Accessible Distance Learning
Distance learning designers make courses accessible to students with disabilities:
- Accessible design is good design, and often benefits all users.
- Accessible design ensures that content is reaching the largest possible audience.
- Web users are diverse. They include people using phones, tablets, and a wide variety of other devices. People with disabilities are part of this diverse mix.
- An accessible website makes people with disabilities feel welcome.
- Accessibility is required by law.
Mainstream technology is inaccessible to some people.
- People who are blind may use screen reader software or Braille devices to access a website; they can only access content that is text-based.
- People who are deaf cannot access audio content unless it is captioned or transcribed.
- Some individuals may not be able to use a mouse; they need to be able to navigate a web page and access all content with the keyboard alone.
- Some people with low vision, dyslexia, attention deficit, or cognitive disabilities have difficulty processing long lines of text and/or cluttered screens, and depend on white space, simple screen images, and good color contrast.
Design websites to be:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
- Caption multimedia.
- Present content in different ways.
- Make all functionality available from keyboard alone.
- Allow enough time to read content.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Make content appear and operate predictably.
- Help users avoid and correct errors.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
Explore ten indicators of distance learning program accessibility at: www.washington.edu/doit/ten-indicators-distance-learning-program-accessibility
In an iterative process, the Indicators were shared with and refined with formative feedback from disabled student service and distance learning staff at sixteen postsecondary institutions as part of a DO-IT project. Each Indicator relates to one of four key stakeholders in the delivery of distance learning courses:
- students and potential students,
- distance learning designers,
- distance learning faculty, and
- distance learning program evaluators.
Making courses accessible to students with disabilities benefits society by:
- enhancing academic and career fields with the expertise and perspectives of people with disabilities.
- making learning opportunities available to more citizens.
- providing more and better structured data for indexing and searching websites, documents, and media.
The following resources can help you get started in designing inclusive distance learning programs.
Standards & Guidelines
- Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM)
- W3C Web Accessibility Initiative
- UW Accessible IT Tools and Resources
DO-IT is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the State of Washington. The Boeing Company, Microsoft, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and other organizations and individuals also contribute to DO-IT efforts.
DO-IT: Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology
DO-IT is a collaboration of:
College of Engineering
College of Education
UW Information Technology
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington 98195
Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.