Achieving Accessibility in Online Courses

So how do you ensure that online courses are accessible?  With help of course!  There are many institutions that have been discovering and sharing best practices for how to design online courses to be accessible from the ground up.

presentationView this great presentation by Colleen Fleming shares some ways in which you can ensure accessibility in your online courses. Be sure to also read the accompanying notes.

Eye icon indicating a direction to review the resource, but no need to read it in detail.There are also many checklists and guides that colleges and universities use to guide faculty when designing and developing online courses.  Review the following checklists and note similarities and any differences.

Web Accessibility

Web accessibility is another concern in online courses.  Because the materials and interactions are online, there are standards across websites that are necessary to meet in online education as well.

World Wide Web Consortium logoThe World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a community of developers worldwide that develops open source standards for web development.  The standards they publish for accessibility are widely used when evaluating the accessibility of websites.

Book icon denoting reading activityRead W3C’s explanation of web accessibility guidelines, linked here.


Accommodations in Online Environments

It is important to note that accommodations can be used if internet media cannot be made accessible proactively (Patrick, 1996; U.S. Department of Education, 2011).  Where accessible technology is not available, colleges and universities can still comply by providing  “accommodations or modifications that permit them to receive all the educational benefits provided by the technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011, p. 7).  Note that the accommodation or modification can be provided “where accessible technology is not available” – it does not refer to cases wherein accessible technology is available but is simply not utilized.

Throughout the field there are some common accommodations that are used in online courses.

Book icon denoting reading activityRead this 2 page document from Sam Houston State University that explains what common accommodations are within the field.


JAWS is a type of screenreader; screenreaders are a common accommodation used for learners with sight challenges.  Wonder what experiencing a website or an online course is like for someone who uses a screenreader?

Video IconView this video example that shows what it’s like to navigate the internet through the use of JAWS.

Stop IconThat concludes our module on accessibility!

Open icon indicating opening a moduleNow, move on to our module on Open Educational Resource.

Home icon sending the user back to the beginning of the lessonOr,  you can return to the Home Page for Instructional Design and Development II.