According to the World Bank (2017), "one billion people, or 15% of the world's population, experience some form of disability". Accessible design is a process where technical and physical barriers are lowered or removed so that everyone can participate successfully. This guide was created to help Ottawa University faculty, staff, and students develop or adapt web based and digital materials so that they are accessible to everyone.
When you think about accessibility, you may think about handicapped parking spaces and accessible building standards, but did you know that online content should be accessible as well? Poor content design can make it impossible for people with disabilities to use it.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines web accessibility as "websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can...perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web and contribute to the web" (World Wide Web Consortium, 2018, para. 7). This includes content in electronic documents, websites, videos, images, online forms, computer software, digital textbooks and any other electronic content. Content should be designed so that everyone can access it.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides guidelines for developing learning materials in a way that reduces barriers and increases learning for all learners. UDL emphasizes providing multiple means (ways, formats, etc.) for learners to engage with the content, providing multiple formats of the content, and providing options and flexibility in activities, assignments and assessments (CAST, 2018). UDL aims to provide students with the tools and skills they need to learn in the best way possible for them. UDL tries to make learning accessible to all no matter if a student has a documented disability or not (CAST, 2018).
Adapted with permission from Wichita State University's Accessibility Training Resources (2018)
Accessibility is an evolving standard that is guided by legal regulations, industry standards, and accessibility norms (which are more general). Accessibility should be considered in both digital content and face-to-face content. Digital content tends to have clear regulatory guidance, and face-to-face content does not.
Here are some important standards to familiarize yourself with:
CAST. (2018). The UDL guidelines. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org/?utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=none&utm_source=cast-about-udl
Pennsylvania State University. (2018). Accessibility and usability at Penn State. Retrieved from http://accessibility.psu.edu/
World Bank. (2018). Disability overview. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability
World Wide Web Consortium. (2018, February 7). Introduction to web accessibility. Web Accessibility Initiative. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/accessibility.php
The following resources provide additional information about web accessibility:
The following resources provide additional information about universal design for learning: