Guide to Digital Accessibility to Provide Strategies for Accessibility in Online Learning

Industry: Education

New book will help online educators meet a growing need for best practices in inclusion by showcasing the perspectives and insights of dozens of instructional designers

Annapolis, MD (PRUnderground) May 2nd, 2023

Quality Matters (QM) and Stylus Publishing are pleased to announce the release of Guide to Digital Accessibility, a new volume that presents a variety of approaches to foster accessibility in online courses.

Guide to Digital Accessibility collects experiences and strategies on promoting accessibility from a number of professionals working in diverse contexts across the field of instructional design in online learning. The book’s aim is to support fellow practitioners in developing more accessible and inclusive courses. “Every employee at every institution can see themselves in some chapter of the book; it’s a comprehensive look at digital accessibility from viewpoints of administrators, faculty and staff,” said Michael A. Mills, Vice President for the Office of E-Learning, Innovation and Teaching Excellence for Montgomery College and author of one of the book’s 23 chapters.

Accessibility in the context of digital learning can be broadly defined as the element of course design that meets the needs of learners from diverse backgrounds, learning styles and abilities. This work impacts a large number of students in schools today. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, “In 2020–21, the number of students ages 3–21 who received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was 7.2 million, or 15 percent of all public school students.”

Digital learning presents a unique set of concerns with regard to accessibility. The viability of this modality was widely demonstrated during emergency “distance learning” in 2020-2021, but as the popularity of digital courses continues to rapidly grow as a result, the need to address accessibility becomes more urgent. “The COVID-19 pandemic revealed significant accessibility barriers for students with disabilities taking online courses,” said Dr. Rae Mancilla, who co-edited the book with Dr. Barbara A. Frey. “Some faculty lacked core knowledge and skills for making instructional materials accessible for all learners. As the online enrollment continues to grow, it is essential that courses be developed with accessibility in mind.”

Though many educators understand the critical importance of fulfilling these needs, it can be difficult to know how to begin or develop this work. This was a major reason for creating the Guide to Digital Accessibility. “As a designer and content developer, I’ve seen many in my field on the lookout for how to begin developing accessible content and maintain it, how to train others to keep accessibility in mind, or how to promote accessibility,” said Claudia Sanchez Bustos, Instructional Design Specialist for Quality Matters and co-author of one chapter. “This book can serve as their guide.”

Each author-practitioner contributed a full chapter about their work and insights into accessibility. These include “History of the Known: Digital Accessibility as an Issue of Social Justice in U.S. Education,” “Maintaining the Momentum: Developing Accessibility Awareness” and “A Systems Approach to Change: Putting Inclusion and Accessibility into Practice.” Frey and Mancilla grouped these chapters into four parts that compose the book: Digital Accessibility Background and Historical Perspectives, Digital Accessibility Policy, Digital Accessibility Course Development Practices and Tools, and Digital Accessibility Professional Development.

The book was co-published by two entities with a common educational focus. Quality Matters is an international leader for quality assurance in online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments, and the book’s authors are QM members. Stylus Publishing is a leader in publication for higher education, particularly in the fields of agriculture, business, economic development, education, electronic engineering, health, human rights, the natural sciences, and sustainability.

The Guide to Digital Accessibility is currently available on the Stylus Publishing website.

About Quality Matters

Grounded in research. Driven by best practices. A community that puts learners first. Quality Matters (QM) is the global organization leading quality assurance in online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments. It provides a scalable quality assurance system for online and blended learning used within and across organizations. When you see QM Certification Marks on courses or programs, it means they have met QM Course Design Standards or QM Program Review Criteria in a rigorous review process.

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