This article from Faculty Focus came across my desk today.  Here’s what I want to mention.  There are two major challenges to making online courses accessible – Technical Challenges and Pedagogical Challenges.  The author of the article, Emily A. Moore, says that creating an online course is more analogous to publishing an e-textbo0k than it is to teaching a traditional face-to-face class. So, here’s are some technical strategies:

  • Present instructions, handouts, and other digital texts in one of the following two formats – HTML or Tagged PDF.
  • Present content in as flat a navigational structure as possible.
  • Avoid using frames.
  • Chunk videos (and name the chunks).
  • Provide closed captioning for all videos

Here are pedagogical strategies:

  • Cut extraneous material.
  • Write clearly and succinctly.
  • Provide accessible alternatives to inaccessible materials or activities.
  • Annotate links meaningfully.
  • Avoid pronouns.
  • Uniquely identify and annotate all figures and illustrations.
  • If you use repetition, use it both deliberately and economically.

For details read the article.


Invisible Disabilities is an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature.

from Disabled World: Invisible Disabilities Information/
To read more about what may constitute an invisible disability, please check the lists at this site. Included are ADHD, autism, brain injuries, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and many, many more.

I recently attended a webinar, Understanding Invisible Disabilities and What this Means for Online Education from the Sloan Consortium and one important take-away is

Invisible disabilities are the most common type of disability among college students. And what we’re going to find is, this is our fastest-growing percentile in terms of disability services across campuses. 10% of people in the United States have a medical condition that could be termed invisible disability. And lastly, we’re looking at the majority of these individuals having a chronic medical condition, an illness, that’s invisible.

Here’s an interesting (18:45 min.) video showing numerous students with invisible disabilities. Most of the situations are found in face-to-face classrooms, but are useful for all instructors.

Invisible Disabilities Postsecondary Education video

Source: http://videos.disabled-world.com

Ideas for what we need to do to make courses accessible for students with invisible disabilities will be posted soon.

Even though this is not about exactly about web accessibility, I think this TEDx talk gives a good sense of the problems deaf people may have navigating the web. And, this video has great closed captions!

In this talk at TEDxStanford, Rhodes Scholar Rachel Kolb — who was born deaf — shows what is possible through family support and self-belief, and proves that what is assumed about you and what you can actually achieve don’t always match up.

Ron McCallum was born blind. Regardless, he managed to fall in love with reading soon after. In this funny and heartfelt talk, he tours the history of reading gear for the blind and shows how each new design has impacted his life.

Professor Ron McCallum AO is one of Australia’s most respected industrial and discrimination lawyers and a prominent human rights advocate. With a long and successful career as a legal academic and teacher, in 1993 he became the first totally blind person appointed to a full professorship at any Australian university when he became Professor in Industrial Law at the University of Sydney.

He served as Dean of the University of Sydney Law School for 5 years and is now an Emeritus Professor. Ron is a leading light in the disabled community, working for equality among all Australians. He is also Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2011, Ron was named Senior Australian of the Year. His interests include reading, listening to music and meditation.

Another interesting article  came across my desk today. This one is about MOOCs.

Report: Course Topic Biggest Motivator for MOOC Participation from the June 2013 issue of Campus Technology reports some current statistics on MOOC participation.

This study confirms that for MOOCs to be a relevant part of education’s future, they must offer a more compelling experience than the traditional college course,” said Misty Frost, chief marketing officer at Instructure, in a prepared statement. “The popularity of MOOCs shows an appetite for learning in the open online format, but these courses are competing for attention in an age of digital entertainment and social media. Simply replicating the lecture model of instruction in a MOOC doesn’t facilitate the educational experience needed to sustain engagement.

The bold statement above is a no-brainer for most instructional designers.

Today I came across an article from the  Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind.  The article,  Making Online Courses Accessible for All by John Christie, was brief but included several key points which are of interest to those working to make online courses accessible.

One is that faculty members who teach online have to make their materials accessible to all.

Online courses should be accessible from the beginning. Professors should not wait until a disabled student self identifies.

There is a short paragraph about a recent suit at the University of Montana. For more details on the suit see the separate article  entitled Disabled UM students file complaint over inaccessible online courses (from the Montana paper Missoulian).

The specific allegations listed:

• Inaccessible class assignments and materials on the learning management system, Moodle.

• Inaccessible live chat and discussion board functions in the learning management system, Moodle.

• Inaccessible documents that are scanned images on webpages and websites.

• Inaccessible videos, and videos in Flash format, that are not captioned.

• Inaccessible library database materials.

• Inaccessible course registration through a website, Cyber Bear.

• Inaccessible classroom clickers.

7 Myths and Facts About Online Learning [Infographic] - An Infographic from My Education

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