Accessibility in Your Classes

Accessibility and Usability

“Americans with disabilities are Americans first and foremost, and like all Americans are entitled to not only full participation in our society, but also full opportunity in our society.”

--President Barack Obama, 2010

To meet the needs of enrolled students with disabilities and to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II, 1990, and the ADA amendments of 2008, KU will provide reasonable accommodations for classes in order to allow equal access to provide the education necessary for qualified students with disabilities to function as self-sustaining individuals.

In addition, when building online course materials it is important to bear in mind that, as a public university, KU is required to meet Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 standards for web-based intranet and internet information and applications. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania follows Section 508 Web Accessibility Standards. As of June 30, 2001, all agencies under the Governor's jurisdiction are required to ensure web sites (both existing and in development) comply with Section 508 accessibility guidelines. Conforming to these standards requires that materials that would pose problems for students with disabilities need to be altered to accommodate the disabled. Examples of materials that would require accommodations would include:

  • Videos that have audio would need captioning and/or text transcripts
  • Audio files would need text transcripts
  • Images should have alternate text or descriptions set for them to convey meaning
  • Color-blind individuals should be able to interpret a page successfully
  • All pages and documents should be accessible via screen reading software
  • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act: what you need to know

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d), as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-220), August 7, 1998, or simply Section 508, is part of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires that all website content be accessible to people with disabilities. This applies to web-based applications and pages (HTML), and all attached files including MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Adobe Acrobat (.pdf), and multimedia (video and audio). Fortunately, D2L is among the industry leaders in providing a learning environment that is accessible and meets Section 508 Standards.

    Section 508 is meant to help:

    • 6.4 million people in the United States who have a visual disability.
    • 10.5 million people in United States population who have a hearing disability.
    • 20.9 million people in United States population who have an ambulatory disability.
    • 14.8 million people in United States population who have a cognitive disability.

Additional Resources

  • WebAim: Section 508 Web Checklist
  • Erickson, W., Lee, C., & von Schrader, S. (2012). 2010 Disability Status Report: United States. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute (EDI).
Barriers to Access & Building Accessibility into Your Course

With the adoption and increasing use of technology to teach and learn, a student with a disability can face many barriers to access, specifically access to instructional materials or resources such as video, audio, interactive resources, animations and/or simulations. Described below are a few examples of access challenges faced by those in typical distance learning courses, and some ways they are mitigated.

Visit the KUtztown exCEL, the faculty journal for the CEL, for more information about Barriers to Access.

Building Accessibility into Your Course

When designing your course within D2L, you can go a long way towards making your class and web-based materials accessible to the majority of your audience by employing some simple methods, such as utilizing accessibility and assistive technology tools that are available within D2L. 

For more information, visit KUtztown exCEL for our article about Building Accessibility into your Course.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for addressing the educational needs of diverse and variable learners in many settings across many stages of life. It is a means to eradicate persistent inequities in education—and it is an even more powerful tool when used as a lens for shaping educational systems, designs, and initiatives. Below is a brief overview of the three Principle of Universal Design for Learning.

  • Principle One: provide multiple means of engagement

    The “WHY” of learning concerns how you make learning relevant and meaningful to your learners by giving them a variety of ways to engage positively with course materials and participants. The aim of this principle is to create purposeful and motivated learners.

  • Principle Two: Provide multiple means of representation

    The “WHAT” of learning concerns how you represent knowledge and content and offer choice to your learners in how they access and process learning. The aim of this principle is to create knowledgeable and resourceful learners.

  • Principle Three: provide multiple means of action and expression.

    The “HOW” of learning concerns how you offer ways that your learners can express themselves and demonstrate what they know in a way that works for them, as well as how they can plan to effectively use their knowledge to reach their learning goals. The aim of this principle is to create strategic and goal-directed learners.

If you would like to find out more, you can enroll in the Basics of UDL course, which will be available January, 2024. You will receive a digital badge and certificate upon completion.

Additional Resources