Access to Online Courses: The Perspective of Students with Vision Impairment

Presented at 9:15am in WB IV on Wednesday, November 16, 2016.



  • Maureen Linden, Research Engineer, Georgia Tech

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format:
  • Expertise Level: Expert
  • Type of session: General Conference


Access to online learning environments can be difficult for students with vision impairment. In this presentation, we summarize findings from qualitative interviews of post-secondary students regarding facilitators and barriers in their access of course materials.


MOOC’s and other online courses have become increasing popular modalities in post-secondary education. However, access to online learning environments can be difficult for students with vision impairment. Twelve students with vision impairment participated in a semi-structured interview to determine how they interacted with the online learning environment, what barriers or facilitators existed, and strategies they used to overcome these barriers. The results would indicate that, managed appropriately, online platforms can provide access to courses not available through other means. However, instructor education, alternate formatting, and standardized interfaces would alleviate barriers to access for this population.


  1. Online classes present many of the same barriers as real-world classes to students with vision impairments.
  2. Students must rely on multiple browser and AT combinations to access all of their online learning resources.
  3. STEM courses are perceived as the most difficult to take online because they rely on equations and graphics.

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Alternate Format, Assistive Technology, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Maureen Linden

Maureen Linden is a research engineer at the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). She holds a Master of Science in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia. She has experience managing research projects and clinical programs, both in seating and wheeled mobility within the medical model, and job accommodations through the vocational rehabilitation model. Her current research interests include job accommodation use and related employment barriers, facilitators for post-secondary education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for students with disabilities, seating support surface development and characterization, and mobility device use characterization. Linden serves on the Executive Committee of RESNA’s Board of Directors, and has done significant work on the development of wheelchair seating standards.