Yale is committed to making information, programs and activities on its websites and web applications accessible to people with disabilities through its Web Accessibility Policy. The Policy, which took effect March 1, 2018, covers all websites and applications conducting university business, including course web sites and associated digital course materials.
The Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning is an advocate of inclusive teaching practices and strongly supports the University’s accessibility policy. We are happy to work with instructors to assess and improve the accessibility of course activities and digital resources.
What does “accessibility” mean?
An event, location, activity, or resource is accessible if all potential members of an audience can take full advantage of it without the need for special accommodations. For example: a building that can be entered only after climbing dozens of steps will not be as accessible as a building that includes an entry ramp. In the classroom setting, accessibility also reflects how well we communicate with and teach those students who may not be able to see us well, hear us clearly, read items we’ve provided, or click through complex websites. An accessible resource or activity presents as few obstacles as possible to the diversity of Yale learners: the greater the accessibility, the more likely that all students will have equitable opportunities for learning and growth.
Accessibility is closely related to the concept of usability. A building with a ramp may be accessible, but if that ramp is too steep, or is in an inconvenient location, the usability of the solution is limited. Likewise, your course syllabus, shared as a digital file in Canvas, may meet all accessibility guidelines yet still have limited usability. Can students easily understand what is expected of them at any point during the term? Is your Canvas site itself organized in such a way that students know exactly how and where to locate each week’s readings?
What characterizes an accessible course and accessible course materials?
An accessible course is designed with a diverse student body in mind. To increase both the accessibility and usability of your learning environments, imagine yourself to be a student in a wheelchair, a student with low vision or limited hearing, a student who cannot easily hold a book or take notes by hand, a student with dyslexia or an attention disorder, a student new to Yale, an older student, and so on.
- Will all potential students be able to benefit from the websites and digital files you use to share information, including those students who use screen readers (to listen to the site rather than look at it)?
- Will all potential students be able to participate in core class activities, regardless of their physical ability?
- Can students demonstrate their mastery of learning goals without confronting unnecessary obstacles that may, in fact, discriminate against some of them unfairly?
Creating an accessible course environment is essential to ensure that all students, including but not limited to those with disabilities, will have equal access to the learning activity. The goal is to provide learning environments that all students can thrive in without the need for special accommodations.
How does the Poorvu Center support accessibility?
The Poorvu Center, in partnership with Information Technology Services and the University Library, offers a range of services to help Yale instructors consider and improve the accessibility of their courses: