Online Learning Capacity Building Institute (2019)

Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington
Seattle, WA

This publication shares the proceedings of the Washington State Online Learning Capacity Building Institute that was held on May 14, 2019, at the University of Washington, Seattle. The content may be useful for people who

  • participated in the CBI,
  • create online learning tools,
  • promote the inclusive design of online learning technology and practices through the application of universal design principles and strategies,
  • seek to increase their understanding of issues surrounding the participation of students with disabilities in online learning opportunities,
  • would like to access resources to help make their online learning tools welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by everyone, including those with disabilities, and/or
  • have promising practices to share with others.

This event was sponsored by Accessible Technology Services (ATS) at the University of Washington (UW), a UW-IT (University of Washington Information Technology) unit that directs both the Access Technology and DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Centers. The meeting was facilitated by Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, the director of ATS.

ATS’s two Centers are dedicated to empowering people with disabilities through technology and education. They promote awareness and accessibility to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities and make our communities more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive.

The DO-IT Center strives to

  • increase the success of people with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers;
  • promote the application of universal design to physical spaces, information technology, instruction, and services;
  • freely distribute online content, publications, and videos for use in presentations, exhibits, and the classroom; and
  • provide resources for students with disabilities, K-12 educators, postsecondary faculty and administrators, librarians, employers, parents, and mentors.

The Access Technology Center (ATC) focuses on ensuring UW students, faculty, and staff with disabilities have the same access to technology—including computers, software, and special equipment—as other students, faculty, and staff. ATC staff help individuals select and use assistive technology and supports a showroom with numerous products:

  • speech and braille output
  • screen magnification
  • alternatives to the keyboard and mouse
  • speech recognition software
  • tools to make reading and writing easier and computer use more comfortable
  • the capacity to create documents in e-text and braille

The showroom includes a collection of accessible science equipment such as automatic stirrers, tactile measuring devices, and talking calculators. The ATC provides braille embossing and tactile graphics for the UW community.

ATC staff promote the development and use of accessible technology products by

  • encouraging student computing facilities to include assistive technology;
  • offering courses, delivering presentations, and conducting ATC tours;
  • working with campus units to prepare documents, videos, and other materials in accessible electronic formats;
  • assisting campus web developers in designing accessible websites and applications;
  • working with vendors of IT products used or potentially used by the UW to improve accessibility; and
  • supporting a central resource to provide guidance to technologists and administrators at the UW and beyond.

About the CBI

The Online Learning CBI brought together a total of more than twenty instructors, administrators, and technology developers, to share ideas and expertise regarding instruction and use of creation of online learning tools that create welcoming and accessible experiences that everyone can use and participate in, including those with disabilities. Most attendees represented colleges and universities across Washington State.

The CBI provided a forum for discussing recruitment and access challenges, sharing expertise and successful practices, developing collaborations, creating resources, and identifying systemic change initiatives relevant to the meeting’s goals. Topics discussed included

  • the engagement of people with disabilities in online learning;
  • the diverse needs of students with disabilities;
  • approaches to access—accommodations and universal design;
  • what online instructors need to know;
  • maximizing student engagement; and
  • promising practices.

In small group discussions, participants responded to the following questions: What barriers do you face on your campus related to ensuring that online learning is accessible and usable for people with disabilities? What are some possible solutions?

In this CBI

  • all participants contributed to its success,
  • experts in all topic areas were in the audience, and
  • new concepts evolved from discussions.

The CBI was comprised of presentations, panel discussions, and group discussions. The agenda for the CBI and summaries of the presentations and discussions are provided on the following pages.

CBI Agenda

8:30 – 9:00 am
Light Breakfast and Networking

9:00 – 9:30 am
Welcome, Introductions, and Meeting Goals
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

9:30 – 10:30 am
Overview of Accessibility Issues for Online Learning for Different Stakeholders (e.g., designers, instructors, administrators, students, …)
Sheryl Burgstahler​

10:45 – 12 noon
Web and Video Accessibility
Terrill Thompson, University of Washington

12:00 – 1:00 pm
Lunch & Table Discussions:

  • What barriers do you face on your campus related to ensuring that online learning is accessible and usable for people with disabilities? What are some possible solutions?
  • Write responses on handouts

1:00 – 1:30 pm
Discuss Outcomes from Lunch Discussion

1:30 – 2:30 pm
Panel of Participants Sharing Promising Practices for Making Online Learning Accessible to All Students and Instructors, Including Those with Disabilities

  • Ana Thompson, University of Washington, Bothell
  • Aaron Tran, Tacoma Community College
  • Doug Hayman, University of Washington

2:50 – 4:30 pm
Ally and Creating Accessible Documents
Gaby de Jongh, University of Washington

4:00 – 5:00 pm
Conclusion & Plans for the Future

  • Evaluation

Presentation Summaries

Overview of Accessibility Issues for Online Learning for Different Stakeholders (e.g., designers, instructors, administrators, students, …)

Presented by Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

Educational institutions across the nation are under scrutiny for failing to offer accessible online classes and resources. Many civil rights complaints have been made because information technology (IT) is not accessible to individuals with disabilities—including uncaptioned videos, unreadable PDFs, and inaccessible websites. The legal basis for these civil rights complaints is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and its 2008 Amendments, and local and state laws and policies—e.g., Policy #188 in Washington State. Policy #188 on IT accessibility can help guide postsecondary institutions in complying with federal laws to ensure that the IT we develop, procure, and use is accessible to all faculty, students, staff, and visitors, including those with disabilities.

Ability exists on a continuum, where all individuals are more or less able to see, hear, walk, read print, communicate verbally, tune out distractions, learn, and manage their health. Most disabilities are invisible and many students and staff do not report their disabilities to disability service offices. Regardless of where a person falls on this continuum and whether or not they request disability-related accommodations, we want to  ensure that they have access to the classes we teach and resources we share.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education, “accessible” means “a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner.”

There are two approaches for making our campus offerings, including online learning, accessible: accommodations and universal design (UD). Accommodations reactively address the inaccessible features of a product or environment to make it more accessible to an individual who finds it inaccessible (e.g., captioning a video when a student who is deaf requests it). Universal design is a proactive approach for making all aspects of a product or environment as accessible as possible as it is being designed. A UD feature is accessible, usable, and inclusive. A building that has a separate ramp for people who use wheelchairs is accessible and usable, but a similar building that is universally designed would have one wide, sloping ramp for the entrance that is accessible for all. Universally designed technology builds on accessibility, is flexible, and is compatible with assistive technology.

I taught my first online class in 1995. This was a class on adaptive technology for people with disabilities. I taught the class with a professor, Dr. Norm Coombs, who is blind. We took steps to make it as accessible as possible to showcase that it was possible for any student to take an online course. I still do this in the online classes I teach today. The tools are more advanced, but the basic principles of UD remain the same.

While individual instructors may not have a choice in what learning management system (LMS) they can use, they do have the choice to design accessible instructional materials and teaching strategies. Educators should provide multiple was for students to gain knowledge, interact, and demonstrate their knowledge. The first step towards this is creating an accessible syllabus with structure and key information, including a statement on accessibility and disability-related accommodations. A good place for educators to find further guidance to begin making a course accessible is in the publication 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course.

A resource for leaders in online learning programs is the Ten Indicators of Distance Learning Program Accessibility, which tells how program administrators can work toward achieving fully accessible distance learning programs. The Indicators can be used as a checklist for documenting programmatic changes that lead to improved accessibility of the courses of any distance-learning program.

Web Accessibility

Presented by Terrill Thompson, University of Washington

When we’re creating digital content such as web pages or online documents, we may envision our typical user as an able-bodied person using a desktop computer. In reality, users utilize a wide variety of technologies to access the web, including assistive technologies and mobile devices. Everyone has a unique combination of levels of ability when it comes to seeing, hearing, or using a mouse or keyboard; there is a wide variety of hardware and software tools (i.e., assistive technology) that people with disabilities use to access online content and applications. But courses are not always accessible to or usable by students or instructors using assistive technology. In order to ensure our digital resources are accessible, designers, developers, and content authors must familiarize themselves with accessibility principles, guidelines, tools, and techniques.

In presenting content it is important to use a text format (in contrast to a scanned in document that is actually an image) so that it can be read by a screen reader that gives audio output, technology commonly used by individuals who are blind or have dyslexia or other reading-related disabilities. Screen readers also allow individuals who are blind to understand the organization of a document when they include headings and lists that are structured. Most tools that present content allow for structural coding. Since the World Wide Web was invented, HTML has included the option to add alternative text to describe the content of images, proper heading structures, and other accessibility features. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) aims to make web content accessible to all users. WCAG are built on four basic principles; information should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Each of these principles is linked to specific guidelines along with specific success criteria, each assigned Level A, AA, or AAA. Level A success criteria includes the most critical issues for accessibility and requirements are fairly easy to meet when compared with Level AA and AAA. In resolution agreements with postsecondary campuses and the U.S. Department of Justice and the OCR, WCAG 2.0 Level AA is typically named as an accepted level of website accessibility.

Using accessible tools and design strategies will help make all web content more accessible. Using accessible themes in WordPress and Drupal is an easy way to promote accessibility across campus; such themes incorporate accessibility features such as keyboard accessible drop-down menus and proper headings. If websites include rich, dynamic content (as opposed to static content), ensuring their accessibility can be accomplished by using Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA), a markup language that supplements HTML with attributes that communicate roles, states, and properties of user interface elements to assistive technologies.

A place to start in creating an accessible online course could be to take following five steps:

  • Use headings.
  • Add alternate text to images.
  • Caption and audio-describe videos.
  • Upload accessible course materials.
  • Ask questions about accessibility before selecting other features or tools:
    • Don’t ask “Is this accessible?” because it could yield too little information.
    • Instead, ask what the developer has specifically done to ensure their product meets WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines.
    • Ask them to demonstrate their technology without a mouse or using assistive technology such as a screen reader.

For more information about technology accessibility, check out these resources:

Ally and Creating Accessible Documents

Gaby de Jongh, University of Washington

A significant number of documents are created by UW faculty each quarter and many of these erect barriers to students with disabilities. During Winter Quarter 2018, 3817 classes were offered in the Canvas LMS, using a total of 349,058 documents (an average of 91 documents per class). Winter 2018 also had the following statistics:

  • Scanned with no optical character recognition (OCR): 17,498
  • Contrast issues: 57,345
  • Untagged: 51,213
  • No headers: 38,134
  • Images without alt text: 36,781

The average number of pages per quarter (not including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content!) is 3,207,315; the average number of hours spent fixing inaccessible documents at DRS is 32,073 hours, which costs an average of $481,097 per quarter.


  • Many Washington State campuses, including the UW, have licensed Blackboard Ally, an LMS plugin created to identify inaccessible documents and other features of an online course.
  • Ally can also convert PDF documents to text-based documents, but is not capable of ensuring proper structure for full accountability.
  • This tool can be confusing at first, so it is important to offer training to instructors, content creators, administrators, librarians, and others when it is adopted by a campus.

The UW rolled out the first Ally feature, Alternative Format Download for students in October of 2018. This tool allows students to convert documents in a variety of alternative formats including, Tagged or OCRed PDF, HTML, ePub, MP3 Audio, and Electronic Braille. Ally’s full features were deployed to volunteer instructors in  December 2018, to serve as a mechanism for additional feedback. Survey results from instructors indicated that they liked the tool, found it simple to use, and considered it important to flag accessibility issues. The campus-wide release took place in March of 2019, for Spring Quarter.

Creating Accessible Content

HTML is considered the most accessible format for online content. It has a comprehensive set of semantic tags, can be used to create fully accessible forms, and has a wide variety of other accessibility features. Next, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint have a variety of accessibility features, including styles for headings, alt text for images, and an accessibility checker.. With Microsoft products, there are some basic steps to make an accessible document.

  1. Use built-in heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) You can change the look of a style via the “Modify Style” dialog in the Styles panel. For lengthy documents, you can create a Table of Contents from the heading styles.
  2. Use tables wisely. Keep your tables simple and Identify row headers.
  3. For PowerPoints, use built-in theme templates. If you need to change a template, edit the master slide, but don’t uncheck the title or footer boxes.
  4. Check the reading order of slide contents. Go into the Selection Pane and verify your content goes in order from the bottom to the top.
  5. Title slides differently from each other.
  6. Make hyperlinks descriptive. Use smart links by highlighting text that should be linked and using the Insert Hyperlinks dialogue box to insert links.
  7. Use alt text to describe content in images.
  8. Use the built-in accessibility checker. It identifies errors, warnings, and tips in .docx, .pptx., and .xlsx.
  9. If you export your Word, PowerPoint, or Excel document to PDF, preserve the structure to keep it accessible.

The most widely used format for sharing documents in online courses is PDF. PDFs come in three types: inaccessible image, a document with text but no structure, and a “tagged PDF,” a document with an underlying tag structure similar to HTML. A well-structured, tagged PDF can be fairly accessible, and Adobe Acrobat includes an accessibility checker to help authors check and fix accessibility problems. However, PDF has some limitations when it comes to accessibility and inaccessible PDF documents can be difficult to remediate.

There are a few basics you can use to create accessible PDFs. WCAG 2.0 Level AA is the standard for accessibility, the PDF/UA is the standard intended to make the content within a PDF available for accessibility, and the PAC 3 validates for accessibility. PDFs are usually created by a source document, either from an authoring tool or a scanned image. Always make sure to use the accessibility features in the original authoring tool (e.g., Word or InDesign). It is always easier to create an accessible source document than remediating a non-accessible document. If working from a scanned document, you can use Adobe’s built-in optical character recognition (OCR), but OCR is imperfect and may result in inaccurate text, particularly if the scanned page is skewed or includes markings.

Always consider the hierarchy of tasks for a new PDF document:

  • Is it a scanned document? Use OCR.
  • Does it have form fields? Add the form field controls using Acrobat.
  • Does it have hyperlinks? Add links using the Create Links tool.
  • Does it have multimedia? Add the multimedia tools and include alt text, captions, or video description.

The latest version of Adobe Acrobat Pro has the ability to fully remediate a PDF. It can convert a scanned image to text, autotag a document, and make it accessible via the Action Wizard. All of these steps should be double checked and confirmed. You then use the Touch Up Reading Order tool via the Order Panel, where you can manually add and clean up tags ( You should always review that lists, images, tables, links, and forms are tagged properly. You can use the Acrobat accessibility checker to confirm these as well as remind you to manually check color contrast, reading order, and document language.


Microsoft Accessibility

Grackle Suite for Google

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Panel Presentation Summaries

Promising Practices for Making Online Learning Accessible to All Students and Instructors, Including Those with Disabilities

Canvas Accessibility Checklist

Ana Thompson, University of Washington, Bothell

All students need to be able to access the same course content to achieve success. Access issues can occur while interacting with the physical infrastructure, the digital infrastructure, teaching methods, and the course content itself.

On our branch campus, we created a checklist to help content developers and instructors make sure their content is as accessible as possible, including using the Ally accessibility tool with Canvas.

This checklist covers creating and/or remediating accessible PDFs and Microsoft Office documents, captioning videos, and making sure images have alt text. It also covers how to make sure your Canvas webpage itself is accessible, how to use accessible navigation, as well as how to use the broken link checker. It includes resources on accessible teaching practices and a variety of other accessibility topics.

Accessibility at Tacoma Community College

Aaron Tran, Tacoma Community College

At Tacoma Community College, we have over 11,000 students. Our goal is for 100% of our students to feel included and welcomed at our institution. We have a very specific accessibility policy at our institution, and encourage all faculty to follow this policy. We use Ally as a tool for getting quick accessibility results in Canvas, but it is not the end-all-be-all for accessibility. We make accessibility a collaborative process, so all faculty can engage with multiple resources. We incentivize and gamify making courses accessible and promote using these tools within departments and classes. We assign different point values on an accessibility checklist in Canvas—for example, 25 points for all videos captioned, or 25 points for all accessible PDFs. Many professors are coming to our team to get help in making their courses more accessible to students with disabilities as well as from mobile devices.

UW Captioning Service

Doug Hayman, University of Washington

Many videos on our campuses are captioned only as an accommodation for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, even though captions benefit many others, including English language learners, those with reading-related disabilities, and individuals who simply want to see the spelling of words spoken in the presentation. The ATS secured central funding, for this effort, justifying it as promoting a best practice in education as well as helping the campus meet its legal obligations.

Our ATS Free Captioning Service promotes proactive captioning of a limited number of high impact videos on campus, especially those that have a large viewing audience, many of which are seen by multiple classes. We also spend time looking through YouTube channels of UW departments to locate departments that need help getting their videos captioned accurately. By offering free captioning, the ATS is increasing the number of videos captioned on campus, educating stakeholders, and raising awareness of the importance of captioning and processes for adding captions to videos.

This service has worked on hundreds of hours of video content across the University

Question and Answer

What accessibility issues are you running into with virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR)?
VR and AR are quite new to the campus. We have one person on our team who specializes in VR and AR  accessibility. This colleague uploads the code using Zapper, which helps students with audio and/or visual disabilities access the same information.

How do you scout out different department’s uncaptioned videos?
Terrill Thompson created our YouTube Caption Auditor. Once we find the UW channels, we can run the auditor. It will show us which videos don’t have captions or are only using the automated captions. We may be able to share the Auditor with other campuses.

What is better for technology accessibility testing—in-house or out-of-house, and what sort of resources and trainings are available?
We struggle with getting companies to improve the accessibility of their software. Sometimes it can be easier to reach out to other users and find out about accessibility through crowdsourcing or posting a question on a discussion list such as ATHEN. Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) required by federal agencies can be useful as well as company websites (check if they have accessibility pages). It can also be helpful to have companies sign a pledge as part of the contract to say they are responsible for the accessibility of their products (pointing to your policy/guidelines) and will continue to make their products more accessible. Just having an outside consultant tell you that your technology is inaccessible may have little value if you do not have plans for improving the accessibility of the products. Even after a short time the accessibility reviews will be out of date.

Discussion Summary

What barriers do you face on your campus related to ensuring that online learning is accessible and usable for people with disabilities? What are some possible solutions?

Participants identified various barriers and solutions to those barriers, as shared below.

Barrier: Faculty feel overwhelmed with accessibility requirements.
Solution: Implement a plan for new faculty to receive training and then slowly bring in instructors of existing curriculum. Allot time for professional development for faculty to learn about accessibility.

Barrier: There is resistance to change due to time restraints, lack of knowledge and training opportunities, and siloed departments.
Solution: Gather advocates to promote accessibility. Integrate accessibility within regular work flows so that it is a part of everyone’s job instead of just one person’s job. Share resources with departments.

Barrier: There is a lack of training in accessibility in technology and knowledge of laws.
Solution: Consider offering compensation and other incentives to faculty to encourage them to teach accessibly, including credits or certifications.

Barrier: It is difficult to get faculty interested in and excited about accessibility.
Solution: Bring in a panel of students with disabilities to share their difficulties in accessing courses and suggest improvements that would increase that access. Create more incentives and general team promotion/gamification of accessibility.

Barrier: How do we find and remediate inaccessible course content, including making sure all videos have captions?
Solution: Provide resources (money and time) and assign responsibilities for making sure all content is made accessible. Review courses and hold faculty accountable for making their materials accessible.

Barrier: Faculty worry that providing accommodations (e.g., extra time on time-limited quizzes) will allow students to cheat.
Solution: Use technology that prevents cheating or create more open-ended tests and assignments where cheating is more difficult.

Barrier: Faculty perceive a conflict between “academic freedom” and “civil rights.”
Solution: Explain that the goal is to provide a level playing field without lowering standards or interfering with academic freedom.

Barrier: I’m not sure how to get buy-in from stakeholder groups to get accessibility tools and programs purchased or used.
Solution: Offer programs and tools to students first, getting the buy-in through a grassroots movement instead of top-down.

Barrier: Faculty won’t adopt accessible practices.
Solution: Use Ally to identify accessibility issues and reach out to specific faculty. Make the process friendlier and engaging. Repeat the message that students need accessible access.

Barrier: How can we get a broad acceptance of accessible practice when the need is perceived as low?
Solution: Make sure all new faculty learn accessible practices and allow them to champion the cause as well.

Barrier: Canvas always has technical glitches through the mobile app, but students may only have access through their phone.
Solution: Offer more access to technology through libraries or departmental units. Make sure at least some of these computers and other technologies have assistive technology on them as well.

CBI Participants

Multiple stakeholder groups were represented in the CBI. The following individuals from Washington State colleges and universities participated.

Aaron Tran
Help Desk Specialist/eLearning Department
Tacoma Community College

Ana Thompson
Office of Digital Learning & Innovation
University of Washington Bothell

Ann Kenady
E-learning Specialist/Instructional Designer
Bastyr University

Anna Marie Golden
IT Accessibility Specialist, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington

Ariel E Birks
Assistant Director of the Writing Center
The Evergreen State College

Bobby Dutreix
Accessible Technology Program Manager
Highline College

Brett McGinnis
Instructional Designer
Wenatchee Valley College

Cali Ellis
The Evergreen State College

Christy Long
AVC/Chief Information Officer
University of Washington Bothell

Diana Benavides
eLearning Educational Technologist
North Seattle College

Doug Hayman
IT Accessibility Specialist, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington

Elizabeth Woolner
Program Operations Specialist, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington

Gaby de Jongh
IT Accessibility Specialist, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington

Gary Sheets
Instructional Designer - Instructional Technology Design and Development
Eastern Washington University

Jackie Hubbard
Instructional Technologist, Outreach and Engagement
Eastern Washington University

Jeannie Henkle
Teaching & Learning Success Center Coordinator, Libraries & Learning Technologies Division
Wenatchee Valley College

Jeff Iannone
Instructional Designer
Shoreline Community College

Jerry Lewis
Director of eLearning and Virtual Campus
Columbia Basin College

Josef Mogharreban
Director of Disability Services
North Seattle College

Kamran Rasul
Director for Assistive Technology
Columbia Basin College

Karen DeYoung
Director, Student Access & Accommodations
Bastyr University

Lyla Crawford
Program Coordinator, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington

Nineth Alvarez Lopez
Highline College

Penelope Moon
eLearning Planning and Design, Office of Digital Learning and Innovation
University of Washington Bothell

Rick Lewis
Instructional Designer
Eastern Washington University

Sallie Davis
elearning Instructional Technician II
Bellingham Technical College

Sheryl Burgstahler
Director, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington

Susie Hawkey
Operations Manager, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington

Terrill Thompson
IT Accessibility Specialist, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington

Wendy Steele
Accessible Technology Manager
Washington State University

Zoe Fraley
Marketing Assistant, Bellingham Technical College
Bellingham Technical College

Communities of Practice

UW Accessible Technology Services engages stakeholders within Communities of Practice (CoPs). CoP members share perspectives and expertise and identify practices that promote the participation of people with disabilities in postsecondary education.

Accessible IT CoP

This CoP is populated with disability services and IT professionals interested in increasing the accessibility of IT in postsecondary education, particularly in Washington State. Participants

  • exchange information, ideas, and suggestions for future collaboration,
  • gain and share knowledge and help identify issues related to IT accessibility in higher education, and
  • recruit others to participate in the CoP.

Universal Design in Higher Education CoP

This CoP is comprised of individuals interested in exploring universal design (UD) and its applications in higher education. Participants on this CoP discuss

  • promising practices for infusing universal design on postsecondary campuses;
  • applying UD to all educational opportunities that include instruction, technology, student services and physical spaces; and
  • specific topics in the book Universal Design and Higher Education: From Principles to Practice and contribute materials to be shared through the Center on Universal Design in Education.

Accessible Distance Learning CoP

Distance learning program administrators, instructors, and support staff use the Accessible Distance Learning CoP to increase their knowledge about disabilities and make changes in distance learning that lead to more inclusive practices. Members discuss

  • management,
  • staffing,
  • training, and
  • policy issues related to creating accessible distance learning courses and programs.

You and your colleagues can join the CoP by sending the following information to

  • name
  • position/title
  • institution
  • postal address
  • email address
  • name of the CoP

For information about other CoPs, consult their website.


The UW’s Accessible Technology website includes a variety of resources:

  • the IT accessibility policy and guidelines for the UW
  • legal issues and civil rights complaints and resolutions nationwide
  • instructions and tips for making IT accessible
  • more resources for creating and procuring accessible IT products

The DO-IT (Disability, Opportunity, Internetworking, and Technology) website contains the following:

  • information about DO-IT projects
  • evidence-based practices that support project goals and objectives
  • resources for students with disabilities
  • educational materials for teachers and administration

DO-IT maintains a searchable database of frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices related to how educators and employers can fully include students with disabilities. The Knowledge Base is an excellent resource for ideas that can be implemented in programs in order to better serve students with disabilities. In particular, the promising practices articles serve to spread the word about practices that show evidence of improving the participation of people with disabilities in postsecondary education.

Examples of Knowledge Base questions include the following:

  • Are electronic whiteboards accessible to people with disabilities?
  • Are peer review tools accessible?
  • Do postsecondary institutions have to provide assistive technology (for example, screen enlargement or voice recognition software) to students with disabilities who enroll in distance learning courses?
  • Does making our school web content accessible mean I cannot use multimedia on my site?
  • How can educational entities determine if their websites are accessible?

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to propose questions and answers, case studies, and promising practices for the Knowledge Base. Contributions and suggestions can be sent to

For more information on making your campus technology accessible and to learn more about accessible learning or universal design, review the following websites and brochures:

Online communities and professional conferences can be a great way to share resources, collaborate, and come up with new ideas. Consider attending the following nation-wide conferences:


The Washington State Online Learning Capacity Building Institute was funded by Access Technology Services at the University of Washington. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the CBI presenters, attendees, and publication authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Washington.

Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842 
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888-972-3648 (toll free voice/TTY)
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© 2019 University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy this publication for educational, noncommercial purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.