Open Educational Resources: A Primer

Accessibility Definitions and Best Practices

Accessibility Conventions

Besides evaluating and considering the quality of OER materials, it is also important to adopt and develop Open Educational Materials that are accessible for learners with a wide range of abilities from diverse backgrounds.

The BC OpenCampus Accessibility Toolkit describes that an accessible text includes factors such as logical organization, tagged images, transcribed media, and more.  

Using Inclusive Language and Disability Etiquette

Using the right language will engage a broader audience. Don’t use language that a person with disability would find offensive. A Progressive's Style Guide explains the importance of combining language and inclusivity:

Language is a key ingredient in a winning theory of change. Language can build bridges and change minds. By acknowledging the ability of language to shape and reflect reality, progressive campaigns can become more powerful vehicles for social change, inclusion, and justice. In fact, understanding and applying the authentic language of the individuals and communities with whom we work can be a revolutionary act in itself. – A Progressive’s Style Guide, Sum of Us

The links below provide faculty with resources to help them address their students' needs.

What Is Universal Design?

Universal Design is the process of creating products (devices, environments, systems, and processes) that are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations (environments, conditions, and circumstances). Universal Design emerged from the slightly earlier concept of being barrier-free, the broader accessibility movement, and adaptive and assistive technology. 

Common definitions of Universal Design are described below.

Definition 1: Universal Design or Universal Instructional Design (UID)

an approach to teaching that consists of the proactive design and use of inclusive instructional and evaluation strategies. This approach provides academic access to a broad range of learners, including students with disabilities, while:

  • maintaining academic standards […]
  • reducing the need to having to retrofit after a course is already underway[1]

Definition 2: Universal Instructional Design (UID)

an approach to designing course instruction, materials and content to benefit people of all learning styles without adaptation or retrofitting. UID provides equal access to learning, not simply equal access to information. UID allows the student to control the method of accessing information while the instructor monitors the learning process and initiates any beneficial methods. …It should be noted that UID does not remove academic challenges; it removes barriers to access.[2]


Adapted from BC Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit, written by Amanda Coolidge, Sue Doner, and Tara Robertson, and licensed under a Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0 

OER Librarian

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Jennifer Jordan
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