According to the Oxford English Dictionary, accessibility is defined as “the quality of being easily reached, entered, or used by people who have a disability.” Accessibility is important in education because it ensures that all faculty and students are able to fully participate in classes and other activities—that is, they can reach and enter the classroom, whether face-to-face or online, and use course materials.
Accessibility in the UNC System
189,890 undergraduate students were enrolled in the UNC System in 2017 (“UNC Fall Enrollment Reports” by UNC General Administration). Data from 2016 showed that 19.4% of undergraduate students in the United States had a disability (“Fast Facts: Students with Disabilities” by Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics), so about 36,838 undergraduate students in the UNC System have a disability.
Based on the number of students with disabilities, you can see that a significant portion of the student population is affected if classrooms and instructional materials are not reachable and usable for students with disabilities. Often, faculty and staff at universities unintentionally design classrooms and instructional materials that are inaccessible, or not usable, for students with disabilities.
To help students with disabilities navigate inaccessible spaces, disability resource offices across the UNC System work to provide students with accommodations. Watch the following video to learn the differences between accommodations and accessibility.
Google Doc: Accessibility and Accommodation Video Transcript
Accommodations focus on retrofitting existing materials to the meet the need of an individual student, whereas accessibility focuses on proactively designing materials so that they are easily accessed by everyone.
- Video: To Care & Comply: Accessibility of Online Course Content (11:14) by Portland Community College
- PDF: Disability Etiquette: Tips On Interacting With People With Disabilities by United Spinal Association
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