Accessibility that Supports Literacy: Virtual School Course Design Teams’ Instructional Planning for Students with Disabilities

Mary Frances Rice


As more students with disabilities in K-12 settings enroll in online courses, virtual schools and programs are working make courses accessible through stronger course design. When course designers approach the issue of accessibility, they must comply with legal requirements and mitigate the challenges many students with disabilities face for literacy and learning. These challenges include less well-developed content vocabulary and background knowledge, as well as inefficient skills and strategies for engaging with and comprehending online text. This study describes phenomenological research where course designers worked to meet accessibility standards and promote literacies online for all students, especially students with disabilities. Four strategies for promoting accessibility emerged as findings: (1) composing clear articulations of learning outcomes; (2) promoting personalized and contextualized learning, and; (3) planning for visual and audio representation of concepts. However, course designers may need additional support for addressing the interplay between literacies that promote access and accessibility features that promote literacies. 


K12 online course design, collaborative online course design, instructional design for students with disabilities, course design literacies, accessibility in online courses

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