UAA commencement speaker signing in ASL

Katherine Irwin, UAA's first Deaf student commencement speaker, delivers her address, Dec. 2018.

UAA's Commitment

The University of Alaska is committed to ensuring that all of its students, regardless of challenges, may achieve their academic goals. It is the policy of University of Alaska Anchorage not to discriminate on the basis of disability, which makes accessibility integral to our educational mission. We recommend using the Universal Design approach below to develop accessible courses. These resources will help instructors design and teach accessible online, hybrid, and technology-enhanced courses.

Students who experience disabilities and need academic accommodations should reach out to the Disability Support Services (DSS) office. Faculty and staff who experience disabilities should work with Human Resources for support and accommodations.


Learn More About Accessibility


Key federal legislation related to accessibility includes the following:

  • The Rehabilitation Act passed in 1973 made it unlawful to discriminate against persons with disabilities in all federally assisted programs, services, and employment.

    Section 504 stipulates that "no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.”

    Section 508 is the 1998 amendment to the Rehabilitation Act that mandates that electronic and information technology supported by federal agencies must be accessible to people with disabilities.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is civil rights legislation signed in 1990 to prohibit discrimination based on a student’s disability. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 clarifies the definition of “disability” and broadens the number of individuals who are eligible for the protections of the ADA, including accommodations for temporary disabilities.


  • Disability:  A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

  • Accessibility:  All students can access, perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to web-based or technology-enhanced courses and materials.

  • Accommodation:  Necessary and appropriate modifications to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to course materials and functions.

  • Assistive Technology:  Any equipment that is used to enhance the functional capabilities of students with disabilities.

  • Universal Design:  Proactive design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

Overview: What Does This Mean for Instructors?

Accessibility is the process of removing barriers to learning. It includes: 

  • Textbooks and materials with electronic formats that let students use screen readers
  • Captioned videos so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing know what’s being said
  • Alt-text and descriptive captions so non-visual readers can learn from images
  • Clear document structures and written directions for students with processing differences
  • Websites that can be navigated with a keyboard, for those unable to use a computer mouse

Accessibility covers the default requirements to give everyone access. Accommodations help an individual use that access; they are typically added when someone is unable to access what most other people can.

Universal Design for Learning supports students with diverse learning styles, backgrounds, abilities, barriers, and motivators. To make your course more universally accessible, give learners various ways to:

  • Get motivated and engage with your course
  • Acquire information and knowledge
  • Show what they know (e.g., a choice of assignments or assessments)

Learn more about how to make your course accessible by exploring the guides in the Resources tab.

Standards and Guidelines

In alignment with UAA 2027 goals to put students first and create a culture of equity and inclusion, please incorporate current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines when designing and delivering all courses to meet the federal ADA requirements. 

UAA courses will be inclusive and user-friendly, developed and maintained using the principles of Universal Design. They will be developed to meet the Quality Matters Specific Standard 7.2 and General Standard 8 that together address accessibility. 

The University of Washington's DO-IT's Distance Learning page summarizes access challenges, universal design, and indicators of distance learning accessibility.

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

    Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

    The W3C, World Wide Web Consortium, develops internationally observed standards for web practices, including accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the principal guidelines that UAA must follow for web-based content, including course content.

  • Quality Matters Standards

    Quality Matters Standards

    UAA is a member of Quality Matters, which offers a process to improve and certify the design of online and blended courses.

    Standard 7.2 ensures that students can readily find accessibility resources within a course at UAA. General Standard 8 addresses a variety of accessibility-related facets of course design and content including navigation, ease of use, readability, accessible files and formats, accessible multimedia, and accessibility statements for all required technologies available to students. 

    UAA's Faculty Development and Instructional Support office addresses these topics regularly in our training and professional development efforts. A Quality Matters workshop will also give faculty an excellent overview of General Standard 8. Our office can provide any UAA faculty member with a complete set of the QM Standards to use in your course design and development efforts.

 Resources and Guides


Faculty Development & Instructional Support 
Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence, Academic Innovations & eLearning, and Center for Community Engagement and Learning 
Library 213 • (907) 786-4496  Mon – Fri, 8a – 5p