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Getting Started with Accessibility

Instructors may be unfamiliar with the challenges posed by inaccessible web content and are just beginning to consider accessibility when adjusting materials for online instruction. We have built this page with a goal to aid in removing the barriers of learning for any student and to ensure that an iLearn course is accessible to potential instructors, and students with a range of abilities and disabilities. We begin ensuring that course materials, notes, and other information resources are engaging, flexible, and accessible for all students.

The iLearn Accessibility Checker:

Use the iLearn the Accessibility Checker to inspect the accessibility level of content that you have created using the Rich Text Editor tool deployed inside the many other tools of iLearn, and immediately solve any issues that are found.

The Accessibility Checker presents issues with each item in the editor one at a time. For many issues, the Accessibility Checker gives you a Quick fix option.  The accessibility checker has multiple Quick fix options to correct accessibility issues. The following are a few examples of the most common areas where accessibility issues may exist. 

Accessibility Tips and Tricks:

Here are some tips for ensuring that course materials, notes, and other information resources are engaging, flexible, and accessible for all students:

  • Select materials early. 
    • Choose materials and prepare a syllabus early to allow students the option of beginning to read materials and work on assignments before the course begins and time to arrange for alternative formats.
      • Consider audiobooks and e-books
  • Provide content in  an accessible, universally designed formats
    • Select or create materials (including textbooks, syllabi, lesson pages, presentation materials) that are universally designed. For example, use electronic materials that are text-based, have flexible features, use formatted headings and lists, describe the content within images, have consistent layouts and organization schemes, whose link text describes its destination, use large sans serif fonts on uncluttered pages with plain backgrounds, and incorporate color combinations that are high contrast and can be distinguished by people with color blindness. Use captioned videos and provide transcriptions for audio presentations. Apply accessibility standards to websites.
  • Accommodate a variety of reading and technology, skills. 
    • Present content in a logical, straightforward manner and in an order that reflects its importance. Avoid unnecessary jargon and complexity and define new terms when they are presented. Create materials in simple, intuitive formats. Provide options for gaining the technical skills needed for course participation. Share relevant campus resources with students.
  • The Marist College Office of Accommodations and Accessibility supports students with documented disabilities in becoming empowered, independent learners by providing the appropriate accommodations and services necessary to access the educational opportunities at Marist College.

Accessible Course Overview:

Sheryl Burgstahler, the director of Accessible Technology Services within UW-IT and affiliate professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington, shared this wealth of information in January 2017 Educause Article, "ADA Compliance for Online Course Design.

With references to in-depth resources for some of the topics — that can help online instructors make their courses accessible to a broad audience: "20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course." Although the tips do not cover every potential accessibility issue, they provide a good start.

Washington University has shared tips and tricks for course web pages, documents, images, and videos:

  1. Use clear, consistent layouts and organization schemes for presenting content.
  2. Structure headings (using style features built into the learning management system, Word, PowerPoint, PDFs, etc.) and use built-in designs/layouts (e.g., for PPT slides).
  3. Use descriptive wording for hyperlink text (e.g., "DO-IT Knowledge Base" rather than "click here").
  4. Minimize the use of PDFs, especially when presented as an image; make sure the text is accessible by testing to see if you can copy and paste it. Always offer a text-based alternative as well.
  5. Provide concise alternative-text descriptions of content presented within images.
  6. Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered pages with plain backgrounds.
  7. Use color combinations that are high contrast and can be read by those who are colorblind.
  8. Make sure all content and navigation is accessible using the keyboard alone.
  9. Caption or transcribe video and audio content.


Benefits of Accessible Design for Individuals without Disabilities

Students in a class can vary by gender, race, ethnicity, culture, marital status, age, communication skills, learning abilities, interests, physical abilities, social skills, sensory abilities, values, learning preferences, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, and other factors. Many of these individuals might never request a disability-related accommodation but will nevertheless benefit from accessible design. For example, many English language learners benefit from captions on videos so that they can see the spelling of new vocabulary. Other students learning new vocabulary in a technical class can benefit from these captions as well. And everyone benefits from course content that is presented in a logical, consistent manner.


"20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course", By Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.
Materials and content on these pages are used with permission from DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology)  at the University of Washington, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 License