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OER 101: Accessibility

What does Accessible mean?

accessibility iconsAccessibility is the ability to access a learning resource by an individual with physical, sensory, cognitive or learning disabilities. Additionally, accessibility ensures that content is free from bias against gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. This allows the inclusion of all students in the learning process and evens the playing field by removing barriers to material.

OERs are unique because they define accessibility as both the removal of cost barriers and the need to present information in many forms, allowing learners to acquire, process, and express knowledge in multiple ways. Using accessible OERs enables all students to equally engage in the learning process.

The best way to integrate accessibility into OERs is to choose, use and create accessible learning resources.

Choosing and Using Accessible Resources

Be sure to select learning resources that can be accessed by learners in multiple ways. Some of the larger repositories, such as BC Campus, OER Commons, MERLOT, filter for accessibility. Besides filtering for accessibility, there are number of things to keep in mind when selecting resources:


Text and textbooks should be in form that is easily read by assistive technologies and use the simplest language necessary. Texts should use good semantic structure with clear headings and subheadings for proper access by screen readers.

All images should have a short descriptive text beneath them that is easily read with assistive technologies. Additionally, avoid using color alone to impart information and use adequate text size or text that can be enlarged. These steps will assist students with visual disabilities.

Videos should include captions or a transcript. Captioned videos assist people with hearing impairments, English as an additional language students, and students with sensory issues to engage with the material.

Any clickable interactive buttons should also be operable with a keyboard allowing those with mobility and visual issues or those using a different platform to engage with the learning resource.

When working on math, consider using MathML, an accessible math format to ensure that content is available to all.


Creating Accessible Resources

The time to consider accessibility is before and during the creation of learning objects, not after. It is much easier to build accessibility into a resource then to retrofit it in at a later date. This toolkit assists users in the process of integrating accessibility into a resource during creation. Use it during the creation process to ensure that a learning resource is meeting accessibility standards.

The University of British Columbia OER Accessibility Toolkit walks users through 8 steps, and provides the needed resources to create a truly open and accessible educational resource. Additional appendices and checklists allow the user to confirm the accessibility of an educational resource.

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