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Considering accessibility when teaching online

On March 6, the University of Washington (UW) announced that it would no longer be meeting in person due to the threat posed by COVID-19. For the remainder of Winter quarter, classes and/or exams would be conducted remotely. The UW was the first public university in the United States to take this action, but since then, colleges and universities throughout the country have moved to an online delivery model, and the UW has extended its remote learning to include all of Spring quarter.

As higher education institutions, including the UW, prepare to provide students with a fully remote educational experience, it is critical that they take the steps necessary to ensure all students have equal access, including students with disabilities.

On March 17, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education released a video message reminding educational institutions of their obligations under civil rights law to avoid discriminating against students with disabilities during this nationwide movement to online instruction. The full video is provided below.

As Kenneth L. Marcus, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, says at 1:15, “Online learning is a powerful tool for educational institutions, as long as it is accessible for everyone”.

If you’re a faculty member, instructor, teaching assistant, web designer or developer, administrator, or other stakeholder involved in some capacity in delivering UW content or services online, please take steps to ensure your online content is accessible. The Accessible Technology home page has been updated with a variety of resources that can help. If you need help, please contact UW-IT Accessible Technology Services via with specific questions. Also, please consider attending an upcoming training or event or joining our growing community of IT Accessibility Liaisons.