Beyond the Blockers: Making Online Course Content Accessible for Everyone


Presented at 11:30am in Denver 1-3 on Thursday, November 9, 2023.



  • Sonya Woods, Lead Accessibility Consultant, Penn State
  • Matt Farley, Accessibility Consultant, Penn State

Session Details

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


Are you familiar with web accessibility basics and eager to go beyond the current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) requirements? Join accessibility consultants from Penn State World Campus as we explore new and emerging recommendations for making websites and online courses accessible for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.


As accessibility consultants for Penn State’s online campus, we’ve found that with increased awareness around how to meet current WCAG requirements it’s time to challenge ourselves and our peers to look beyond the “blockers” and dive deeper into some of the less technical aspects of web accessibility. Our talk will focus on recommendations that can improve the web and online learning for people with a wide range of cognitive and learning disabilities.

We will look at the recommendations published by the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force (COGA) and consider the implications for web and online course design. We will provide examples of how content creators can apply the COGA recommendations to give participants a window into the future of accessible practice. We will discuss the overlap between accessible practice, good visual design, and learning tools that support personalization, and we will provide resources to help participants apply these practices in their own work.


  1. Most college students receiving official accommodations have cognitive and learning disabilities.  
  2. Future WCAG standards will include more guidelines to support people with cognitive and learning disabilities.
  3. Some COGA recommendations can be applied now to benefit all learners.

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Sonya Woods

Sonya Woods has been working for Penn State since 2008 and has been an accessibility consultant and training coordinator for Penn State World Campus since 2013 and is now leading the accessibility team in World Campus Learning Design. She provides information and resources to help design staff and faculty create accessible course content by providing consultation, training, documentation, and other resources. She also tests third-party websites and technologies with assistive technology such as screen readers and magnification software, and is constantly learning to find new and better accessible solutions. She leads the Accessibility Users Group to provide a community of practice for sharing accessibility knowledge across various design shops and units at Penn State, and is an advocate for Universal Design for Learning and inclusive design. She has a master's degree in Organization Development and Change from the College of Education at Penn State and is Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC).

Matt Farley

Matt Farley has been an Accessibility Consultant for Penn State World Campus since 2016. In that role he serves on the leadership team of the Accessibility Users Group, co-authored the Canvas Styles resource, and regularly blogs and presents on a number of accessibility-related topics. He has a degree in Information Sciences and Technology (IST) from Penn State University and is Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC).