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Distance Learning | School of Professional Studies | Northwestern University

Making a Course Accessible

Accessibility is a key component of every piece of a course. All students, regardless of background or ability, should have equal access to education. Accessibility differs from accommodation in that accessibility is pro-active, while accommodations are reactive. Sometimes, accommodations are the best option; but many things can be made accessible in advance, making coursework smoother and easier for all students. These guides cover a wide variety of topics, from the importance of web accessibility to specific, technical steps that can be taken to improve the quality of your text, images, and media. Accessible design is good design for all students.

What is Web Accessibility?

Learn about the basics of web accessibility, including the globally accepted standards that guide all web designers and some of the assistive technology tools that disabled students might use in your courses.
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Why is Web Accessibility Important?

Learn about the legal and ethical reasons for web accessibility, as well as the unique accessibility issues present in online education.
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How do I make my writing and math accessible?

Written text is the core of any online course, and there are several simple steps that can be taken to make your writing accessible.
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How do I make my images accessible?

Images and graphics are important ways of conveying information, but students with visual disabilities may find it difficult or impossible to access this information. With alternative text descriptions, images can communicate with all users.
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How do I make my audio and video accessible?

Audio and video can be excellent ways of sharing conversations or demonstrating activities. In order to make sure all students can understand the information, though, steps must be taken to ensure they are accessible as well.
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How do I format an accessible web page?

While Canvas, Northwestern's learning management system, handles many of the technical aspects of accessibility, there are still steps that can and should be taken to ensure that each page in the course site is accessible.
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How do I make my course resources accessible?

Textbooks, ebooks, PDFs, PowerPoints, and more--all of these are valuable and vital course resources. It's important to make sure that these are accessible to all students too.
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How do I make my course content inclusive?

Disability is more than blindness, deafness, or wheelchair use. And so accessibility must extend beyond ensuring that students with physical disabilities can access material: it must ensure that course content is inclusive to students of all backgrounds and abilities, including those with mental health challenges.
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