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Designing a learning environment with the learner in mind is at the heart of accessibility. Accessibility in higher education centers on removing barriers that prevent learners from participating in educational opportunities and/or achieving learning outcomes. While accessible learning environments help all learners, they particularly help students with disabilities (SWDs), a population with additional barriers to accessing education. SWDs comprise close to 30% of the overall Purdue student population (SERU, 2023), and the number of students at Purdue requesting accommodations has increased (DRC Annual Report, 2022-23). Creating accessible learning environments supports students with and without accommodations and fosters enhanced learning for all students. When accessibility is interwoven into the design of a class, we create equal opportunities for learners to access and thrive in our classes.  

Practices that Support Accessible Learning Environments 

Incorporate flexibility in your courses: Purdue instructors have supported their learners through offering students with options and flexibility throughout the semester. Flexibility can be fostered in a variety of ways: 

  • Flexibility on due dates; for example, allow students to choose their due dates ahead of time so you’re not overwhelmed providing feedback at once. Create small check-in assignments to make this process easier for yourself, and helpful to students. Provide a clear and transparent schedule for the entire semester, so students know what to expect and can organize accordingly. 
  • Flexibility on assignment formats and structures, such as understanding that not all students will be able to present orally to the whole class, especially when not explicitly tied to a learning outcome for the course. Instead, consider providing options of different format types to students based on their interests and preferences. 
  • Invite feedback from students on the learning environment to understand what is helping their learning in the class, and what might be hindering their learning. This feedback allows instructors to adjust their teaching to meet the needs of students. Gathering student feedback can be done using an anonymous survey in Brightspace, conducting mid-semester student feedback from the Center for Instructional Excellence, or gathering feedback during class time using iClicker Cloud or another anonymous tool. 
  • Provide “life happens” tokens for students to revise assignments or drop a low score on an assignment without penalties. 
  • Offer the flexibility of how students access the course using a Hyflex format, such as on-site, virtual, and asynchronous access to the course and course material.  
  • Provide students with class slides, class notes, and course material through Brightspace. 

Use Brightspace effectively by providing all course materials in one place, such as slides, class notes, exams, syllabus, and include due dates so students can stay on track. For more information about preparing Brightspace for your class, please visit Innovative Learning’s Instructional Technology or reach out to Teaching & Learning Technologies at

Provide alternative format for materials, such as e-texts (accessible for screen readers), digital materials, video captioning, braille, raised-line graphics. If you would like to have materials remediated outside of accommodations, please contact the Usable Materials Center for assistance. 

Accessibility Support at Purdue 

Purdue offers instructors several resources for accessibility support, such as a Faculty Accessibility Consultant in the Center for Instructional Excellence, Disability Resource Center, Teaching & Learning Technologies- Accessibility support in Innovative Learning, Purdue Testing Services, and the Usable Materials Center. Please visit the Teaching at Purdue Student Accommodations page for more information. 

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