1st Edition

Guide to Digital Accessibility Policies, Practices, and Professional Development

Edited By Rae Mancilla, Barbara A. Frey Copyright 2023
    354 Pages
    by Routledge

    354 Pages
    by Routledge

    The collective depth and tenure of experience of the authors in advancing accessibility practice is truly exceptional. In practical terms, the organization of the book makes clear the work to be done and the imperative for doing it. It is about understanding the context for accessibility and making change happen in policy, practice, and professional development. At QM, our position is straightforward. A course is not quality unless it is accessible for all. This book represents the many ways our community is walking that talk. -- from the Foreword by Deb Adair, Executive Director of Quality Matters

    Approximately 8.5% of the general population of the United States has a disability affecting their computer and Internet use, which translates to over 28 million people in the U.S. alone whose disability impacts their access to digital content. Recent data indicates that around 19% of undergraduate students have a disability, yielding consequential implications for institutions of higher education. Regardless of disabilities or environmental constraints, educators have a legal and ethical responsibility to create online learning experiences that are accessible and usable by all learners.

    Addressed to higher education administrators, instructional designers, faculty developers, and faculty, this edited volume showcases the experiences and practices of Quality Matters institutions around the core tenets of digital accessibility, offering examples of policy, processes, practices, tools, and professional development. The contributors represent a carefully curated body of institution types and classifications to ensure that all readers can transfer concepts into the contexts of their respective institutions.

    The book situates the digital accessibility movement within the context of major federal legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilties Act of 1990. It traces the evolution of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for online course design and professional development based on the Quality Matters framework.

    Subsequent chapters describe the evolution of accessibility policy development as a driver of organizational culture, as well as a continuum of course design practices that can be implemented to proactively develop inclusive instructional materials.

    The Guide concludes by identifying a myriad of professional development formats for fostering accessibility knowledge and skill acquisition, including asynchronous workshops, micro credentials, and train-the-trainer models, sharing evaluation protocols that foster continuous improvement.

    Written for practitioners by practitioners, this book addresses vital compliance issues and maps a range of proven practices that will enrich the learning experience of all learners in digital environments.


    Deb Adair



    Part 1. Digital Accessibility Background and Historical Perspectives

    1. History of the Known. Digital Accessibility as an Issue of Social Justice in U.S. Education

    Cyndi Rowland


    2. Evolution of Quality Matters General Standard 8. Accessibility and Usability

    Brenda Boyd and Julie Porosky Hamlin


    3. Quality Matters Professional Development for Addressing Accessibility and Usability

    Cecelia A. Green, Claudia Sanchez Bustos, and Barbara A. Frey


    Part 2. Digital Accessibility Policy

    4. A Systems Approach to Change. Putting Inclusion and Accessibility into Practice

    Paul D. Miller, Michael A. Mills, and Stacy Ford


    5. Mixed-Methods Research to Support Development of a Campus-Wide Digital Accessibility Policy

    Cyndi Wiley, Kaitlyn Ouverson, and Brittni Wendling


    6. Development and Implementation of an Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Policy

    Angie Bedford-Jack


    7. A Case in Strategic Institutional Accessibility

    Racheal Brooks, Dekendrick Murray, Drew Johnson, and WC Gray


    8. Promoting Accessibility through the Revision of a Distance Education Policy

    Matthew McKenzie


    Part 3. Digital Accessibility Course Development Practices and Tools

    9. Designing Inclusive Formal and Informal Online Learning. What Do Instructors Need to Know?

    Sheryl Burgstahler


    10. Using a Pilot Study to Pivot Toward Digital Accessibility Practices

    Heather M. Nash, Jennifer K. Pedersen, and Heather R. Swanson


    11. Six Keys for Accessible Online Course Development

    Kristin Juhrs Kaylor


    12. Scenarios and Solutions. An Instructional Designer’s Perspective on Creating Accessible Courses

    Philip Chambers


    13. Digital Accessibility in Higher Education. Moving Practices from Ad Hoc to Intentional

    Tracy Medrano and Christine Fundell


    14. Maintaining the Momentum. Developing Accessibility Awareness

    Christine Baumgarthuber, Rebecca Taub, and Kris Nolte


    15. Technology Tools to Promote Digital Accessibility

    Heather Caprette


    Part 4. Digital Accessibility Professional Development

    16. One Size Does Not Fit All. Faculty Development for Digital Accessibility

    Laura Lohman


    17. Professional Development Strategies for Digital Accessibility Awareness

    Michelle E. Bartlett, Carrol L. Warren, and Suzanne Ehrlich


    18. Three Approaches to Teaching Accessibility and Universal Design

    Marc Thompson


    19. Using a Constructivist Approach to Bridge Digital Accessibility from Theory to Practice Across a University System

    Youxin Zhang and Jamie Sickel


    20. Accessibility as Conventional Practice. An Accessibility and Inclusive Design Professional Development Strategy

    Kristi O’Neil-Gonzalez and Lorna Gonzalez


    21. Designing Professional Development Courses for Digital Accessibility in Higher Education

    Heather Caprette


    22. Adapting Professional Development to Improve Accessibility in the Online Environment

    Katherine Profeta and Lucimara Mello


    23. The Case for Continuous Professional Development in Accessible Course Design

    Matthew Spindler and Kristina Wendricks


    List of Common Abbreviations

    Editors and Contributors



    Rae Mancilla, Ed.D., (she/her) is the Assistant Director of Online Learning for the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she leverages over a decade of curriculum development, instructional design, teaching, assessment, and project management expertise. She is also an active educator and researcher, instructing courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels. In addition, Rae serves as a Peer Reviewer and Research Colleague for Quality Matters and a bilingual Peer Evaluator for the Middle States Commission for Higher Education. Her research interests include the professional development of instructional designers, language learning and technology, digital accessibility, and program evaluation. Her scholarship has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal for Applied Instructional Design, Applied Linguistics, the American Journal of Distance Education, and Language, Learning, and Technology. Recent publications include the QM Digital Accessibility White Paper Series. Rae also reviews manuscripts for journals, including the American Journal of Distance Education, Applied Linguistics, and the International Journal of Applied Linguistics.

    Barbara A. Frey, D.Ed., (she/her) is an Assistant Professor with the School of Education at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an Instructional Design Consultant with the University of Pittsburgh. She is also an active Quality Matters Facilitator, Master Reviewer, and Research Colleague. Throughout her career, Barbara has collaborated with hundreds of faculty on the design and development of traditional, online, hybrid, and massive open online courses (MOOCs). Her work has resulted in award-winning programs including several Blackboard Catalyst Awards. She has served as a Peer Evaluator for the Middle States Commission for Higher Education. Barbara is co-author of the book Distinctive Distance Education Design: Models for Differentiated Instruction. In addition, she has published numerous book chapters and scholarly articles in the Journal of Applied Instructional Design, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, TechTrends, and the International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education. Most recently, she co-authored the QM Digital Accessibility White Paper Series.

    In this book, researchers and practitioners share a variety of ideas, examples, and strategies for addressing the problem of digital inaccessibility through institutional policy, course authoring practices, and professional development. The book excels at providing perspectives from education institutions of widely varying types and sizes. It can be an excellent resource for researchers seeking to advance the state of digital accessibility, or for anyone working to create a culture of accessibility at their own institutions."

    Terrill Thompson, Manager, IT Accessibility Team, UW-IT Accessible Technology Services, University of Washington

    "This guide, edited by Mancilla and Frey, is an essential and comprehensive resource for educators and professionals alike who wish to make informed choices on accessible digital course content. Each chapter, beginning with the first on the history of the digital accessibility movement, and ending with the final chapter which beautifully links social validity theory with professional development, offers timely and critical information that addresses today’s 21st century online learning environment. An excellent read and a must have!"

    T. Christa Guilbaud, Lecturer, Learning Design and Technology, UNC at Charlotte

    "While Guide to Digital Accessibility: Policies, Practices, and Professional Development was written by and for university practitioners and experts, the book will prove an essential resource for every educator. Filled with research-based suggestions and actionable advice, I predict that this book will become part of the standard toolkit of every new and experienced college teacher who cares about equity, access, and accessibility in their physical and digital classrooms."

    Joshua Kim, Director of Online Programs and Strategy, Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, Senior Scholar at CNDLS, Georgetown University

    "Quality Matters has long held accessibility as an indicator of quality. This book will help everyone involved in digital education find ways to continually improve the accessibility of their courses and inclusivity for students of all abilities. Guide to Digital Accessibility should be required reading for faculty, disability services personnel, teaching and learning staff, online and blended learning leaders, academic technologists, instructional designers, and all involved in making digital content accessible for learners."

    Shannon Riggs, Executive Director, Oregon State University Ecampus, QM Board Member, WCET Steering Committee Member, and author of Thrive Online: A New Approach to Building Expertise and Confidence as an Online Educator, Stylus

    "Looking for a single resource to inform your accessibility work? Guide to Digital Accessibility: Policies, Practices, and Professional Development is it! This go-to collection of writings shares insights and practices on a wide range of accessibility topics, from helpful primers on the subject to guidance for course design and professional development efforts. I found the guide to be a valuable reference book that I will return to time and again. A must-have resource!"

    Ann H. Taylor, Penn State University

    "This book serves as an important source of information about the doing of accessible online instructional practice, with many chapter authors highlighting perspectives from American universities and post-secondary spaces. The authors of these chapters achieve an impressive level of adaptable specificity while sharing information about digital programs, applications, and assignments, alongside course aims and instructional considerations. There is an also a noteworthy range of institutions represented in terms of geography, student population, and instructor experience."

    Mary F. Rice, University of New Mexico

    "This elegantly written and beautifully curated volume by Mancilla and Frey should be required reading for faculty, instructional designers, institutional leaders, and policy makers interested in ensuring that rich educational experiences are accessible to all. With chapters by an impressive array of experts in the field, this volume brings the reader from the early days of digital accessibility to the current moment, offering a thorough and engaging exploration of a critically important issue."

    Marie K. Norman, Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical and Translational Science, Director of the IDEA Lab

    "Mancilla and Frey have done a great service to higher education in collaborating with Quality Matters to create a digital accessibility guide. By framing digital accessibility as social justice issue and including institutional examples of policies and practices, they provide a roadmap for meeting quality standards and an overview of best practices. I would recommend this book highly to my colleagues, especially college and university-level administrators and executives, who are looking for a practical, comprehensive review of institutional policies and procedures in this area. It is an invaluable resource!"

    Elizabeth Ciabocchi, Vice President of the Online Learning Consortium, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Adelphi University