A Journey to Universal Accessibility Within eLearning Environments

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This presentation will discuss the journey at a small-scale higher education institution working towards accessibility of eLearning environments for all students regardless of their learning challenges. This session will share steps and strategies for how to evaluate and improve accessibility of eLearning environments, and grow accessibility awareness on campus.


Maya Pakhomova is a Senior Instructional Design Coordinator at Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) in the Academic Technology department. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Multimedia from the Philadelphia University of the Arts and a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Instructional Technology from the University of South Florida. Her duties at Pasco-Hernando State College include promoting and educating the faculty on the use of PHSC’s Learning Management System (Canvas), advocating instructional technology tools and methods, and facilitating on the effective use of authoring tools. She collaborates with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to design and develop high-quality online and hybrid courses. She designs, develops, and delivers workshops and training to faculty and staff in the use of instructional technologies and educational best practices. Maya also oversees student support services and collaborates with the college’s Student Activities Department to plan and coordinate the annual student technology conference, TechCon.

Extended Abstract

This presentation will discuss the journey at a small-scale higher education institution working towards accessibility of eLearning environments for all students regardless of their learning challenges. The recent proliferation of online course offerings and the growing demand for students opting to do online courses has raised focus on the issues of accessibility. Moreover, the recent release of the final rule by the U.S. Access Board approving the Section 508 ICT Refresh created an opportunity to organize an institution-wide initiative which promotes accessibility and inclusion of all students. The focus of this initiative is as follows:

  1. Evaluate the current state of accessibility within existing eLearning environments and educational materials,  
  2. Recommend updates and revisions to the environments and materials based on findings,
  3. Promote awareness to all stakeholders at the institution on accessibility standards and policies,
  4. Educate stakeholders at the institution about design principles and techniques,
  5. Design and produce new courses and materials with universal accessibility in mind.

Consecutively, the Vice President of Technology and Distance Education and the Associate Dean of Academic Technology organized a collaborative accessibility group that consisted of the webmaster, the instructional designer, the Director of Libraries, and the Coordinator of the Office of Disabilities Services. This group was tasked to develop an action plan to establish priorities within each respective areas.

This presentation will focus on the efforts that have been made at the college’s Academic Technology department with the team of instructional designers, the Associate Dean of Academic Technology, and the Academic Technology Technician. The presentation will share the process and activities, identified tasks, and the execution procedure details for the project plan. Also, this session will discuss how responsibilities were shared among the team members.


The presenter will discuss strategies that were pursued during the evaluation process of the existing eLearning environments and the educational materials. Instructure's Canvas is the Learning Management System (LMS) used at the institution and is the core learning platform for students. By selecting Canvas for the LMS, this institution ensured that its students have a user experience that is easy, simple, and intuitive. Instructure paid special attention to making Canvas accessible. In 2010 the National Federation of the Blind granted Canvas the Gold Level Web Certification. Canvas also complies with the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative and Section 508 guidelines.

Although PHSC’s learning management platform is certified accessible and compliant with section 508, the Academic Technology department was tasked to review the learning objects and learning materials that were created outside of the Canvas environment and used in Canvas. To accommodate this process, the accessibility rubric was created in Google Forms as a reference for instructional designers. In this session the presenter will showcase the rubric and explain the evaluation process as well as the resulting data from that process.

Accessibility Awareness

This presentation will discuss the steps that were taken to promote accessibility at the institution and to grow the awareness of accessibility issues. The presenter will address the ways in which the College accomplished this goal and will share specific examples of promoting accessibility:

  • The Academic Technology Newsletter introduced a section on accessibility to educate faculty and staff on (1) accessibility standards and policies, (2) the Section 508 ICT Refresh (3) principles of Universal Design for Learning, (4) institution’s policies and  (5) design practices to achieve universal usability.
  • EduTech, College’s annual conference for faculty and staff, offered sessions on best practices in creating educational materials with universal accessibility in mind.
  • The EduTech Series provided a course and an accompanying podcast to introduce faculty and staff to accessibility and to discuss various ways we address accessibility at the institution.
  • E-Certification for Online Teaching and Model Course Development course, 10-week synchronous training for faculty and staff, covers different topics of accessibility and Universal Design for Learning. Participants of this training have an opportunity to learn concepts related to Universal Design and apply them by creating various learning materials.    
  • In the Fall of 2017, the Recertification for Online Teaching and Model Course Development course will focus on online accessibility and universal design for learning principles. Throughout this course participants are introduced to tools and techniques to use in online and face-to-face courses to ensure accessibility of their courses.
  • Training attended by College’s instructional design team included various webinars on accessibility, an open course from SUNY Empire State College and SUNY Buffalo State College titled Accessibility: Designing and Teaching Courses for All Learners, and other trainings throughout the years.

Course Development

This presentation will address the College’s online course development process, which ensures that new Model courses and materials are developed with the goal of providing accessible education for all students. The presenters will discuss the tools and services the institution is using to create accessible content. The use of library’s video repositories with accessible resources including videos with closed captioning will be explored.


Presentation attendees will leave with strategies on how to evaluate accessibility of eLearning environments and various educational materials. They will be able to explore and discuss how they can modify and adapt these evaluation strategies to work for their institutions. The presenter will showcase practical examples of how the College promotes its’ awareness initiative. Finally, the presenter will provide a list of helpful resources and tools on accessibility to share with their team.