students may face rather than focusing on types of disabilities.
Then, consider using some good classroom practices that enable you to honor the variability that exists both among students and within each classroom. Acknowledging students’ gifts rather than what may be perceived as limitations helps create inclusive spaces. There is no one best way; vary things. Change it up.
Dos and Don'ts
Create or Use Multiple Means of Representation (Content)
Organize information in a way that empowers students to make connections. Some people would say this is just "good teaching" (and we would say it’s how people actually learn).
Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships, especially around points where students may get stuck.
Explicitly connect new information to background knowledge.
Present concepts and big ideas in simple language before using new vocabulary.
Clarify vocabulary, acronyms, and symbols.
Use course materials a variety of media throughout the course, such as video, animations, or other multimedia (and offer these in alternative formats).
Don't assume students will immediately understand key concepts, new information, or unfamiliar vocabulary, acronyms, or symbols.
Don't introduce new vocabulary before students understand concepts and big ideas.
Don't rely on one type of media to present information.
Create Multiple Means of Engagement (Activities)
Consider the multiple interactions that are happening in your classroom at one time. Students should be interacting with each other, with you, with the content, and with the technology (whatever form that takes).
Vary types of activities and assignments.
Integrate self assessments and reflection opportunities (raising self awareness of learning aids learning).
Encourage students to use and apply course information in assignments that are authentic to real-life work.
Foster intentional collaboration and community to support students who need that interaction for their learning.
Minimize distractions (e.g., use plain and simple writing, minimize the number of decorative elements in your course websites and on your slides, etc.).
Don't use technology just for technology’s sake; the technology-driven activities you design should be meaningful and useful in and of their own right.
Don't expect students to only access or recall information.
Don't have students complete all assignments on their own.
Don't use dense language or too many or distracting graphics.
Provide Multiple Means of Actions and Expression (Assessment)
Assessment activities tend to have higher stakes in your course. They are where students tend to spend the most time and attention.
Use some non-traditional assignments (e.g., a mapping project, digital story, in-class presentation, or online exhibition).
Ask students to respond using non-traditional formats (e.g., a podcast or video recording), and vary these response parameters throughout the semester.
Ensure the tools you encourage for non-traditional activities are accessible.
Increase the amount and frequency of the feedback you give at all levels and in all contexts.
Use rubrics to give feedback.
Don't assign only research papers.
Don't ask students to respond only in class.
Don't give infrequent feedback.
Don't provide unique feedback to each student.
Don't assume non-traditional activities are accessible.
Build Accessibility into Learning Outcomes
Get students involved in enhancing accessibility in the course by adopting accessibility best practices such as the seven core skills as a part of the assessment criteria for assignments. For example:
- Show students how to caption their own video assignments and award points on your rubric for handing in a captioned video.
- Appoint a class note taker for each class session, who then shares notes with the rest of the class (and assign extra credit points for this task).
- Model best practices for use of images by including captions or alt text for all the static graphics and images in your documents.
- Ask the class what else would enhance class accessibility.
Don't assume all students know about accessibility.
Offer Alternative Activities or Assignments
Not all applications are accessible for students who use assistive technology like screen readers or text-to-speech programs, or who navigate on their computer using voice commands and/or a keyboard (instead of a mouse). Even accessible applications also may have features that are not accessible.
Be prepared to offer an alternative choice to assignments that require students to use a particular technology, such as Flipgrid or the discussion tool in Canvas, or a particular mode of expression, such as writing a text response.
Consult with [email protected] if you’re unsure whether technology or a feature in it you’d like to use is accessible.
Don't require students to use an inaccessible tool without considering alternatives.
Contact a Disability Resource Center access consultant about specific access needs or about how to reduce barriers more broadly in your course.
If you’re unsure whether a technology or feature in it you’d like to use is accessible, request a consultation by emailing [email protected].
Office of Classroom Management (OCM) staff can also help you find a room that meets students’ needs.