Accessibility can refer either to the design of products and experiences for those who experience disability (such as issues related to vision, hearing, neurodiversity, mobility, learning, etc.) or the actual ability to access and benefit from a product or experience (Wikipedia contributors 2018). 

Some common concerns related to accessibility that we observe in instructional materials include: 

  • Videos that aren't adequately captioned, meaning auto-captioning is not accurate or visuals are not also captioned. 
  • Missing alternative text (alt image text) for images in Blackboard, on slides, or on documents so they cannot be interpreted by screen readers. 
  • Failure to use built-in style options for titles, headings, lists (both bulleted & numbered), and tables in Blackboard, on slides, or documents so they cannot be interpreted by screen readers. 
  • Failure to use templates in slides or on documents, which impacts reading order for screen readers. 
  • Poor contrast between text and background colors or images, which is problematic for visual concerns like color blindness. 
  • Use of non-standard file formats that are inaccessible without conversion or additional software purchase. 
Accessibility concerns are issues both philosophically, if you value inclusive education, and legally under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (LaGrow, 2017). Accessibility is not the same thing as a request for accommodation (received by Student Disability Services). Accessibility is also not synonymous with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an instructional design model promoting the creation of diverse and engaging learning experiences for all learners, though that is a related concept. 




LaGrow, M. (2017). The section 508 refresh and what it means for higher education. Educause Review. Retrieved from  

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, July 30). Accessibility. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved  from