Digital Learning & Design

Digital Inclusion & Accessible Learning Design

Best Practices

This guide provides high impact and easy to implement practices to create a more inclusive and accessible digital learning environment for all students, including students with disabilities. In accordance with ADA requirements for digital accessibility and the WCAG 2.1 guidelines, The Digital Learning & Design team offers this guide for instructors.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at [email protected].

  • Give students multiple means for demonstrating understanding/mastery 
    • E.g., develop multi-step assignments so students can progressively improve with multiple attempts.
    • Allow multiple attempts on assignments or quizzes in case of technical issues and/or improvement opportunities. 
    • Vary the style of assignments that are used to assess students’ mastery of course outcomes (e.g., case study, reading checks, reflection, media project).
    • Design for All Learners - Source: Brown University
  • Provide information in a logical flow
    • Use familiar language rather than obscure, decontextualized language.
    • Consistently and clearly communicate expectations.
    • Make navigational structures easy to understand and use.
  • Foster belonging through inclusion
    • Consider the needs and experiences of all of your students to support them in achieving the course objectives. 
    • Ask students to share their personal goals and expectations for learning in this course. 
    • Provide frequent opportunities for students to reflect on how they are learning (e.g. what works, what doesn’t) and adjust instruction accordingly. 

Additional Resources:

  • Write hyperlink text to convey purpose or content, using a descriptive label 

  • Ensure that file formats are accessible (e.g., PDF, Word, PPT) 

    • Files shared with students must be accessible to all students. Provide standard formats and use accessibility checking software, where possible. 

    • Consider the use of headers to organize information, color contrasts, use of sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial) and typeface (bold, italics, underline), information layout and use of tables

    • Creating Accessible Content - Source: National Center on Disability and Access to Education

  • Use high contrast colors 

    • Colors should not be used to convey meaning, organization, or emphasis without context (e.g., use text meaning or complementary visual representation in  association with high contrast color). 

    • Color Contrast Checker - Source: WebAim

  • Provide multiple means for accessing and engaging with content

    • Offer students choice and autonomy about how they can acquire information and actively participate in their learning (e.g., written, audio, and/or video).

  • Provide information in a logical flow

    • Use familiar language rather than obscure, decontextualized language

    • Consistently and clearly communicate expectations for student engagement and production of work.

    • Make navigational structures like lists easy to understand and use.

Additional Resources:

  • Use the chat tool to foster inclusion in your synchronous class sessions 
    • When a question is posed in the chat, repeat aloud the question when you respond to it. If the question is posted privately to the instructor, leave the name of the student anonymous.
    • Save and share the chat with students after the session ends via email or repost on Canvas. 
    • Assistive technology cannot activate embedded links from the chat. It is recommended that faculty repost embedded chat links in a common space, such as Canvas Announcements.
    • Save In-meeting Chat - Source: Zoom
  • Record class sessions to the cloud for auto transcription
    • Make recordings available to students after the session has ended so students can revisit the recording if they were unable to attend or would like to watch it multiple times. 
    • Audio Transcripts for Zoom Meetings - Source: Brown University
  • Provide multiple means for accessing and engaging with content
    • Offer students choice and autonomy about how they can acquire information and actively participate in their learning (e.g., written, audio, and/or video).

Additional Resources:

  • Provide text alternatives for visual elements and complex tables or graphs
    • Use captions, describe the image in surrounding text, or link out to a webpage if the visual is intended to demonstrate the context or content.
  • Make file types (e.g., PDF, Word, PPT) accessible 
  • Use software accessibility checkers and tools
    • Some products like Word for Windows have built in accessibility checkers to help you detect when something needs to be fixed.
    • The software you use to create content for your course includes tools to help you make your documents accessible.

Additional Resources:

  • Provide audio transcription or closed captions (CC) for all video or audio files
    • Automatic text transcription is provided with Panopto Personal Recorder or Zoom’s cloud recording so you don’t have to create your own.
    • Most free third-party transcription softwares are machine-based, so a review of the transcript is recommended for checking for accuracy.
    • If a student has documentation from SAS indicating they require an audio-related accommodation, please contact [email protected]
    • Audio Transcripts for Zoom Meetings - Source: Brown University
    • Closed Captioning for Digital Content - Source: Brown University

Additional Resources:

  • Provide text alternatives for visual elements and complex tables or graphs
    • Use captions, describe the image in surrounding text, or link out to a webpage if the visual is intended to demonstrate the context or content.
    • Accessible Images - Source: WebAim
  • Attach “alt text” or text descriptions to images 
    • Describe what the image is, not what it looks like. Answer the question: Why is this image important?
    • If the image is purely decorative and not part of the content, mark as "decorative".
    • Share copyright attribution, if applicable.
    • Alt text should be 125 characters or less.
    • Adding Alternative (Alt) Text to Images in Canvas - Source: Yale University