Developing Accessible Learning Spaces

Accessibility is a vital component of every piece of a course. Regardless of background or ability, all students should have equal access to education. Accessible courses and course content require a little more planning and work upfront. The suggestions below can help you get started in making your course accessible, more inclusive, and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Preparing to Teach

As you develop your course, anticipate the diversity of students that may enroll and plan accordingly. Proactively consider and incorporate accessibility into your learning spaces, course materials, and communication practices to create an inclusive learning environment, free of barriers and reduce the need to make retroactive changes for accommodations. CELT’s Individual Action Plan Digital Accessibility: Online Course Design (PDF) may help you strategize accessible course creation and updates.

Consider course meeting locations, especially non-traditional spaces such as laboratories, off-site and field locations, and video conferencing environments. Do you foresee any issues with students accessing these meeting settings or spaces? (i.e., transportation, mobility concerns, access to interpreters and/or transcriptionists, technology requirements).

Implement constructive alignment (where students link new material to previous knowledge and experiences and extrapolate to future understanding) to explicitly link class teaching and learning activities to course assessment and evaluation, learning objectives, and learning outcomes.

Utilize Universal Design (UD) strategies to ensure inclusive learning and assessment opportunities. UD considers the unique profile of abilities, strengths, preferences, and experiences of students to guide educational practice, provide flexibility in the way information is presented and students are assessed, and reduce barriers to learning.

Develop a variety of opportunities for students to demonstrate their mastery of the course content. CELT’s Classroom Assessment Techniques provides a broad range of evaluation methods to consider. 

Participate in Quality Matters professional development opportunities. Quality Matters is a learner-centered course framework and faculty peer review process designed to certify the quality (including Accessibility and Usability) of online and blended courses.   

Table of Contents

Canvas Accessibility

The following strategies will assist you to ensure your Canvas course site is organized and accessible.   


Include the accessibility statement in your syllabus and share it with students throughout the semester (e.g., the first day of class, prior to exams, and project deadlines).

Encourage students who believe they require accommodations for a disability to communicate with Student Accessibility Services (SAS).  

Create an inclusive and learner-centered syllabus to foster an engaging and shared learning environment.

Canvas Accessibility Tools

Canvas and Iowa State University have a number of tools to assist you as you develop Canvas course content.

Learning Technology

Learning and teaching technologies present unique accessibility concerns for students. Select an ISU LMS Enterprise Team-approved tool to ensure that it has been vetted to meet accessibility standards.

Course Documents & Multimedia

Actively choose, design, develop and create documents and course media that is navigable, usable, and accessible by all users, including those with sensory disabilities and/or that use assistive technology. Iowa State University’s Office of Digital Accessibility provides resources and assistance for creating and sharing accessible documents as well as multimedia. Student Accessibility Services also offers assistive technology and devices, along with recommended learning technology.

Standards and Guidelines