Maintaining Access and Inclusion When Innovating

Workshop Session 1

Brief Abstract

Innovations need to be available to all learners. Workshop participants will explore accessibility challenges and how to take action to benefit all students.


Kathleen is Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design at SUNY Empire State College. She provides leadership for the Curriculum and Instructional Design (CID) team. The CID team supports faculty in the development, design, and revision of all online courses within the curriculum (500 undergraduate courses taught in multiple sections, 5 terms per year) and supports instructor development and training of over 500 instructors. Her interests include online course completion, accessibility of online courses, metaliteracy, digital citizenship, and open educational resources.
Anne Lane is the Assistant Director for Learning Environments at Empire State College. She is a higher education professional with over 20 years of progressive experience in the areas of Information Technology Services, Advancement Services, and Prospect Management and Research specializing in application administration and management. At SUNY Empire State College, Anne is responsible for virtual and physical learning spaces, including the learning management system (LMS). She served as the technical lead and managed the successful large scale LMS conversion from ANGEL to Moodlerooms.

Extended Abstract

By participating in this workshop participants will:
- Recognize challenges faced by students with disabilities and educators' roles in reducing those barriers.
- Articulate the benefits of universal design for learning for all students.
- Locate appropriate resources, techniques, tools, and/or technologies for creating accessible learning opportunities

Whether we are exploring solutions to barriers of innovation, new pedagogical approaches such as adaptive or competency-based learning, structural changes, or workforce innovations that bring together industry and higher education - we have an obligation to ensure that we are accessible to all learners while being innovative. Our innovations in online and blended learning have the potential to reach learners whose access to higher education might otherwise be encumbered by time, place, and space. This access and completion opportunity is also key for many students with disabilities. According to American Community Survey, only 13.5% of those 21-64 years old with a disability have a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 32.1% of those without a disability (Erickson, Lee, & von Schrader, 2015). Unfortunately, the same tools and designs that we use to provide access to higher education for so many can act as a barrier to students with disabilities.

To build holistic strategies and thoughtful learning designs, faculty and staff need to be empowered to help expand access to education for an often forgotten, underserved population. The availability of accessible online courses for students with disabilities will help those students complete or begin degrees that they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to do. We must be prepared to understand the challenges that students with disabilities face, the ethical and legal obligations we must meet, the technical requirements for using any online learning space or tool, and the foundational learning and design methodologies that can help guide us through the process.

To meet this challenge, a team of educators from SUNY Empire State College and SUNY Buffalo State College developed a massive open online course as a professional development opportunity for anyone involved in higher education. The #AccessMOOC ran as a live, facilitated session February 22 - April 4, 2016 and is now available in an "on demand" format, with all content openly licensed ( The overall goals were to increase the knowledge base of faculty and staff around:
- the access, success, and completion challenges faced by students with disabilities, and our role in reducing those barriers;
- how to design learning experiences with accessibility in mind, using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles integrated with backward design methodology;
- and tools and techniques for creating accessible courses for all students, based on section 508 standards and WCAG 2.0 level AA guidelines.

This workshop is organized into three 25-minute segments to provide participants with hands-on experience with each of the MOOC goals. Each segment will include a short overview of the purpose and background information, followed by demonstrations, activities, and question/discussion opportunities for participants. The last 15 minutes will provide a wrap-up of what was learned and concluding thoughts from the presenters concerning innovation and access for all.

Reference: Erickson, W., Lee, C., von Schrader, S. (2015). Disability Statistics from the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute (EDI). Retrieved Nov 29, 2015 from