female student typing on laptop at table outside

Why Accessibility Matters in Online Teaching and Learning

What is “accessibility” in an online course?

According to the Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education, “accessible’ means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability.”

Beyond Regulatory Compliance

Not only is making all of your online course material accessible a legal mandate covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (regardless of whether a student in any individual course requests accommodations), it is also a teaching best practice. Instructors should be proactive instead of reactive in making all course materials accessible because it provides students with disabilities an equitable opportunity for learning and receiving the full benefit of their educational experience, but also it promotes effective learning for all students regardless of disability status.

Some ways to get started on the proactive accessibility journey are adding captions to videos and audio, converting PDF files (which are often inaccessible) to HTML format, using the Styles tool in Word to format and structure content, and using descriptive text for links. Providing multiple and varied ways for students to interact with course content is an evidence-based practice to support and enhance student learning.

screenshot of Microsoft Office Styles

Where do I begin?

The following are some helpful resources to consider as you endeavor to make your online course materials accessible.

NIU Resources:

Other Resources:

As always, CITL welcomes you to contact the Center to discuss the best ways to make your online course materials accessible.

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