Designing an Accessible Course

Inclusive education is an accessible one:

All students should be able to access the materials they need for their learning. While accessibility is oftentimes associated with providing access for people with disabilities, issues of access are universal and affect all learners. 

Consider accessibility broadly and how it impacts everyone in order to develop a course that is inclusive for all.

Access for learners with visual or hearing differences

Start with Millersville-approved technologies

Canvas, Zoom, Google Drive, and other Millersville-approved tools have been vetted for accessibility concerns. Tools not approved by Millersville may not have been checked for accessibility.



With the recent increase in inclusive learning environments, educators are faced with a more diverse student body. Whether postsecondary students need support taking notes in large lecture classes, or if an elementary student can gain further independence by using a tool that permits self-feeding, the lending lab has what you need. Learn More

Follow best practices for creating accessible learning objects 

An accessible document or web resource is one that can be easily navigated using assistive technologies like a screen reader used by people with visual impairments. The Office of Accessible Education (OAE) provides the SCRIBE tool for converting existing files into more accessible formats.

Technology access

Select Millersville-approved tools that are familiar to students

Students are typically familiar with these tools, allowing them to focus more on learning rather than an unfamiliar tool. With Millersville approved tools, the cost of license fees is typically covered by the University. University support staff are also much more informed and knowledgeable of these tools.

Consider international restrictions on certain tools or content

Some students living outside of the United States might face particular challenges because their countries have laws that enable governments to access data that is moving in and out of their countries. Specific tools might be restricted and even specific topics or content might sensitive in certain countries. 


Things to keep in mind:

  • Learning management systems chosen for online courses must be accessible by a student's accessible technology.
  • Accessibility of course materials is required.
  • Colleges and universities that contract with vendors must ensure the services are accessible and must check the product to be sure students can gain access.
  • Alternative access should be provided to students with insurmountable issues and should be as close as possible to the access provided to students without disabilities (ease of use and services provided).
  • Students are expected to have access when faculty put up their tools for instruction. n

Additional information about popular learning management systems:

Accessibility links for Millersville Supported technologies:

Adding captions to videos in MU Video:

Closed Caption editing of Zoom meeting recordings:

Affordability access

Avoid prohibitively expensive course materials

Cost can be a big factor preventing students from accessing course materials and succeeding in a course. Consider earlier less-expensive editions of a textbook, select materials that are available in e-book formats, and provide advanced notice for obtaining required materials. Or better yet, use materials that are available freely through McNairy Library, or adopt free open educational resources (OER). 

Minimize incidental costs when possible

Incidental costs such as printing, online subscriptions, paywalls, or fees for lab and studio materials can quickly add up. Offer students options for submitting assignments in digital formats. Provide access to articles, journals, and databases through McNairy Library. And work with your department leaders to cover lab and studio material costs for students.

Temporal access

Ask students about restrictions or time-zones

Ask students from what time zone they are joining and what time restrictions they might have to get a better sense of the challenge that they may face. Adjust section and office-hour times, or increase asynchronous offerings to suit their situations.

Be flexible

When possible, be flexible with attendance policies, extended time for accommodations, dues dates, and office hours. Consider whether a strict attendance or due date policy is beneficial to furthering the pedagogical goals of the course. The syllabus should be specific about expectations and mechanisms for students to make up missed class time or assignments.

Check-in with students regularly

While students, in general, appreciate individual attention and chances to connect with the teaching team, students in different time zones or in fully online formats are likely to feel particularly isolated. Consider ways to check-in, such as asking all students to sign up for a ten-minute meeting with a teaching team member.

Multi-modal access

Provide instructional materials in multiple formats

All learners differ in the way they comprehend information. Presenting content in text, audio, verbal, graphic, audio-visual formats, and so on, can appeal to more students and deepen learning by highlighting connections and patterns between different representations. 

Provide options for activities and interactions

Allowing students to make choices and have some autonomy can spark interest and sustain motivation. Providing various levels of difficulty within an activity can help to optimize the challenge-level for individual students.

Allow multiple modes of demonstrating mastery

Refer to the course's learning objectives when determining what is essential to assess student mastery. Consider a variety of frequent smaller assessments rather than a single comprehensive and high-stakes exam. Be flexible with the tools and format for students to demonstrate their learning. For example, instructors might adapt an existing rubric to be equally applicable to a written essay, slide presentation, or verbal presentation.


The sites listed help with accessible content and design.

Pictures and Images: Students with blindness or visual impairment use screen readers to access information online. Pictures and other images should have alternative text or "alt tags" that describes the image using semantic meanings. Computers and screen readers cannot analyze images; hence the need for alternative text. Techniques for alternative text can be found at

Videos: Unless videos are captioned on websites, current and prospective students may feel courses are inaccessible. Captions are helpful for students with deafness or hearing impairments and those who have auditory processing disorders. These students need to read for understanding. Techniques for captioning videos can be found at  

Tables/Lists: Tables and lists are difficult to read using screen readers. To learn how to make them accessible, go to

Forms: Forms available to all students must be accessible to those who use screen readers and should be able to be completed using only a keyboard. Go to to learn how to create accessible forms.

Color: Aspects of color should be accessible to those with low vision and/or color blindness. Check the accessibility of color at Vischeck is a website that will show how images and web pages will be seen by someone who has color blindness.

Video Access for the Visually Impaired: Try to use videos with good verbal descriptions in them. Consider offering students information about the Audio Description Project for course requirements that include expectations for students to watch TV shows as a part of the course. This can be difficult for someone with a visual impairment. This site illustrates how one can access audio descriptions of TV programs.


Please keep in mind that publisher products that institutions use should be accessible to screen readers and/or have captions if video content is included.

This resources has been adapted from Stanford Teaching Common's for more information visit: