How Faculty, IT Staff and others Contribute to Making Courses Accessible to All Students

Handouts Media

Presented at 3:30pm in Independence on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.



  • Sheryl Burgstahler, Director, Accessible Technology Services, University of Washington

Session Details

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


The pandemic shined a light on the inaccessibility of many online courses. The presenter, along with participants, will discuss how multiple stakeholders (faculty, teaching and learning centers, IT staff) can contribute to making a paradigm shift from designing courses for the average person to designing for all students and instructors, including those with disabilities. It is expected that participants will gain ideas on how to the promote accessible learning on their campuses.


I co-taught the very first online learning course at the University of Washington with Dr. Norm Coombs, who is blind. Today the technology has advanced and there are many more options to choose from for teaching an online course, but the basic issues are the same when it comes to accessibility that addresses issues related to disabilities and the assistive technology they use.

Universal design in higher education (UDHE) has emerged as a paradigm to address diversity and equity in the design of a broad range of applications in postsecondary education, including those for both students and instructors in on-site, online, and hybrid learning opportunities. UDHE builds upon well established principles and guidelines. I will share a summary of principles that can be used to underpin all applications of UDHE—specifically, the 7 principles of UD. the 3 principles of UDL, and the 4 principles of IT accessibility that underpin the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Applying the combination of UD, UDL, and WCAG principles is particularly suitable for addressing all offerings in educational settings in order to ensure that students are offered multiple ways to learn and demonstrate what they have learned as they interact with accessible physical and digital environments and products that minimize accommodations and that instructors have access to digital tools for effectively teaching on-site, online, and hybrid courses.

Too often the burden for course accommodations is placed on disability services and the burden for proactive accessible/universal design on faculty. In this session participants will brainstorm within chat and a Google document how these and other stakeholders (including teaching and learning centers, IT staff, departments) can contribute to making courses more accessible to students and faculty with disabilities.


  1. A UDHE approach underpins a framework that can be used to address the accessibility of courses.
  2. UDHE principles can guide accessible course design
  3. There are roles stakeholders can play in promoting accessible/universal design of courses.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Administrative/Campus Policy, Faculty Development & Support, Other, Uncategorized, Universal Design for Learning

Speaker Bio(s)

Sheryl Burgstahler

Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler founded and directs Accessible Technology Services, which includes the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center and the IT Accessibility Team within UW-IT at the University of Washington (UW). These units promote (1) the success of students with disabilities in postsecondary education and careers and (2) the development of facilities, IT, services, and learning activities that are welcoming and accessible to individuals with disabilities through the application of a Universal Design (UD) Framework. ITAT focuses efforts at the UW; the DO-IT Center reaches national and international audiences with the support of federal, state, corporate, foundation, and private funds. Dr. Burgstahler is an affiliate professor in the UW College of Education. She developed and continues to teach a graduate course in applications of universal design in higher education at City University of New York.