5 Accessibility and Inclusive Teaching

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. [1]The University values disability as an important aspect of diversity and is committed to providing equitable learning opportunities for all students. Postsecondary institutions must provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and must strive to make the digital learning environment accessible and inclusive from the start. Just as we must build buildings that are accessible to all people using them, we must build courses and materials that are accessible. Accessible and inclusive teaching benefits all learners and is crucial for ensuring that all students can contribute and engage in the learning process.

University Policies

The University’s Accessibility of Information Technology Policy specifies that accessibility must be a part of the design and development, procurement, implementation and use of information technology and related resources. In addition, the Policy on Disability Services provides high-level guidance regarding the University’s commitment to the development of curricula and educational materials, physical spaces, and products and services to meet the needs of all students, faculty, and staff, “consistent with the concepts of universal design.”

Course Design and Teaching Practices

While accessible and inclusive design and teaching practices are woven throughout the Guidelines for Online Teaching and Design, here are a few practices to ground your design and teaching:

Course Design and Course Site

Media and Materials

  • Choose media that is accurately captioned. If media is not already captioned, use tools like Kaltura to add and edit captions
  • Choose textbooks and course materials that are available in multiple formats (digital and hard copy when possible)
  • When using electronic documents, like articles or manuscripts, use original scans when possible as opposed to photocopies or images, which are much less accessible to screen readers and text-to-speech programs

Class Sessions and Student Meetings

  • Let students know when and how to reach you and how to access and use online office hours. Include this information in your syllabus.
  • When using Zoom, enable the auto-transcript and auto captions at the beginning of all Zoom sessions.
  • When possible, post recordings of your lectures to your course website for asynchronous review.
  • Provide students clear information about participation methods for class, including how chat will be used, methods for asking questions, participating, and/or making comments. Provide clear information about how participation will be assessed for synchronous sessions.
  • Seek weekly volunteers to take notes for class to post to the course site or create weekly shared documents for students to collectively take notes together for asynchronous review and studying.

For additional inclusive teaching practices, see Part IV – Establishing a Respectful and Inclusive Learning Environment.


Regardless of how accessible and inclusive our courses are designed, individual accommodations may be needed to ensure that all students have equitable access. If you receive an accommodation letter for a student in your course and you have any questions, please reach out to the Disability Resource Center (DRC) Access Consultant who signed the letter.

Some examples of frequent accommodation requests are:

  • Additional time needed to complete exams
  • Document conversion (to another format, usually digital)
  • Transcription or real-time captioning

You can work with college-specific or central academic technology staff to determine how to make these adjustments or add these resources in your course site.


  1. UDL in Higher Ed. http://udloncampus.cast.org/page/udl_about
  2. Teaching with Access and Inclusion, University of Minnesota
  3. The University of Washington – DO-IT: 20 Tips For Teaching An Accessible Online Course
  4. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s resource guide on How To Make Your Teaching More Inclusive

  1. UDL in Higher Ed. http://udloncampus.cast.org/page/udl_about


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Guidelines for Online Teaching and Design Copyright © by TeachingSupport@UMN.edu and Faculty Development for Online Teaching task group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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