Accessibility & UDL Fails: Group Counseling and Tips for Next Time

Concurrent Session 9
Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

At some point in our past, we've all executed a brilliant learning design only to realize later that we neglected accessibility. Join us for group counseling and practical advice for how to implement universal design moving forward.


John Stewart is the Assistant Director of Digital Learning for the OU Center for Teaching Excellence. John is interested in developing learning environments to promote digital literacy and opportunities for undergraduate research. Before joining the center, John lectured on history of science at the University of Oklahoma and Missouri University of Science and Technology. He earned his Ph.D. in the History of Science from the University of Oklahoma.
Keegan Long-Wheeler is an educational technologist in the Office of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma. Keegan uses his background in science, pedagogy, and technology to provide instructors with holistic solutions to their instructional and technological needs. Additionally, Keegan passionately creates open source professional development curriculum to engage faculty in digital literacy, experiential learning, game design, coding, and more! In particular, Keegan loves working with Domain of One's Own projects and his open professional development programs: GOBLIN, eXperience Play, WebFest, Canvas Camp, and more!
Kate Sonka is the Executive Director of Teach Access and the Assistant Director of Inclusion & Academic Technology at the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. She holds a Master’s degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Education and more than 10 years of experience in higher ed. She improves teaching and learning with technology through course design and support, experiential learning, and training and mentorship for faculty members and students. In exploring how accessibility exists in professional and academic spaces, she helped establish the Teach Access Study Away Silicon Valley program, implement the Teach Access Faculty Curriculum Development Grant program, and founded the Accessible Learning Conference at Michigan State University.
Sarah is an Instructional Designer at the University of Oklahoma. As an Instructional Designer, Sarah consults with faculty on course design and content development. She believes interactive learning experiences facilitate personal, professional and academic growth. After graduating from Southern Illinois University - Carbondale with a M.S.Ed. in Educational Psychology, Sarah worked as a therapist at private and public educational institutions. Early in her career as a therapist, Sarah realized her true passion was in positively impacting others through their educational experiences. In 2017, Sarah joined the Office of Digital Learning and is excited to facilitate growth and development in others by having a creative role in their educational experiences.

Extended Abstract

A few years ago, our office built a ‘lightboard’ ( and began using it in our course videos. Instructors can write out formulas or draw diagrams on this glass whiteboard, which is placed in between the individual and the camera. This allows instructors to write like they normally would on a traditional chalkboard will facing the audience to engage them. In other words, both the teacher and content are presented for a digital audience in a readable format. Although, this technology can add a dynamic element to video, we didn’t consider the experience of students with visual impairments. While we do provide closed captioning and transcripts for video, we did not think to add a descriptive audio layer to narrate the instructor’s diagrams, charts, and formulae.      

In designing courses, we all produce or handle text documents, images, audio, video, learning management modules, websites, and any number of other types of media. We are offering this “Conversations” session as a sort of group counseling for participants to share their stories about building inaccessible course materials. Whether it’s a lack of financial support, lack of buy-in from stakeholders, or implementing new technology, we have all experienced challenges in ensuring the accessibility of our course materials. We encourage you to share your story and also share what you learned from that experience.

This session will address:

  • technical “how-to” questions around improving the accessibility of various file formats

  • the costs and potential sources for funding for improving accessibility

  • training for faculty, staff, and students to promote cultural buy-in for accessibility and Universal Design

The presenters will share a website featuring resources for improving accessibility and adopting Universal Design as an artifact of the presentation. We will also build a form into the website, with which we hope to collect more resources from session and conference participants.