Presentation Summaries

Universal and Inclusive Design and Other Design Approaches that Lead to Inclusive Research and Practice

Director Sheryl Burgstahler gives a presentation.

Sheryl Burgstahler, AccessINCLUDES

An inclusive environment lets in everyone who meets requirements with or without accommodations and makes sure everyone feels welcome and engaged. 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, or manage their health. Most disabilities are invisible and many students and staff don’t report their disabilities to disability service offices. Regardless of where a person falls on this continuum and whether they request accommodations, we want to ensure that they have access to the classes we teach and resources we share. Students’ identities are also multi-faceted, which means we must consider an intersectional approach that acknowledges that some students are from more than one underrepresented group.

How society views disability has changed throughout the years. People with disabilities historically have been eliminated or excluded from society, segregated from the general population, aimed to be cured, rehabilitated, accommodated, and finally, accepted and included as they are. The modern approach has its roots in social justice and aims to allow all people to feel included, including those with disabilities.

In K-12 education, every child is offered a free and appropriate education in as integrated setting as possible. Once students reaches postsecondary education, they must meet the entrance requirements with or without reasonable accommodations. There are two approaches for making college and university campuses accessible: accommodations and universal design (UD). Accommodations are reactive and allow us to address the inaccessible features of a product or environment to make it more accessible to a particular individual who finds it inaccessible (e.g., captioning a video when a student with a hearing impairment requests it). Universal design is a proactive approach to create a product or environment accessible to the widest group possible (e.g., captioning all videos by default). A building with stairs at the entrance and a separate ramp for people with wheelchairs is technically accessible, while a building with a single entrance that everyone can use is universally designed.

Universal design doesn’t just help people with disabilities—sloped entrances help people moving carts, and captions help those learning English or in noisy environments, as just a few examples. Universally designed technology should have built in accessibility features and ensure compatibility with assistive technology.

UD of instruction is an attitude that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. It can be implemented incrementally, focuses on benefits to all students, promotes good teaching practice, does not lower academic standards, and minimizes the need for accommodations. UD can be applied to all aspects of instruction, including class climate, interactions, physical environments and products, delivery methods, information resources and technology, feedback, and assessment. To review an easy to use checklist, visit For more tips, you can follow the 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course at

NSF INCLUDES and the Coordination Hub: Building a National Network to Advance Equity in STEM

Timothy Podkul, Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International

NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) is a national initiative designed to enhance US leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in STEM at scale. As of February 2019, the NSF INCLUDES National Network includes 70 Design and Development Launch Pilots from two cohorts, comprising 760 partner organizations in over 45 states; 16 conference awards; 5 alliances; and the NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub, as well as NSF Resource Centers, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation awards, co-funded NSF INCLUDES projects and programs from no less than 13 different programs across the NSF, representatives from the philanthropic community and industry, and other federal agencies.

The five alliances include Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), STEM Core Expansion, Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN), Expanding the First2 STEM Success Network (FIRST2), and Aspire: National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty.

NSF INCLUDES projects focus on collaborative infrastructure:

  • Vision: Engage the community in a shared vision
  • Partnerships: Provide a platform for collaborative action
  • Goals and Metrics: Allow for evidence-based decision-making
  • Leadership and Communication: Increase communication and visibility
  • Expansion, Sustainability, and Scale: Establish the capacity to grow and sustain

The Hub facilitates activities needed to build and maintain a strong NSF INCLUDES National Network, including communications, technical assistance and efforts aimed at increasing visibility. The Hub itself is a collaboration of multiple institutions. The Hub has five main aspects to its work:

  • Broadening Participation and Collaborative Change
  • Managing Communication and Networking
  • Managing Network Assistance and Reinforcement
  • Managing Visibility, Expansion, and Sustainability
  • Goals, Metrics, and Evaluation

Our work is focused on changing the narrative of what success in STEM is. We aim to accomplish this through three fundamental actions:

  • Fostering greater connectivity among broadening participation efforts to encourage collaboration, promote sustainability, and spark innovation
  • Building alignment among broadening participation efforts to create shared identity, and define and share common outcomes broad enough for all to contribute
  • Catalyzing collective action by leveraging local and regional activities, resulting in coordinated efforts taken to scale

The Hub offers multiple entry points and modes of engagement, including a website with resources and tools, an online community to share information and engage in discussion, social media and a newsletter, events, affinity groups, conferences, and shared measures for evaluation, measurement, and using data to inform decision-making. Our affinity groups support peer exchange and discussion as well as to create space for new affinity groups to form around common interests. Some current affinity groups include Indigenous STEM, Higher Education, Backbone Organizations, Evaluation, and Diverse Models of Collaboration.

We believe successful development of a shared measurement system involves capacity building for collecting, analyzing, interpreting and using data for decision making. We hope to take on these goals:

  • Reach consensus on a core set of measures
  • Inform continuous improvement and support organizational learning
  • Enhance quality of data across the Network
  • Enable NSF to demonstrate Network progress over time

The Hub also works to expand the NSF INCLUDES Network. We engage new members in the NSF INCLUDES Network’s shared vision and goals; connect with professional associations to offer opportunities for NSF INCLUDES Network members to share their work and provide thought leadership; and use a collective action mindset, bringing resources of the Network to bear on sector or institutional gaps in relevant systems. To connect with us, email us at

Accessible Websites, Videos, Documents, and Other Materials

Gaby de Jongh, University of Washington

We started this presentation with a demo of Microsoft Presentation Captions. To learn more about Microsoft Presentation Captions and try them out for yourself, visit

There are four principles of accessibility: Technology must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

Accessibility is often misconstrued and misunderstood, not taught at all or seen as abstract or someone else’s responsibility, and people assume it takes too much time and planning. Accessibility should be considered throughout the creation of digital content.


HTML has a comprehensive set of semantic tags to allow the reader to understand the structure of the content and navigate throughout the text. Forms, math, and video can also be made accessible within HTML. We use WCAG 2.0 as our guidelines for creating accessible HTML. The biggest success criteria for A/AA levels include alt text on images, proper heading levels, labels on form fields, visible indication of keyboard focus, and not using color as the sole means of communicating information. Accessible Rich Internet Applications specifications communicate roles, states, and properties of interface elements for the benefit of assistive technology users. Adding these simple tags to sections of any web page will greatly improve the page navigability for screen reader users:

  • role=”banner”
  • role=”main”
  • role=”navigation”
  • role=”search”
  • role=”complementary” (sidebar)
  • role=”contentinfo” (footer)
  • role=”application”


Microsoft Word uses Styles to indicate different tags and again allow the reader to understand the structure of the content and navigate throughout the text. Styles create a scaffolding to design both the visible and invisible structure. Use the accessibility checker to fix easy to find accessibility issues. Simple tables can be accessible, complex tables cannot be. Accessible math can be created via the MathType plug-in. Forms and Posters in Microsoft Word are completely inaccessible. Word does have the option to add alt text to images. For more information about describing images, see Effective Practices for Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books:

PDF documents can come in one of three types: Scanned images, documents with text but no underlying structure, and tagged, well-structured documents. Tagged PDF is similar to HTML PDFs do support complex tables, but forms have minimal accessibility and they do not support accessible math. There is an accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat, but it can sometimes be difficult to figure out how to fix the problems flagged. Accessible PDFs are only well supported in Windows. The standards for PDF accessibility is PDF/UA, and it is based off of WCAG 2.0. They require that:

  • Content must be tagged in a logical reading order
  • Tagged content must correctly represent the documents semantic structure
  • Meaningful graphics must include alternative text descriptions
  • Security settings must allow assistive technology access to the content
  • Fonts must be embedded

Tagged PDFs were introduced in Acrobat 5.0 (2001), and they can only be created by specific authoring tools, including Microsoft Word. You can fix the accessibility of any PDF using Adobe Acrobat Pro.


Accessible videos include open and closed captions, audio description, and a transcript. Videos can be captioned through YouTube Caption editor (edit the automated version for accuracy), Amara (for foreign language translation), 3Play Media, Automatic Sync Technologies, Audio Eyes, and the Media Access Groups at the Western Great Blue Hill (WGBH) public radio station. When choosing how to deliver your video, it is important to consider options that are fully accessible. Whether you are selecting a media player plugin or module for your website or selecting a service to host your videos, the following questions should be answered about the available options:

  • Does the media player support closed captions?
  • Does the media player support audio description in a way that enables users to toggle the narration on and off?
  • Can the media player’s buttons and controls be operated without a mouse?
  • Are the media player’s buttons and controls properly labeled so they can be operated by a blind person using a screen reader?
  • Is the media player fully functional, including all of its accessibility features, across platforms and in all major browsers?

Able Player, designed by Terrill Thompson at the University of Washington, is completely accessible and highly recommended.

Learning Management Systems

It is possible within most learning management systems (LMS’s) to have a fully accessible course; it is also possible within all LMS’s to have a fully inaccessible course. To ensure your content is accessible: Use headings, add alt text to images, add captions to videos (and audio descriptions as needed), upload accessible documents and HTML, and ask questions about accessibility about any tools used through your LMS.