Online teaching requires knowledge of and adherence to standards and guidelines for universal access for all students. You need to be sure that all of your online students, including those with disabilities, will have access to online course tools, information, and materials. Using the 3 universal learning design (UDL) principles will help make sure your content is accessible to all learners. UDL is a framework to guide instructional practice that:
(A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and
(B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient. From UDL Defined.
3 Universal Learning Design Principles:
- Principle I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation
- Present information and content in different ways.
- Principle II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
- Differentiate the ways that students can express what they know/make their thinking and learning visible to you.
- Principle III. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
- Stimulate interest and motivation for learning.
In addition to the UDL Guidelines that can be used to guide learner-centered instructional practice, there are two US federal laws govern program and course access for all students: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In New York, we are also bound by the accessibility guidelines pertaining to technology included within Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
As you create materials for your online course, you will need to ensure that they are in line with these standards and guidelines. Conforming to these standards will benefit students with disabilities, and will help all of your online students to access and use the content of your online course.
Check with the online faculty support or IT department at your institution to see what documentation, training, and services are available for faculty teaching online, and students taking online courses regarding accessibility. SUNY Online Teaching has developed OSCQR, a rubric that has integrated accessibility standards, that you can use to guide you in your development of an accessible online course, and training available to assist you with Web Accessibility. You can also review the SUNY resources on online accessibility.
|In this video, online faculty and instructional designers share their perspectives on accessibility and universal design for instruction.
When making course content accessible, it benefits all learners by creating paths so that all learners can succeed. There are ethical and pedagogical reasons why accessibility matters, but this is a reminder of the legal reasons why accessibility matters.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.
Title II: State and Local Government Activities – covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity’s size or receipt of Federal funding. Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Section 504: “No qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the USPS.
- Section 508: Establishes requirements for electronic and information technologies developed, maintained, procured or used by the Federal government.
MORE TO EXPLORE
Resource developed by a SUNY FACT2 task group, charged with identifying competencies and skill sets related to online accessibility and provide professional development opportunities for SUNY.
Universal Design for Learning and Web Accessibility: Meeting the Needs of All Students
A face-to-face or facilitated online competency development course that will help you gain a better understanding of accessibility as a civil rights issue and develop the knowledge and skills you need to design learning experiences that promote inclusive learning environments.
Accessibility Resources from SUNY Online Teaching
This comprehensive list of related links can guide your exploration of effective practices and compliance issues related to accessibility and universal design for online courses.
OLC OSCQR Online Course Quality Scorecard
The OLC/OSCQR Online Course Quality Scorecard is an online course quality rubric with integrated accessibility standards developed by SUNY Online Teaching and adopted by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC).