Designing Accessibility

On this page you’ll find information on: 

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is the process of identifying, removing, and preventing barriers to an equitable experience for all users. In a teaching and learning context, we want to identify, remove and prevent barriers to an equitable student learning experience.

Why does accessibility matter?

Accessibility in teaching and learning creates educational experiences, including the materials, media, spaces, that are barrier-free for the widest range of users and the widest range of technology. By planning up front to prevent or remove barriers to learning, you avoid time consuming retrofits later, create a more positive learning environment for all, and get to explore creative design solutions.

What is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)?

The AODA outlines accessibility standards that impact organizations across Ontario, including Fleming College. Using the standards in the Act as a framework, Fleming College decides how to best meet or exceed those standards through accessibility planning.

What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a flexible curriculum design, development and delivery framework that supports faculty to create inclusive and accessible learning environments and think about the predictable ways that your learners will vary in how they learn. UDL supports you to plan options and supports for representing information, and for students expressing knowledge and engaging in tasks. By designing your course with many learners in mind, it reduces the need to make changes later and can improve learning for everyone.

Video Transcript_UDL_Higher_Ed.

UDL is not prescriptive but encourages the consideration of options that remove learning barriers and promote inclusion.

UDL has three principles: Provide multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of action and expression.

The UDL Guidelines are set up in columns (principles, left to right: engagement, representation, action & expression) and rows (top to bottom: access, build, internalize) with the goal of UDL (expert learners). Principle: Provide multiple means of engagement. Illustration of a brain with the center of the brain highlighted to show the affective networks: the “WHY” of learning. Guideline: Provide options for recruiting interest. Checkpoints: Optimize individual choice and autonomy, Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity, Minimize threats and distractions. Guideline: Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence. Checkpoints: Heighten salience of goals and objectives, Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge, Foster collaboration and community, Increase mastery-oriented feedback. Guideline: Provide options for self regulation. Checkpoints: Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation, Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies, Develop self-assessment and reflection. Principle: Provide multiple means of representation. Illustration of a brain with the back of the brain highlighted to show the recognition networks: the “WHAT” of learning. Guideline: Provide options for perception. Checkpoints: Offer ways of customizing the display of information, Offer alternatives for auditory information, Offer alternatives for visual information. Guideline: Provide options for language and symbols. Checkpoints: Clarify vocabulary and symbols, Clarify syntax and structure, Support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols, Promote understanding across languages, Illustrate through multiple media. Guideline: Provide options for comprehension. Checkpoints: Activate or supply background knowledge, Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships, Guide information processing and visualization, Maximize transfer and generalization. Principle: Provide multiple means of action & expression. Illustration of a brain with the front of the brain highlighted to show the strategic networks: the HOW of learning. Guideline: Provide options for physical action. Checkpoints: Vary the methods for response and navigation, Optimize access to tools and assistive technologies. Guideline: Provide options for expression and communication. Checkpoints: Use multiple media for communication, Use multiple tools for construction and composition, Build fluencies with graduated levels of support for practice and performance. Guideline: Provide options for executive functions. Checkpoints: Guide appropriate goal-setting, Support planning and strategy development, Facilitate managing information and resources, Enhance capacity for monitoring progress. The row of the UDL Guidelines includes: Provide options for recruiting interest (engagement), Provide options for perception (representation), and Provide options for physical action (action & expression). The “build” row of the UDL Guidelines includes: Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence (engagement), Provide options for language and symbols (representation), and Provide options for expression and communication (action & expression). The “internalize” row of the UDL Guidelines includes: Provide options for self regulation (engagement), Provide options for comprehension (representation), and Provide options for executive functions (action & expression). The goal of UDL is expert learners who are: purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-directed.

(Accessible version and source:

How can I get started using UDL?

You can get started using UDL by consulting the UDL guidelines when designing, selecting and reviewing the learning activities and materials in your course.

One useful way to use the UDL framework is to use the options under ‘Access’, ‘Build’ and ‘Internalize’ for each category shown above, as checks for your learning activities.

For example, under ‘Provide multiple means of engagement’, the first bullet states, “optimize individual choice and autonomy” and can be rephrased as “How can I/have I as a teacher optimize(d)individual choice and autonomy for my students?”

UDL Considerations for Course Design:

  • Designing course resources that are concise and explicit, and ensuring course expectations include:
    • Learning outcomes and learning goals
    • Learning plan with clear due dates
    • Course navigation instructions
    • Assignment outlines/instructions
    • Creating online learning environments that have clear layouts and include access to course content from multiple areas in the course
    • Including varied assessment methods, that include a variety of options for learners to demonstrate their knowledge.

UDL Considerations for Course Development:

  • Producing course content that:
    • Is provided in multiple ways
    • Is concise, explicit and accessible
    • Explains terms, symbols and/or acronyms
    • Engages students’ prior knowledge
    • Embeds links to learning materials throughout the course content to create easy access to information
    • Allows the completion of, at least some, course content at students’ pace and/or in their preferred order
  • Constructing assessments that:
    • Accurately evaluate the course learning outcomes and goals
    • Build on the new skills students acquire
    • Provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge
    • Have clear instructions offered in an inclusive and supportive way
    • Encourage independent student responsibilities.

UDL Considerations for Course Delivery:

  • Providing note-taking support
  • Including interactive learning activities in-class and/or online
  • Offering options for students to work individually, in pairs, or in groups
  • Encouraging communication between students and with faculty through a variety of means.
  • Evaluating knowledge by: 
      • Offering choices regarding how students submit, at least some, assignments
      • Proactively adding additional time to quizzes and tests, or not timing quizzes or tests
      • Prompting students regarding due dates and/or giving interim due dates for large assignments.

Internal Resources and Training


External Resources