Accessible Course Design

Considerations for Course Design

Accessibility matters in every course, however you cannot know all of your student’s needs ahead of time. All students may experience a barrier in the classroom, and barriers vary from student to student, even among those with the same disability.

Understand classroom barriers

It is useful for instructors to understand common classroom barriers:

  • Unclear deadlines and inconsistent information
  • Poorly formatted or disorganized text-based information
  • Timed quizzes or single-format responses
  • Poor or changing light sources
  • Poor or inconsistent audio quality or background noise
  • Uncaptioned video content
  • Color choices that can’t be distinguished

Plan ahead

Plan for accessibility and inclusion from the beginning, at the point you’re developing or modifying a new course or activity. This way, you will create a more inclusive atmosphere that meets more students’ needs and acknowledges students’ gifts rather than what may be perceived as limitations.

While pre-planning your course, ask yourself the following questions to help determine if your classroom material is accessible:

  • Would I understand this material if I could not hear or see it?
  • If I had a mobility impairment, could I participate fully in this class?
  • If I had a processing delay or hearing impairment, would there be a way for me to go back and revisit the material from class?
  • If I had a disability where reading text requires technology, are my materials in an accessible electronic version?
  • Are there alternatives to visual information (charts, pictures, maps, etc.) that will be presented?
  • Are you planning on using multimedia (YouTube, DVDs, audio, etc.) approaches that would not have captions or transcripts available?
  • Would interactive activities exclude someone with a disability?

Determine essential course requirements

Essential requirements are the outcomes (including skills and knowledge) all students must demonstrate with or without using accommodations. Analyzing the essential requirements can help the instructor determine alternative activities or assessment techniques to create a more inclusive classroom.

Create an inclusive syllabus

Include the Academic Affairs syllabi policy and statement information. Students need information on a syllabus to better pre-plan and identify course barriers which necessitate an accommodation. Textbook information, software programs, course requirements and materials may greatly influence the need for an accommodation. Many accommodations require extensive coordination so timely identification of such need is vital. 

Ensure course materials are inclusive

Use the core accessibility concepts to ensure all course content and documents are accessible.

Be familiar with ODR accommodations

If the design of the course cannot be adjusted to eliminate barriers, students may use accommodations determined by the Office of Disability Resources to access course content and/or demonstrate learning.