Instructional Accessibility @ Pitt

Teaching in the Information Age generates and makes use of a great deal of digital content, including, but not limited to: Word documents; PDF files; PowerPoint slides; audio and video recordings; and web pages. Students with disabilities may have difficulty using such materials. This website offers recommendations and resources to help you evaluate and improve the accessibility of your course materials in order to better serve the vibrant and diverse community at Pitt.

Universal Design for Learning

David Rose, of Harvard and the Center for Applied Special Technology, developed the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, by relating the concept of Universal Design to the design of instructional materials and drawing on research in the learning sciences.

Who Benefits?

The recommendations and resources will help you to create instructional materials that are accessible, “to the greatest extent possible,” to all Pitt students. This includes students with varying degrees of visual and hearing impairment, as well as students with conditions such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and seizure disorders. It can also include stroke and accident victims and students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.

Because college students are not required to disclose disabilities, instructors may not have an accurate awareness of their students’ needs. At Pitt, about 2% of students on the main campus are registered with the University’s Disability Resources and Services. A much larger percentage may be inferred, however, from a recent national survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in which 11% of students who responded reported having a disability.

In addition to students with disabilities, there are other groups who will benefit from learning with accessible instructional materials. For example, international students for whom English is a second language may appreciate having instructional content presented in more than one way. Online students rely a great deal on textual instructions written by their professors. The clarity and thoroughness advocated by the UDL framework will help these students understand the expectations required of them to achieve the course learning objectives. Finally, students today use a range of computing devices and operating systems to access course content. Applying the UDL guidelines will help ensure that web-based course content is accessible to a variety of desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.