Overview of Accessibility and Usability

  • Students are represented in your classroom as coming from a variety of backgrounds, ages, languages, and learning styles. Similarly, you may experience a need to provide accommodations for a student with a disability such as blindness, low vision, hearing impairments, mobility impairments, learning disabilities, and health impairments.

    When building online course materials, it is important to bear in mind that, as a public university, Indiana University of Pennsylvania is required to meet Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 standards for web-based intranet and internet information and applications. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania follows Section 508 Web Accessibility Standards. As of June 30, 2001, all agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction are required to ensure that websites (both existing and in development) comply with Section 508 accessibility guidelines. Conforming to these standards requires that materials that would pose problems for students with disabilities need to be altered to accommodate the disabled.

    Examples of materials that would require accommodations would include:

    • Videos that have audio would need captioning and text transcripts.
    • Audio files would need text transcripts.
    • Images should have alternate text or descriptions set for them to convey meaning.
    • Color-blind individuals should be able to interpret a page successfully.
    • HTML tables should use the <th> tags to designate column and row headers.

    Note: Information about specific accommodations can be directed to Disability Services  and Advising.

    Students and instructors share the common goal of learning. So how can instructors design courses that maximize the learning of all students? Universal Design can provide a starting point for developing a model for instruction. Universal Design and accessibility are teaching practices that make course concepts educationally accessible and skills attainable regardless of learning styles and physical or sensory abilities.