Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning

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The Office of Teaching and Learning can assist faculty with the development of learning experiences that are accessible and inclusive of ALL students and adhere to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. Take a minute to watch this short video that will briefly explain Universal Design for Learning. Although the video is targeted to K-12 teachers, the basic principles of Universal Design for Learning also applies to higher education. Take a look!

Why go through all this effort?

There are over two million students that have a disability on college campuses throughout the United States. If you create your content using UDL principles, the content is not only accessible to students who may have a disability, but will also support English Language Learners, students who may be struggling in your class, and students accessing your course using a mobile device, laptop, tablet, etc. Universal Design for Learning principles also support effective teaching and inclusive excellence practices. View this video to learn how UDL supports diverse learners in higher education.

How can I get started?

Click on the headers below to expand each section for step-by-step instructions about how to design your course materials to be accessible to all students.


Audio and Video

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of your audio and video content.

While evaluating videos to use in your course, select videos that include subtitles or transcripts and that reflect diversity. Providing subtitles for video ensures that content is not only accessible to students who may have a disability, but will also support English Language Learners, students who may be struggling in your class, or students who prefer to read. View the video below to learn how to filter YouTube search results to show only videos with subtitles.

 

By law, the University must accommodate students that have officially requested course materials to be accessible. In general, designing all course materials to be accessible by all people is best practice.

View this knowledge base article for step-by-step instructions for requesting and applying captions to your video and audio content, and for instructions on creating your own captions using YouTube.

 


Images

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of images.

  • Be aware of the contrast between the color and size of images or text, and the background. People with low vision often require a higher contrast to be able to see content effectively.
  • Test images to ensure that none of the meaning is lost when the color is removed – either by printing the image in black and white only, or using an online tool like Vischeck to simulate color-blindness.
  • When incorporating text along with an image,  be sure to create the text within a text editor rather than including it as part of the image. Text that is a part of an image often becomes pixelated and unreadable when enlarged by programs that accommodate for low vision.
  • Add alternative text (ALT tags) that describes the information, meaning, or function that is represented in all images.
  • Avoid the use of images that rely on specific cultural references to understand, or images that may be misinterpreted.
  • Take care to use images that enhance comprehension.
  • Images like animations, diagrams, maps, charts, or illustrations are especially helpful for those with learning disabilities or reading disorders when used to; focus attention, chunk content into segments, encourage linking of new ideas to previously learned information, or draw attention to critical features and key ideas.
  • Avoid flashing or strobing images as they can cause seizures for users with photosensitive epilepsy.

The suggestions above are based largely on the work of WebAIM.org. Explore their Accessible Images guidelines for even more helpful ideas!


Canvas

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of your Canvas course.


Documents & Presentations

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of documents.

  • Always use the official heading options provided in the program used to create the document (MSWord, Excel, etc.).  Be sure to follow proper nesting for headers rather than choosing one just because it looks nice, as this will result in a document that doesn’t make sense semantically to viewers using screen readers. For example; there should be main heading (or, “H1 tag”) for each individual document. H2 tags should be used for all in-document headers. H3 should be used for all first level sub-headers, H4 for sub-sub headers, and so on.
  • Never rely on color alone to communicate information.
  • Avoid using “Click Here” to identify links. Instead, use descriptive titles that identify the information being linked. For example, rather than stating “Click Here for more information for prospective students about the University of Denver”, the link should read, “For more information, please see the University of Denver Prospective Students website.”
  • Avoid using underline formatting for text that is not a hyperlink.
  • Clarify all vocabulary, syntax, and graphics used to increase comprehension.
  • Present information in a variety of formats whenever possible.
  • Include as many display or playback options as possible in order to provide viewers with the ability to make helpful adjustments like changing image size, adjusting color contrast, etc.
  • Use standard document formats (e.g., MSWord) that are compatible with assistive devices.

The suggestions above are based largely on the work of 3PlayMedia and WebAIM.org. Explore their Tips for Making Online Documents Accessible, and Links and Hypertext guidelines for even more helpful ideas!

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of presentations.

  • Consider differences in the audience’s ability to see, hear, move, speak, and understand presentation content, and respect those needs by preparing for them ahead of time.
  • Provide multiple alternative formats of materials whenever possible (i.e. verbal or audio, text-based, pictures, diagrams, etc.).
  • Ensure that any handouts or materials paired with the presentation are also accessible.
  • Be prepared to provide materials ahead of time upon request.
  • Consider accessibility issues when featuring audience participation (i.e. polls, activities, group projects, etc.).
  • Speak clearly at a consistent pace and avoiding the use of jargon, acronyms, or idioms.
  • Describe visual elements of the presentation within the audio, or provide enhanced transcripts that include the descriptions.
  • Provide quality captions and transcripts for all audio elements.

The suggestions above are based largely on the work of the Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C). Explore their How to Make Presentations Accessible to All guidelines for even more helpful ideas!

Guides and Other Resources:

The following resources provide step-by-step instructions for creating accessible documents and presentations.


Teaching Strategies

Use the following Universal Design for Learning core principles to create a more inclusive and accessible classroom.

Provide multiple means of representation by:
  • using advance organizers, analogies, or multiple examples; chunking content into segments; encouraging students to link new ideas to previously learned information; or drawing attention to critical features or key ideas.
  • clarifying vocabulary, syntax, and graphics; and by avoiding the use of images that rely on specific cultural references to understand or that may be misinterpreted, for example.
  • presenting information in a variety of formats (i.e., visual, audio, tactile); enabling variable display or playback (e.g., changing image size/color contrast); providing captions for video/audio materials; or using standard formats (e.g., MSWord) that are compatible with assistive devices.
Provide multiple means of action and expression by:
  • using a variety of approaches to assess learning and performance.
  • keeping learners motivated via offering choices for navigation of material, incorporating student interests, providing options for self-regulation, etc.
  • familiarizing students with institutional policies and resources for advocacy and referral.
Provide multiple means of engagement with regard to expectations for:
  • student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction – by offering choice of modality for expression of knowledge, ideas, and concepts (e.g., written responses, audio recordings, visual representations, etc.).
  • student-to-content interaction – by selecting software and content that enables multiple means of navigation (i.e., hand, voice, keyboard, etc.), and by providing alternative requirements when physical elements like timing are involved.

The suggestions above are based largely on the work of the National Center for Universal Design for Learning. Explore their UDL Guidelines for even more helpful ideas!


How can I learn more?

View the Universal Design for Learning Canvas course.
Contact DU’s Disability Service Program
Visit OTL’s Creating an Inclusive Classroom teaching resource page
Visit the National Center for Universal Design for Learning
View Oliver Schinken’s Lynda.com course titled, How to Make Accessible Learning.

Who to contact?

Contact the Office of Teaching & Learning at 303.871.2084 or email otl@du.edu if you have questions or need to assistance.

© 2014 University of Denver - Office of Teaching & Learning