What do distance learning professionals need to know about accessibility?
The training and resource needs of distance learning professionals regarding how to make courses welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities depends on their respective roles. Key stakeholder groups include program administrators, course designers, instructors, and evaluators. Training for these individuals should be tailored to their unique needs and may include content related to access challenges for people with disabilities, legal requirements, accessibility guidelines/standards, design techniques, and resources. Training should be offered in a variety of formats that may include printed materials, web resources, and on-site presentations. It should support varying levels of detail and acknowledge learning as an ongoing process.
Distance learning program administrators should adopt and enforce accessibility standards or guidelines (e.g., the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0) for their course materials and strategies. They should also establish procedures for students with disabilities to request and receive accommodations. Administrators should provide information about standards, training, and support to key staff. Course developers should use the accessibility features of development tools they use (e.g., Canvas) and avoid including design features that are inaccessible to students with disabilities. Standards, procedures, and support issues should be reviewed and updated periodically.
For the results of three research studies that shed light on accessibility training for distance learning personnel, consult the article Accessibility Training for Distance Learning Professionals. For more information about accessible online learning consult the comprehensive website AccessDL, the Center for Accessible Distance Learning.