November 1, 2018

Accessibility for All Learners

Design your course for accessibility

Physical, technical, and financial barriers can reduce students’ access to your course. A “Universal Design for Learning” (UDL) approach helps all students by anticipating and reducing these barriers proactively, rather than waiting for a student to request assistance. Just as universities design classrooms to accommodate all students physically, faculty can design curricula and online course management systems (CMS) to support the learning needs of all students.

 

Mason’s Office of Disability Services can provide information and support for faculty who are working with students who have documented physical or psychological disabilities.

Web: https://ds.gmu.edu/
Phone: 703-993-2474
Email: ods@gmu.edu

 

Mason Publishing and Mason Libraries can provide information about and support for putting course materials on e-reserve for students to review, or locating low-cost or free Open Educational Resources, to lower the financial burden on students.

Web: https://library.gmu.edu/
Phone: 703-993-2240
Email form: https://library.gmu.edu/contact

Mason’s Assistive Technology Initiative offers resources that make teaching and learning materials accessible to all students. Instructors can request help with:

Web: ati.gmu.edu
Phone: 703-993-4329
Email: ati@gmu.edu

 

How can you improve accessibility in your online course?

Tip 1 Establish consistent, easy navigation throughout your online course. When developing course design and content, select color contrasts and fonts that allow for maximal readability and minimal distractions.
Tip 2 Ensure that all documents and presentations (Word, PDFs, PowerPoint, etc.) are accessible. See Blackboard Course Accessibility Checklist here.
Tip 3 Make sure that all videos are captioned and/or have transcripts. All course videos should stream through an accessible video playback platform like Kaltura or YouTube. Contact ATI for free closed captioning.
Tip 4 If you have required applications and/or website resources beyond your Blackboard course (e.g. publisher resources), check that all are accessible or have accessible alternatives.

Be proactive about accessibility. Use universal design for learning (UDL) principles to optimize teaching and learning for all of your students.

 

Best Practices from Mason’s Online Faculty

How do you improve accessibility in your online course?

Providing Additional Time for Tests

When students need additional time to complete tests, I create a copy of the test and configure the test settings in accordance with the accommodations needed by students. Then, I use the adaptive release to create a rule that provides access only to students who need it.

– Dr. Esperanza Roman-Mendoza, Associate Professor, Spanish (CHSS)

Following UDL Principles

The best way to reach all learners is to design your online instruction following the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). By providing multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement, faculty can ensure that the online environment becomes accessible for students with various abilities, needs, preferences, and environmental circumstances.

– Dr. Anya Evmenova, Assistant Professor, Special Education (CEHD)

Leveraging Free Accessibility Resources at Mason

Accessibility is simply the degree to which any resource – regardless of whether it is a device, program, service, or environment – is available to a given user. Relating this to online education, the technology platform and the instructional resources used in an online or hybrid course play a critical role in how much a student is able to participate. An inaccessible technology resource could adversely impact some students with disabilities. The ATI’s role is to support instructors with designing instructional materials that ensure equal access for all learners.

– Korey Singleton, Manager, Assistive Technology Initiative (ATI)