Developing a campus-wide online accessibility infrastructure: a tale of two institutions


Presented at 2:15pm in Mattie Silks on Thursday, November 17, 2022.



  • Tania Heap, Director of Learning Research and Accessibility | Adjunct Faculty, University of North Texas
  • Charlesa Olmstead, Compliance Coordinator, University of North Texas
  • Richmond Reyes, Digital Accessibility Specialist, University of North Texas
  • Marc Thompson, Assistant Director, Teaching & Learning Experiences, University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign

Session Details

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


Over three years ago, a large public university that is a Hispanic and Minority Serving Institution was tasked with ensuring that every online course and degree program offering meets accessibility standards. This presentation will share the strategies and lessons learned in creating a scalable infrastructure that enables a small accessibility team to offer support and services to hundreds of faculty teaching online.


A large public university that is a Hispanic and Minority Serving Institution was tasked with ensuring that every online course and degree program offering meets accessibility standards following WCAG 2.1 A and AA guidelines. One strategy that helped a small digital accessibility team achieve this large scale project was to assist the instructional designers in the teaching and learning center in developing Course-in-a-Box (CIB). CIB is a guided do-it-yourself online course development initiative for faculty that consisted of completing an asynchronous online training course, covering best practices in course design, accessibility, and copyright, then gaining access to an accessible course template built in the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS), which instructors use to develop their online course. Other services offered as part of this initiative are consultations, project management, auditing, and feedback from instructional designers and accessibility specialists, who review each course at key development milestones. Since this service was deployed in 2019, approximately 900 instructors completed the training and over 600 online courses were developed or substantially redesigned, following WCAG 2.1 A and AA standards to the best of the team's ability. Lessons learned and common issues and challenges will be discussed in this presentation. The demand for this service is growing and the CIB program is revisited every six months to address opportunities for improvement and to keep it current and relevant.


  1. Bringing the entire online curriculum to meet accessibility standards requires time, planning, and mindset
  2. To educate and serve a large population of students and faculty, services should be scalable and organized.
  3. To implement online course accessibility as a campus-wide mission, faculty and leadership buy-in is necessary.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Mobility, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Administrative/Campus Policy, Faculty Development & Support, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized, Universal Design for Learning

Speaker Bio(s)

Tania Heap

Dr. Tania Heap is the Director of Learning Research and Accessibility in the Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research (CLEAR) at the University of North Texas (UNT). She is also an adjunct faculty in the Department of Psychology. Tania has been involved in online and technology-enhanced learning initiatives in different capacities for 18 years. Her interests lie in practice-based research in educational technology, digital accessibility and ADA compliance testing, VR accessibility, and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).

Charlesa Olmstead

Charlesa Olmstead, JD, is the Compliance Coordinator based in the Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research (CLEAR) at the University of North Texas (UNT). With a strong background in litigation, she joined the CLEAR team in January 2022 to assess copyright risks and provide guidance to faculty on a variety of copyright, credit, and permissions issues in UNT courses and larger courses, such as MOOCs, as well as provide legal support to the department in any capacity needed. Her newly developed skill areas include testing for digital accessibility and ADA compliance testing.

Richmond Reyes

Richmond Reyes is a Digital Accessibility Specialist at the University of North Texas’ Center for Learning, Experimentation, Application, and Research (CLEAR). He has been working in a distance education capacity for the past three years. His background includes digital accessibility and ADA compliance, state authorization regulatory compliance, continuous process improvement and Lean/Sigma, research methodologies, entrepreneurship, and marketing consultation.

Marc Thompson

Dr. Marc Thompson is the Program Director for the Information Accessibility Design & Policy program and Assistant Director of Teaching & Learning Experiences at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He has taught at the university level for more than 30 years and has over 20 years of experience teaching online courses and providing online teaching instruction. In addition to his teaching experience, he has a background in web design, instructional media, and web-based learning platforms. He is the accessibility liaison for the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning at the University of Illinois and has presented at a number of workshops and conferences on the teaching of accessibility and universal design for learning, creating accessible course content, and the accessibility of web conferencing systems and learning management systems. Dr. Thompson is a member of the Teach Access Universities Task Force and has partnered with Microsoft on several educational initiatives, including their Accessibility Lighthouse Program. His book chapter entitled “3 Approaches to Teaching Accessibility & Inclusive Design” will be released in March of 2023, in A Guide to Digital Accessibility: Policies, Practices, and Professional Development.