Accessibility to Course Content
Federal laws require that reasonable accommodations must be made in the instructional process to ensure equal educational opportunity to individuals with disabilities. To meet this requirement, UF has implemented the “Disability Accommodation Request” process for students to formally alert instructors of their accommodation needs.
Disability Accommodation Requests:
A student with learning or physical disabilities does not have to alert their instructor of this fact. However, should they formally submit a “Disability Accommodation Request” to their instructor, reasonable accommodations must be made to meet the student’s documented needs.
If an instructor receives an accommodation request letter, they should
- review the Disability Resource Center website for details on supporting the accommodations listed in the letter, and then
- contact the DRC for more information and access to services.
In regards to online course content, both for in-residence and distance students, the University of Florida currently provides captioning services for hearing impaired students and is in the process of extending accessibility services to other types of impairments.
The Disability Accommodation Request Process is explained in more detail on the Teaching & Technology website.
Accessibility is providing flexibility by adding features, modifying existing features, or removing barriers in order to accommodate a user’s needs or preferences.
- For example, ramps and curb-cuts provide access for individuals with physical/mobility impairments. They also provide benefit for non-disabled users (e.g. parents with strollers).
- For distance learning, accessibility means providing access to information regardless of the disability and type of assistive technology being used.
- Text descriptions, captioned videos, and labeled forms and tables provide access to a variety of users with disabilities. They may also provide benefit for non-disabled users (e.g. International students).
- The ‘usability’ benefit for non-disabled individuals has become the field of ‘universal design’. While universal design started in architecture, it has become an increasingly important consideration in course design, instructional design, etc.
Designing Accessible Courses
Many accessibility needs are easily met if accessibility is considered when a course is first designed or when course materials are being updated. Instructors wanting additional information about accessibility compliance while they are designing or building their course may contact firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a Course Assistance Request Form.
Supporting Students with Disabilities
Here is an overview of areas to consider when incorporating accessibility into a course, specifically when preparing materials or designing activities.
All impairments or disorders, according to specific student needs
- Availability of extended test times and/or alternative test settings.
- Flexible attendance requirements for in-person or online real-time activities.
- Access to Power Point presentations or other files referenced in recorded videos.
- Online conferencing and chat functions (e.g. real-time, messenger, Skype, teleconferencing) should be considerate of the impact of a student’s disability in reading, using, and responding to content.
- Captions or transcription should be provided for audio or video content on websites, in the learning management system (LMS), within the course content, and for any incorporated multimedia.
- Websites, LMS, course content, and course documents should be accessible and compatible with speech output (e.g. JAWS, Kurzweil) and screen magnification (e.g. ZoomText) software.
Upper body physical/mobility impairments
- Websites, LMS, and course content should be accessible and compatible with alternative keyboards and mice (e.g. trackball), speech input (e.g. Dragon Naturally Speaking) software, and assistive devices (e.g. headpointers, switch devices).
Visual or cognitive processing disorders
- Websites, LMS, and course content should be thoughtfully laid out and easy to navigate.
- Websites and LMS should be accessible and compatible with speech output (e.g. JAWS, Kurzweil) and screen magnification (e.g. ZoomText) software.
The DRC website provides extensive information on teaching students with various impairments, both within physical classrooms and online.