Principles of universal design will allow for better educational
outcomes for students with disabilities, and for students with a
variety of learning styles.
UB is required to provide students with disabilities with access
to our courses and programs. Designing courses with
accessibility in mind is critical to ensuring that everyone can
participate and learn.
Instructors may incorporate PowerPoint presentations, slides,
handouts and other visual information as part of courses.
Increasingly, instructors are incorporating clickers, videos and
other technology to enhance instruction. It is essential that
the content of this information can be accessed by every student in
the class. Ways to achieve this include:
- Individual accommodation. Under UB's Reasonable Accommodation Policy, UB must
provide necessary academic adjustments and auxiliary aids to allow
students with disabilities to access course materials. These
may include, but are not limited to, interpreters, technological
aids, providing course materials such as PowerPoint slides in
advance, and notes.
- Universal design. Creating access to materials for
individuals with a wide range of abilities and learning styles can
often reduce or eliminate the need for individual
"Hybrid" or "blended" courses incorporate both traditional
classroom instruction and elements of online learning. Online
activities are intended to supplement and enhance classroom
instruction and interaction. Examples of hybrid courses can
- the instructor lectures and facilitates class discussion in the
classroom, students complete online assignments based on these
classroom activities, then these online assignments are posted to
asynchronous discussion forums for online discussion;
- students view an instructor's lectures online with voiceover
PowerPoint or streaming media, then subsequently in class use these
materials to engage in face-to-face small group activities and
- the instructor assigns small group projects online, and
students then post them to discussion forums for debate and
revision, and later present them in class for final discussion and
The content of online courses must be accessible to individuals
with disabilities in order to ensure that they have equal access
and opportunity. This requires careful planning when creating
course content and structure. Instructors must consider the
- Is the content management system used to create the course
accessible with the use of a screen reader?
- Can navigation be achieved through a keyboard, or is it
dependent upon the use of a mouse?
- If the course includes PDFs, are these stored as images, or can
they be read as text with a screen reader?
- Do tests and quizzes allow for extended time when these are
required as accommodations?
- Are videos captioned? Is the visual information presented
in videos described well enough to convey its content to
individuals with visual impairments?
- Does the course use online discussion boards and/or chat
features? If so, are these accessible with a screen
A few tips can help improve the experience for all learners:
- Present content in multiple ways (a combination of text,
images, and audio/visual content).
- Provide alternative text descriptions for images.
- Caption videos. This is helpful not only for individuals
with hearing impairments, but also for anyone who cannot use
speakers due to technological or situational reasons.
- Minimize the use of PDFs, or offer documents in multiple
formats (ex. Word and PDF).
- Understand that users will have a range of technological
- Keep navigation and format simple, to the extent possible.
Although more complex designs and layouts may seem more
visually appealing, they are more likely to create confusion and to
- Use bold fonts and color combinations that are high
- Order content with logical headings.
- Ensure that individuals with disabilities have options for
communicating and collaborating with others.