It is very important to be aware of accessibility issues and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles as you are building your online course. Ensuring access for all students can be challenging, especially given the wide range of disabilities that exist, but it is federal law that we do our best to accommodate all students’ accessibility needs. Therefore, it is good practice to build accessibility into your course as you design it so that you are ahead of the game when students with special needs take your course.
As an instructor, you are required to ensure that the content used in your online classes are accessible to all students. The Offices of Disability Services and Online Learning (formerly Distance Education) will help you convert inaccessible materials or find equally effective alternatives. A helpful chart was created by Portland Community College which outlines who’s responsible for accessibility of an online course.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
According to the Office of Disability Services, 10% percent of Mount Saint Mary College undergraduates report some type of disability — and the proportions have swapped such that the majority of disabilities are now non-apparent, e.g. anxiety, ADHD, learning issues, cancer, diabetes, compared to more apparent disabilities, e.g. mobility issues, vision impairments, Meanwhile, 94% of students with disabilities receive support in high school vs. only 11% receive support for their disability in college nationwide — students with disabilities don’t actually contact campus college services for “official” accommodation requests/reporting — which means many students in your face-to-face and online classrooms may fall in this category without your knowledge.
While starter tips for incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are offered below, an especially helpful resource for checklists and recommendations on UDL is the Access Project, a project of Colorado State University’s Department of Occupational Therapy. On their website, the Project hosts many UDL materials, including A Concise Introduction to UDL, How Do You Teach? (a UDL Checklist for professors), and a more in-depth UDL Quick Tips chart.