Accessible Echo: Creating Multiple Means of Access to Graphic Novels in College Courses


Presented at 4:00pm in Virtual B on Thursday, November 19, 2020.



  • Rachel Martiniak, Instructional Designer, University of Illinois
  • Amy Merkley, Assistant Instructional Designer, University of Illinois
  • Jody Stokes-Casey, Instructional Support Assistant, University of Illinois

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 45 minutes
  • Format: Interactive/Discussion
  • Expertise Level: All Levels
  • Type of session: Pre-conference


This interactive presentation demonstrates the methods used to create an accessible, long-form description of a graphic novel, informed by formal analysis as used in the world of art education. The presentation will also consider the ties these principles have with audio description and their broader implications for Universal Design for Learning.


What are the best practices for making a graphic novel as a required course text accessible to students? A team of designers from the University of Illinois tackled this problem in conjunction with a Speech and Hearing course they developed in Fall of 2019, collaborating with an art education graduate student to use formal analysis and accessibility best practices to create an learning experience employing multiple alternative frames of access. Using formal analysis and non-interpretive long-form descriptions of the imagery page-by-page, the team created a companion multimodal HTML page for the course, allowing the graphic novel to be "read" using assistive technologies. This presentation explores a method informed by formal analysis in art to make the  graphic novel accessible to students with visual and cognitive impairments. Discussion will broaden to consider parallels with audio description in "making the visual verbal", as well as implications for Universal Design for Learning.


  1. Graphic novels are becoming a popular course text source that pose unique accessibility challenges.
  2. Formal analysis is a methodology that can provide instructors with a means to make graphic novels accessible.
  3. Formal analysis combines with accessible web design principles to provide a new vector for universal design.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Psychological, Vision

Topic Areas

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

Speaker Bio(s)

Rachel Martiniak

Rachel Martiniak is an Instructional Designer with the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at the University of Illinois. She has worked with the Instructional Design Team since 2017 and has master’s degrees in instructional technology and anthropology.

Amy Merkley

Amy Merkley has recently transitioned back to instructional design at the University of Illinois after a seven-year hiatus as a instructor of classical literature and mythology and Latin language at Brigham Young University. Prior to that, she worked as an instructional designer for Middlebury Interactive Languages. She holds degrees in comparative literature and history.

Jody Stokes-Casey

Jody Stokes-Casey has worked in K12 and post-secondary education for a number of years prior to her current pursuit of a PhD in Art Education and her work with the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. She is also a University of Illinois Graduate College Distinguished Fellowship Recipient. She holds degrees in art history, museum studies, and art education, and has several years of experience as a museum educator.