Fostering an Inclusive and Accessible Environment

Design for Diversity

Students are a diverse group of people with diverse needs. The more that your course design considers and welcomes this diversity, the more that students from diverse cultures, abilities, backgrounds, and identities will benefit.

Some general tips for creating a welcoming environment:

  • Consider Changing the Script on Accessibility  , which highlights that access is not just a personal problem, but a social one.
  • Remind students of your presence (i.e., through short captioned videos, encouraging and welcoming announcements, regular email, remaining present in discussion forums, blog comments)
  • Be explicit when welcoming all students and identifying services that are available to help them succeed
  • Encourage students to go into your course site early to ensure they know where everything is and whether the technology is working for them.  You can create scavenger hunts or mini-quizzes to help motivate students to explore the different resources
  • Include a land acknowledgement   at the beginning of the class or as part of key activities
  • Use the Inclusive Practices Toolkit   from the Association of College and University Educators for further suggestions and resources for setting a welcoming tone and including diverse perspectives in your course

When posting materials and assessments online, consider how students will navigate through your course.  Keep the layout as consistent and simple as possible and ensure that expectations and instructions are clear and easy to find. Suggestions include:

  • Use the student preview to view the course as a student  
  • Don't over/under use folders/items
  • Consider workload for students; this Workload Estimator  , for example, can help you estimate the time required by different types of assignments
  • Offer a range of materials (i.e., text-based, audio, and video) so that students can approach material from different perspectives and formats

Accessible Content, Accommodations, and Blackboard Tools

When courses are designed and delivered with a focus on accessibility, more students from diverse identities and abilities are able to engage and participate meaningfully with the course content. Some accessibility requirements are also required by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The following resources can help you to ensure that your instructional materials meet AODA standards:

At the University of Windsor, Student Accessibility Services (SAS)   provides support and resources for both instructors and students to ensure diverse needs are appropriately accommodated. In the shift to online learning, there is the need to ensure that students with disabilities are still able to have equitable access. The following resources will help with a range of required accommodations: