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From barriers to bridges: approaching accessibility in course design

Evangeline Marlos Varonis (Design and Development Services, The University of Akron, Akron, OH, USA)

International Journal of Information and Learning Technology

ISSN: 2056-4880

Article publication date: 1 June 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore how the principles of universal design can be implemented by faculty and course designers to help give all learners access to equivalent information. It describes how information communication technologies can create barriers to information access, particularly when course content is rich in multimedia, but also how such technologies can be utilized to creates bridges to accessible content through designing for accessibility from the outset.


This paper offers a brief review of current international guidelines and US legislation related to information communication technologies in higher education. It documents the challenge of meeting these best practices and legal mandates, as evidenced by recent legal cases in the USA resulting from inaccessible course content in higher education. Finally, it describes how universal design can enhance accessibility for individuals with visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive impairments and provides concrete suggestions for making content more accessible to all learners, not just those with disabilities.


Given the challenges of creating accessible content that provides equivalent information to all learners, faculty and course designers can implement the principles of Universal Design to enhance the learning environment for all students and ensure they are in compliance with guidelines and regulations. Such compliance is facilitated by emerging standards for accessible content and emerging technologies for making content accessible to all without the need for special accommodations.


This paper focusses on concrete approaches to achieving accessibility in higher education, a matter of increasing concern for moral reasons (it is the right thing to do) and for legal reasons given recent lawsuits.



Varonis, E.M. (2015), "From barriers to bridges: approaching accessibility in course design", International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 138-149.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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