Web Accessibility For the Online Learning Environment

Web accessibility ensures websites are usable for people who are blind, low vision, deaf, hard of hearing, color blind, have photosensitive seizures disorders, and those with a mobility disability that prohibits them for using the mouse. 

Laws & Standards

Accessibility or Accommodation

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility enables a person with disabilities the ability to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same activities and interactions, and enjoy the products and services as someone without a disabilities, within the same time frame. Examples include: accessible web pages, accessible instructional materials, accessible apps, and an accessible eReader.

What is Accommodation?

Accommodations are provisional access which include reasonable academic adjustments or auxiliary aids that provide equal access to programs and services on an individual bases. Examples include: extended time on tests, taking an exam in a minimal distraction area, recording a lecture and having a note-taker.

What is the difference?

Accessibility can be achieved by implementing identified standards into the design of a learning environment and materials used by everyone. Accommodations are requested by a person with a disability and determined to be based on the individual's needs.

Accessibility and the User
"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." —Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Disability Types


  • Blindness
  • Low Vision
  • Color-Blindness


  • Mild Hearning Loss
  • Moderate Hearing Loss
  • Sever Hearing Loss
  • Profound Hearing Loss


  • Traumatic Injuries
  • Diseases and Congenital Conditions


  • Memory
  • Problem-solving
  • Attention
  • Reading, linguistic, and verbal comprehension
  • Math comprehension
  • Visual comprehension


  • Strobing, Flickering or Flashing Effects
  • Vestibular Disorders

UDL and Accessibility

About UDL

The following information is excerpt from UDL on Campus:

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.

The UDL principles are based on the three-network model of learning that take into account the variability of all learners—including learners who were formerly relegated to “the margins” of our educational systems but now are recognized as part of the predictable spectrum of variation. These principles guide design of learning environments with a deep understanding and appreciation for individual variability.

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines 2012
Accessibility Standards
The functional usability standard for accessibility is, “substantially equivalent ease of use” in the same place and at the same time as other students as acknowledged in the 2010 Dear Colleague Letter & 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL).

Four Principles of Accessibility

WCAG 2.0 is a stable, referenceable technical standard. It has 12 guidelines that are organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are at three levels: A, AA, and AAA.

Understandingthe Four Principles of Accessibility


Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways the user can perceive.

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.


The design should ensure that all user inference and navigation are operable.

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures.
  • Help users navigate and find content.


Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

  • Make text readable and understandable.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.


Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
Text Alternatives

Accessible Images

There are a variety of alternative text formats that can be used to make an image accessible to the user.

  1. Alternative Text - (often called ALT Text, for short) should be applied to all images. Alt Text can be changed into other forms such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or a simpler language.
  2. Captions - All images should have a caption located directly below the image. The text should provide a brief description of the image, identical to the Alt Text.
  3. Long Descriptions - should be used when the Alt Text or Caption does not provide a clear understanding of the image.
Example of Alternative Text for an Image.
Time-Based Media

Audio and video

Video Captioning

  • Open/Closed captions are on-screen text displaying the dialogue being communicated by the speaker, and describing relevant sounds. Captions cal also help improve language comprehension.
  • Open - Always visible
  • Closed - Can be turned off


  • Transcripts are a text-based representation of the audio in a video or audio recording in a printable document or on-screen display.
  • Usually presented in a word or text document.
Closed Caption Logo that appears when a video included closed captions.
HTML Content


  • Headings - Helps guide the eye and screen readers, provides a structure for the content.
  • Lists - Helps organize list items or definitions
  • Images and Graphics - Should provide alternative text and descriptions
  • Links - Should provide a text link that indicates the link’s destination
  • Tables - Provide organization, but when the layout can confuse a screen reader. Therefore the table must allow the information to be read left to right and top to bottom.
  • Color - Color should not be the only way to deliver your message.
  • Flashing/ Blinking Content - Any flashing should not occur more than three times per second (Especially content in red)


  • WebAIM WAVE - Free plug-in for FireFox or Chrome
  • Manual Testing - Using the automated checks help, however it is still important to view the documents based:
  • Page Formatting
  • Can all user input and operations required on the page be completed with the keyboard alone?
  • Test possible color contrast issues
  • Confirm that the alternative text descriptions for images are sufficient for someone who won’t see the image
WebAIM Wave Logo

Word Content Formats

  • Text - use a font that is easy to read
  • Headings - use properly formatted headings to structure page
  • Lists - use list to help screen reader users understand the context of the content.
  • Images and Graphics - provide alternative text for all graphics and images.
  • Hyperlinks - use descriptive text or short URL vs the long URL
  • Tables - create data tables with column headers
  • Math and Science - use MathType or equation editor to provide the proper notations
  • Microsoft Accessibility Checker - run the built in checker

PowerPoint Formats

  • Outline view - review the text that will be read by the assistive technology
  • Slide titles - help with navigation and reduce confusion
  • Auto Layout tool - makes text accessible
  • Images and Graphics - provide alternative text for all graphics and images.
  • Description field - provide a long description in the field
  • Keyboard access - for shared PPT
  • Animation and/or Transitions - Keep them simple
  • Microsoft Accessibility Checker - run the built in checker

PDF Documents

  • Converting a Document to a PDF - Must select the option; Document structure tags for accessibility
  • Scanning a Document to a PDF - you will need to run optical character recognition on the scan
  • Checking the Accessibility of a PDF - Adobe Acrobat has a full accessibility checker
  • Math and Science notation and equations are not accessible in a PDF
  • Always check the tagging of the PDF to define the structure of the page
Created By
LaDale Whaley, M.S.


Created with images by StartupStockPhotos - "student typing keyboard" • medithIT - "website" • FredCintra - "Control is an Option to Command" • StartupStockPhotos - "startup start-up notebooks" • coyot - "person reading tablet" • 6097778 - "mac apple desktop" • Honza M. - "Book" • tvol - "keyboard" • Pixies - "technology keyboard computing" • StockSnap - "laptop apple macbook" • Pezibear - "postcard old antique" • robertlischka - "sony lens walimex" • Pexels - "code code editor coding" • Amir Abbas Kaka Khel - "PMP Certification old Format before 2011" • Hans - "glasses read learn"

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