Lesson 1.3: Benefits of Accessibility

Understanding how students at your campus gain access to accommodations is an important step toward providing students with accessible resources. Despite significant progress, inaccessible content still creates barriers for student success. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and have different abilities. Because of this, it is important to design accessible instructional materials, activities, and assessments that meet the needs of all learners.

Accessibility Benefits Everyone

Though accessibility is usually associated with people with disabilities, research has found that it actually benefits many people. To better illustrate this concept, consider the origins of accessible design. Accessible design originated in architecture.

For instance, curb cuts are a universal design feature of architecture. Curb cuts provide a slight slope between the road and sidewalk, allowing easy access from the sidewalk to the road.

Curb cut with black raised bumps. It slopes slightly downward from the sidewalk to the road.

The curb cut allows people who use wheelchairs to easily move from sidewalks to crosswalks while traversing cities. The raised bumps enable blind people to feel the texture of the curb cut with a cane. We have learned from experience that these features created for people with disabilities make spaces easier to navigate for many people, including those with broken bones, baby strollers, luggage, and hand trucks. The distinct color (sometimes yellow) and texture can also help sighted pedestrians quickly spot crosswalks.

We see the same benefit from an accessibility feature such as captions. Captions are generally provided primarily to support students with hearing impairments; however, they are also useful to students who speak English as a second language, students in noisy environments, and students learning complex vocabulary. Thus, accessible design not only supports people with disabilities but makes environments more usable for everyone. This is true not only for physical spaces but also for digital spaces.

Though designing accessible content may initially seem like a daunting task, this course will introduce helpful techniques that can be used across a wide range of materials, save time in the long run, and provide the benefits of accessibility to everyone.

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