Universal Design/Accessibility Recommendations
Online Course Materials
The principles of Universal Design are based on teaching to all students regardless of their individual processing styles or characteristics (CAST, 2014).As individuals process information differently, the need arises for multiple means of accessing course materials. By using varying combinations of textual and multimedia materials, students are exposed to new material in different ways, allowing them to learn optimally.
As advantageous as multi-modal material may be, it’s primary purpose – communication, may be lost if the material is not perceptually, physically, or cognitively accessible to students. Therefore we need to keep usability of the online environment in mind, respect all types of learners; including those with different processing styles and physical attributes.
Many students may not share the same cognitive, perceptual, and physiological schemas as ours, and will require assistance through assistive technologies. Assistive technologies are translators, as it were, of the material you prepare. Your online course material needs to be comprehendible by the technology in order to be comprehendible to students that need it to understand the lessons you prepare.
Navigation of Online Materials:
Please consider the following when choosing technologies for use in yourcurriculum:
- Can students:
- Access all necessary website or software application functionality via the keyboard only, such as accessing menu options and navigating between different screens?
- Read the text easily? If not, try using different color combinations with a strong contrast to make course materials more perceivable by everyone.
- Enlarge the screen without distorting the text? (“Ctrl +” keystroke)
- Provide a consistent layout, navigationand design across the course platformmaking content easier to locate and use. Choose a layout style or theme within the LMS that hasa strong color contrast.
- Provide digital copies of course materials so that students will have the opportunity to listen to the documents on different devices or when using Assistive Technology. Configure copy machines to create digital copies of scanned documents. Include an alternative description of images that are meaningful.
- Provide alternatives to visual materials (e.g. complex charts, graphs, etc.) for learners that may need textual cues to help identify the salient points of visual materials. If the descriptions are lengthy, provide a link to a companion document (or chapter, if applicable) that includes an overview of the visual materials. This ensures that everyone has meaningful access, including individuals that are more efficient with processing text, have a visual impairment or have attention span difficulties.
- Clearly identify each hyperlink destination. Typically, the title of the web page or document to which you are linking is used.
- Use proper styles and formatting to create well-structured documents.Well-structured documents have a better chance of being viewable and navigable on different devices and for assistive technology.
“How to” Materials
Authoring tools (software) for documents or multimedia have built in documentation which provide “How to” help functionality. This is typically available via the “Help Menu”. Most products provide accessibility guidance for structural elements such as Styles and Formatting, Alternative Text, etc.
In addition, the ATI Professional Development website listed at the end of this document provides links to training materials.
Administrative and Planning Considerations
- Syllabus Statement: If you have a disability and need accommodations, please register with the disability student services office. Staff will determine eligibility for services based on the documentation provided and approve appropriate accommodations. Please feel free to set up an appointment with me to discuss your approved accommodations that are needed for this course. (provide links to the disability services office(s) on your campus and related campus accessibility policy, e.g. Disability Access for Students from Sonoma State University). Include links to the LMS or the location of online course materials.
- Keep in mind the LMS may have accessibility features e.g. Quiz/Exam time extensions, font color style changes. Contact the campus office supporting the LMS for information on accessing these functions.
- Notify students of any online conferencing tools that will be usedthroughout the course(e.g. notifications stated in the schedule of classes or in the syllabus).
- Consult the campus Policy on Timely Adoption of Textbooks/Instructional Materials for Accessibility. Getting materials in a timely manner helps Disability Service Offices provide alternative format appropriately.
- When using external websites and software, if the functionalityisn’t available to all students, consult with Disability Services Offices to accommodate students. To address known accessibility barriers, collaboration may be needed across campus departments such as IT, Academic Technology and the Disability Services Office to develop an alternative access plan for students.
- Include verbatim text transcripts with Podcasts and other audio materials.
- Caption multimedia materials.Captioning is an important element of accessibility. For guidance on how to caption course materials and how to prioritize what captions are necessary, refer to the CSU Captioning Prioritization guidance.
- Ensure proper use of copyrighted materials. Video content provided on external websites are often copyright protected. For more information, refer to theCopyright Overview: The Basics.
- Try to save all content with the same file type in order to avoid students switching between applications while viewing coursematerials. Multimedia presentations can be created with a variety of software. Therefore, it is important not to confuse the intended audience with different file types. Provide students with files that can be opened or viewed with standard software. If a course requires specialized software,provide a method for students to obtain the specialized software.
- audio files such as MP3 rather than WAV, WMA, etc.
- video files such as MP4 rather than MT2S, MOV, etc.
- Use cross-platform and cross-browsercompatible file formats. This means that the information you are sharing with students can be viewed on different operating systems or within different browsers.Microsoft Office files and Adobe PDF files are popular choices thatcan easily be opened and viewed by PC and MAC operating systems. Some websites interact better with certain browsers,so inform students of potential software compatibility issues.
Additionally, provide links so that students can download necessary software for accessing curriculum materials.For an example of this, seeDocument Viewersfrom CSUN.
- Other platforms such as MyBioLab.com, SSPS, etc. may require specialized software. Provide information regarding how students may acquire the software. Keep in mind that some technologies may need accommodations for students via the campus disability services office.
Shared Student Work
Group work designed to be inclusive allows all students to benefit from working in a diverse group where each group member may contribute to the exchange of ideas, planning, development, and the presentation of their collaborative work.
Encourage the following practices:
- Group meetings are in buildings or virtual spaces that is accessible to all group members
- Establish a mode of communication in which all are able to participate (forums, chat, phone, etc.)
- Share resources all members can access and use. For example, require captions or transcripts for videos; in addition, during presentations have students describe visual aids.
Copyright Overview: The Basics
Quality Online Learning & Teaching
About Universal Design for Learning
Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences
ATI Professional Development