Collaborative Strategies for Elevating Online Course Accessibility

Published on October 4, 2023

A person working on a computer in a library setting and is sitting in front of a computer monitor with a bookcase and shelves in the background.

Accessibility is a shared responsibility and partnerships on campus are critical to making sure accommodations are in place. Disability Service professionals play a crucial role in facilitating the dialogues that ensure online learning courses are accessible for deaf students by collaborating closely with instructors—however, they are not solely responsible. To achieve this goal, several key strategies can be employed and should be a joint effort across all departments.

Increase Faculty Awareness

Disability Service professionals can provide concise guidance to faculty members on ensuring the accessibility of their course materials, particularly emphasizing the importance of captioning requests for videos and multimedia content or the use of accommodations such as assistive listening systems (ALS). This guidance helps instructors make their content more inclusive.

Collaborate with the Center for Faculty Instruction or Instructional Technology Department

Collaboration with the IT department is essential to secure Disability Service Office (DSO) permissions for adding service providers such as interpreters or Speech-to-Text services (STTS) providers to the Learning Management System (LMS). This collaboration reduces the burden on faculty members to individually add service providers, ensuring a smoother and more efficient process.

Laptop and a plant placed on a table. The laptop screen displays "Online Learning" and "Login" with "Terms and conditions" below.

Establish System-Wide Policies and Protocols

Disability Service professionals can work collaboratively to establish a committee or task force of different roles (including students) to perform accessibility audits and propose strategies that are grounded in accessible design standards for all online courses. This standard can require faculty members to incorporate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles when creating courses. UDL ensures that courses are designed with diverse learners in mind, making them inherently more accessible to all students, including those who are deaf.

Disability Service professionals can advocate for the implementation of policies and practices that prioritize accessibility in the purchasing process. This would most likely entail collaborating with the IT or Online Services department. This can involve providing feedback and information regarding the accessibility of tools, software, or platforms before an institution makes a purchase. By asking questions like, “Is it accessible?” before acquiring licenses for specific platforms, institutions can ensure that the tools they invest in are inclusive and meet the needs of all students, including those with disabilities. This proactive approach can significantly enhance the accessibility of educational materials and tools, benefiting all students.

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