Faculty Resources

Universal Design

Designing accessible learning environments is essential for ensuring inclusive and equitable academic experiences for all students. Doing so requires proactively planning for the needs of as many diverse learners as possible, not just those of the "average" learner. 

The Faculty Room at the University of Washington offers many resources for applying the Universal Design framework in higher education.

Accessible Course Planning

Providing accessible content from the beginning means that no diverse learner will be denied access or experience delayed access while your materials are remediated after the fact. Consider the following: 

  • Start with the syllabus! Equal Access: Universal Design of Your Syllabus
  • Plan early and choose materials that are already available in accessible formats whenever possible (e.g., digital/ePUB, Word, accessible PDF). Such formats benefit auditory learners and students with disabilities who use text-to-speech software.
  • Select videos with captions and audio descriptions. 
  • Create accessible new Microsoft Office content (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Excel) using Microsoft 365 resources.
  • Check previously developed Microsoft Office content using the Microsoft Accessibility Checker. If needed, make necessary edits using the checker, SensusAccess, and/or Adobe Acrobat Pro.
  • Contact SAS for consultation, resources, and questions.

Syllabus Statement

Include a statement in your syllabus inviting students to discuss academic needs with you. See sample statement below:

  • Access and Accommodations: Rhodes College is committed to creating inclusive, equitable, and accessible learning environments for all students. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning in this course, please feel welcome to discuss your concerns with me. If you have a disability, or think you may have a disability, you can work with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to request academic accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, SAS, and your faculty. For more information about the SAS accommodation request process and resources, contact SAS@rhodes.edu, call 901-843-3815, or visit Burrow Hall 4th floor. If you have already been approved for accommodations through SAS, please share your course accessibility letter with me as soon as possible so we can develop an implementation plan together.

Regarding the timely submission of SAS course accessibility letters:

  • SAS advises students to share their course accessibility letters and meet with faculty as soon as possible at the beginning of the semester, or after being approved during the semester. Detailed student instructions are provided at the end of each course accessibility letter.
  • Accommodations are not retroactive. When students are uncertain of their need for an accommodation, SAS advises students that it is much better to have the accommodation in place than to rush at the last minute and/or to not have it should the need arise. Faculty are not responsible for providing accommodations prior to the receipt of a course accessibility letter. 

Additional Resources

Additional information on accessibility best practices and SAS processes is available on the FacStaff Public Information Student Life Box Folder. Some examples include: 

  • Academic Access & Inclusion at Rhodes
  • Glossary of Accommodations & Disability-Related Terms
  • Rhodes SAS 101
  • SAS FAQs
  • Testing Room Procedures