The University of Waterloo is committed to achieving barrier-free accessibility for persons with disabilities studying, visiting, and working at Waterloo. This page is devoted to connecting Waterloo instructors with practical resources for implementing accessible practices in teaching. Accessible course design, teaching practices, and learning resources can help you meet the needs of the greatest number of learners.
Why accessibility in teaching matters
|The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)||The Province of Ontario is the first province and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to enact specific legislation establishing a goal and time-frame for accessibility for government, businesses, non-profits, and public sector organizations, which includes the University of Waterloo.|
|Introduction to accessible education||
A resource developed by the Council of Ontario Universities that discusses:
|Disability defined||The Ontario Human Rights Code’s full definition of disability, which notes that “disability” covers a broad range and degree of conditions, including physical disabilities, mental and developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, and injury.|
|The five barriers to accessibility||Definitions and examples of the five barriers to accessibility from the Council of Ontario Universities.|
|Student experiences with disability||Videos from the Council of Ontario Universities featuring students discussing their individual experiences with mental illness at Ontario universities.|
|Policy 58: Accessibility||The principle policy for meeting the requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with a Disability Act (AODA) at Waterloo. Available from the Office of the Secretariat.|
|Policy 33: Ethical Behaviour||States that the University “has a responsibility to provide an environment free from harassment and discrimination” as required under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the occupational Health and Safety Act. Available from the Office of the Secretariat.|
|Guidelines for Managing Student Information||Establishes procedures for maintaining students’ confidentiality with respect to their personal information, including health information. Available from the Office of the Secretariat.|
Instructors' roles and responsibilities
|Roles and responsibilities at Waterloo [PDF]||A comprehensive, plain-language summary developed by the University of Waterloo’s AccessAbility Services of the roles and responsibilities of Waterloo students and instructors.|
|Accommodating students with disabilities||A fact sheet summarizing the roles and responsibilities for government, post-secondary institutions, and students with disabilities from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.|
Understanding assistive technologies
The following resources provide an introduction to assistive technology. Students use many types of assistive technologies, many of which are discussed in the first resource below. The final two resources focus on screen readers, a technology relevant to the creation of accessible teaching materials like PowerPoint slides and documents.
For more information about assistive technologies in use at Waterloo, contact AccessAbility Services.
|What is assistive technology?||A primer on assistive technologies commonly used in higher education and how they enable students to engage inside and outside the classroom. Created by the Association for Higher Education Access & Disability (AHEAD).|
|Screen reader demo: Digital accessibility||A short video demonstrating how users read a website or text with a common adaptive technology, a screen reader, from the University of California, San Francisco.|
|Screen reader demo: Accessible vs. inaccessible documents||A short video from Normandale Community College showing how screen readers read accessible and inaccessible documents, including headings, images, spaces between paragraphs, and hyperlinks.|
Accessible teaching materials
The resources below will help you create accessible teaching materials. Choose from step-by-step text instructions, short videos, or a brief Lynda.com course, as well as a tool to help you check the accessibility of any websites you create.
|Step-by-step instructions for PC users creating accessible materials in the current Microsoft Office suite including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Created by Microsoft.|
|Instructions for creating accessible materials for current and previous versions of the Microsoft Office suite and Adobe Acrobat on both PC and Mac. Developed by the Accessible Digital Office Document Project (ADOD).|
|Microsoft Office 2010 accessibility video tutorials||Three-minute video tutorials on creating accessible PowerPoint slides, Word documents, using an accessibility checker, and creating alt text, developed by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.|
|Lynda.com course: Creating accessible documents in Microsoft Office||A half-hour Lynda.com course showing you how to make accessible documents in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.|
|Captioning your own videos for free||A step-by-step guide to creating captions for video, from the University of Washington.|
|Website accessibility checker||A free tool for checking the accessibility of a website, from ATutor.|
Accessible teaching practices and course design
|AccessAbility Services accessibility tips||Specialized tips for teaching students with specific disabilities, created by Waterloo’s AccessAbility Services.|
|COU accessibility teaching tips||Accessibility teaching tips from the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) for creating accessible lectures, evaluating students and giving feedback, using PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, and PDFs, and teaching students with visual disabilities, deaf-blindness, physical disabilities, mental health disabilities, speech-related disabilities, and learning disabilities.|
|Accessible course planning||A guide for designing your courses with accessible education in mind, from the Council of Ontario Universities.|
|Room layout and instructional technology listing||A listing of campus buildings and rooms with information about instructional technology (e.g., podium/laptop availability, podium instructions, microphone availability, etc.) and images of classroom layouts in select rooms, from Information, Technology, and Media Services (ITMS).|
There are three frameworks that apply Universal Design principles to education: Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Universal Design of Instruction (UDI), and Universal Instructional Design (UID). Despite their differences, these frameworks have the common goal of designing inclusive and equitable education that considers all learners.
|Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines||A tool for implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL), covering three areas of learning: engagement (the “Why” of learning), representation (the “What” of learning), and action and expression (the “How” of learning), developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST).|
|Seven Principles of Universal Instructional Design (UID)||A wiki article developed by Brock University summarizing the seven principles of Universal Instructional Design (UID) as they apply to instructional materials and activities.|
|Universal Design of Instruction (UDI) Guidelines||An overview of the definition and principles of Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) as well as guidelines for implementation and examples of UDI in practice. Developed by the University of Washington.|
Provides academic support for University of Waterloo students who have both permanent and temporary disabilities, including full-time, part-time, graduate, and undergraduate students. Contact AccessAbility Services for further information about:
|Campus Wellness||Provides primary medical care and mental health services to University of Waterloo students. If you believe a student is in crisis or is in need of medical support, refer them here.|
|Centre for Extended Learning||
Supports the design, development, and delivery of accessible online credit and non-credit courses for the University of Waterloo.
|Centre for Teaching Excellence||Waterloo faculty and staff can consult with Christine Zaza, Faculty Liaison, on questions and issues related to universal design and accessibility in teaching.|
Offers a portal for accessibility on campus, including: links to resources and units responsible for campus accessibility, legislation, accessibility resources, and the University of Waterloo Accessibility Committee. Contact Human Resources for:
|Information Systems and Technology||Offers web accessibility consulting to instructors, faculty, researchers and staff as well as Skills for the Electronic Workplace (SEW) courses, including courses on creating accessible documents, accessible digital design, and accessible websites. Check the SEW site for current course offerings.|