Principles of Accessibility


Universal Instructional Design (UID) is a way of thinking about course design and teaching in such a way that materials are accessible to all students regardless of their abilities.

Four ways in which people with disabilities are challenged when seeking information include learning, seeing, hearing, and interacting.

  • For persons with cognition challenges: Icon of side on head showing the brain.
  • For persons with limited vision, there is an icon of an eye with diagonal lines over 1/2 of the eye to indicate vision impairment.
  • For persons with limited hearing: Icon of a front an ear with sound waves coming from the ear.
  • For persons with limited mobility: Icon with two fingers on a touch pad.

Memorial has the duty to provide course materials in formats that all students can easily use. For computer or online based materials we need to consider hearing, mobility, visual, and cognitive challenges. Providing accessible course content is not hard, it just requires a little planning.


For a deaf or hard of hearing student auditory information needs to be presented visually. This includes closed captioning for audio and video course components.


For a student with limited hand mobility, or limited fine motor control, consideration needs to be given for the amount of direct input required. Students with mobility challenges may need extra time to complete tasks. Often the students will use voice commands to operate the computer.


A visually challenged student may have low or no vision, or may be colour-blind. A low or no vision student will often have a screen reader which will read text from the screen. However, to help the screen reader and the student, we need to:

  • use clear headings,
  • provide detailed alt tags on graphics,
  • avoid using tables except for displaying data,
  • etc.

A low vision student may be able to use a screen magnifier. The magnifier limits the amount of content displayed at any time, thus it often takes more time for these learners to complete tasks.

A colour-blind student is challenged when content is differentiated by colour alone. Either avoid using colour to display content meaning or use colour with another feature, such as italics, font, clear headings, etc. (Using two or more features to display content may cause confusion for some learners.) Avoid using green, orange, and red as these colours are particularly challenging for colour-blind people.


This may be a learner with dyslexia, short-term memory loss, etc. Being consistent with layout throughout a website will help these learners. Also having content presented in a variety of formats will be a benefit.

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Hi. My name is Daph Crane and I am a Senior Instructional Designer.

When developing online courses we often get questions about the importance of creating a syllabus for the course. A syllabus or outline can be looked at as a road map for students to follow as they navigate their way through the course. It will help students organize themselves throughout the semester and reduce the number of administrative questions that are sent to course instructors.

The syllabus should contain a number of pieces of information. It should have a description of the course, including any prerequisites a student must have. The course objectives, also known as learning outcomes, or goals, will also be listed. Essentially the course objectives are statements or perhaps questions that detail what a student should know at the end of a chapter, module, unit, or course. They form the skeleton for the course content and course assessments. Any textbooks, equipment or special tools required to complete the course would be included in the syllabus.

A study schedule should also be included in the syllabus. There are a variety of ways of doing this, but the most common ones are organized by week or module. For example: Week 1, September 4 to 11, will cover Module 1, the course introduction. September 6th at 8pm Newfoundland time, is a synchronous class session. Students will be able to learn about the assessment structure of the course from the syllabus. This will include the number of assignments and tests, the time and due dates of each one and the grade weight of each test and assignment.

Rules regarding late assignments or missed exams would also be included. A code of conduct can be written into the syllabus to set guidelines around the type of interactions that can occur between all course members during synchronous and non-synchronous contributions to the course content.

Finally you will want to share your contact information with your students through the syllabus. You can have students contact you in a number of ways. You can use a combination of these options or use only one. Some forms of individual communication include MUN e-mail, synchronous audio sessions or the course mail within the online course.

I hope this gives you an idea of the structure and value of a course syllabus. If you have any questions we are willing to help.

Resource created by Daph C.