10 steps for making your online courses accessible for all students

The 10-Step Guide

According to the report, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock provides “Ten Simple Steps toward Universal Design of Online Classes”, which the authors state that, along with the three principles described by Rose and Mayer, should be considered when developing a class and formulating a syllabus for the course.

The report structures these 10 steps under the three main principles:


  • Create content first, then design: Begin with the end in mind and think first about the objectives for the class. “Whatever that structure, an outline can be created to guide the course construction and design,” says the report. “When a class is planned ahead in such a way, an instructor can incorporate UDL principles and anticipate student needs, not just react to them.”
  • Provide simple and consistent navigation: The instructor should consider how a screen reader for the visually impaired can provide content to the learner. Also, student should be able to navigate the screen and move from page-to-page without the requirement of a mouse. Pages should be clean and well-organized.
  • Include an accommodation statement: Federal law requires that accommodations for people with disabilities be provided to make sure there are no barriers to learning. These include “providing reasonable means to accomplish the learning goals,” as well as an accommodation statements that “reflect an openness to make appropriate accommodations related to a student’s needs, where to go for accommodation services and to encourage the student to speak to the instructors about any accommodations they may need,” emphasizes the report.
  • Use color with care: Consider a person who can’t distinguish color. Including many colors and fonts for headings or key points on the page would not be noticeable to those students, write the authors, and may also be confusing for anyone else reading the text online.
  • Choose fonts carefully: This is similar to color choices, as fonts should be easily read and can be resized without trouble.

Action and Expression:

  • Model and teach good discussion board etiquette: Screen readers, Braille display keyboards, speech-to-text software, text-to-audio software, and video relay systems may need to be used by students, so keep this in mind. Also, organizing discussion topics in advance to keep students on track, as well as providing a guideline on good discussion board etiquette to students is important.

Engagement and Interaction:

  • Choose content management system (CMS) tools carefully: When choosing a LMS, looks for accessibility statements from the company, and check for ease-of-use in several areas (personalization, navigation, help with the system, tutorials for students, discussion tools, email tools, chat functions, assignment functions, testing features, etc.).
  • Provide accessible document formats: It’s important for instructors to be consistent with the design throughout the course, notes the report. Also, position headings properly, use fewer frames, use accessible and applicable graphics, and provide text equivalents for non-text elements.
  • Convert PowerPoint to HTML
  • If the content is auditory, make it visual; If the content is visual, make it auditory.

For much more in-depth instructional guidelines about each of the 10 steps, read the full report: “Applying Universal Design for Learning in Online Courses: Pedagogical and Practical Considerations.”

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