Accessibility in E-Learning
What is Accessibility?
Accessibility refers to content that is created in such a way that students with disabilities are able to access the content without additional aids or modifications. It addresses the needs of students with disabilities beforehand so they can enjoy the same experience and have the same opportunities as students without disabilities.
Disabilities may be invisible. It may be undiagnosed, and not all students with disabilities will self-identify. When you design with accessibility in mind, you are also improving your content for all students regardless of disability status. Universal Design for Learning* (UDL) is a concept that considers multiple styles of learning while creating content. To learn more about UDL consider looking at
The following video, “A Personal Look at Accessibility in Higher Education” shares the experiences of students, faculty, and staff with disabilities in higher education and how accessibility helps them be successful.
Accessibility in the Online Classroom
In 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course,” Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler outlines best practices for addressing accessibility in online courses. The list includes best practices for creating accessible documents and videos as well as best practices for instructional delivery, e.g. ensuring you allow adequate time for students to complete tasks. The tips offered by Dr. Burgstahler are not just for online classes though and can (and should) be used in face-to-face and hybrid classes.
Videos must have captions to be accessible. Captions are often referred to as open or closed. Open captions means that the video’s captions are burned into the image and cannot be turned off. Closed captions, on the other hand, allow the user to choose to turn the captions either on or off. Closed captions are preferable because students who may find captions distracting, such as students with attention disorders, can turn them off.
Videos that you’ve created can be captioned in Kaltura* or YouTube. If you do not own the video, contact the video or website owner (Youtube, Vimeo, etc) to ask if they would be willing to caption the video. If the video is on YouTube, the owner also has the option to allow for community submitted captions, which would allow you to then caption the video yourself. If it is a DVD, first check to see if the DVD is captioned (most already are). If the DVD is not captioned, contact the company and inquire about captioning. Sometimes, the company will have an alternative format they can make available.
Captions are not only beneficial to students with hearing impairments. Students may use video captions if they are watching the video in a quiet space, such as a library, that would prohibit them from listening to the video’s audio out loud. Students without hearing impairments could prefer to use captions while watching videos for other learning purposes such as focus and better retention.
Oregon State University’s Ecampus Research Unit conducted a study in collaboration with 3Play Media on students’ caption use. The video below, “College Student Uses and Perceptions of Closed Captions and Transcripts,” provides a summary of the study’s findings.
College Student Uses and Perceptions of Closed Captions and Transcripts:
How to caption at VCU
Guide to Captioning at VCU by SAEO: https://saeo.vcu.edu/faculty/faculty-resources/videos-and-captioning/
VCU Web Standards in Captioning: https://webstandards.vcu.edu/requirements/captioning/
How to do captions in Kaltura: https://ts.vcu.edu/askit/teaching-and-learning/kaltura/captioning-in-kaltura/
[View Image]Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay
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