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Canvas Accessibility Project Continues to Support Inclusive Teaching and Learning

The value of my education has tripled simply because I have access to learning at the same pace as my peers.”

Zainab Maghrabi,
graduate student, Northwestern School of Professional Studies

The number of Northwestern students registered with AccessibleNU has risen more than 10 percent each of the last seven years, and 90 percent of registered students report non-apparent disabilities such as ADHD, dyslexia, and mental health-related disabilities. These students include a cross-section of the Northwestern student population in all our schools and colleges. So, without question, accessibility is a critical concern. The rise in the number of students seeking accessibility support coincides with the growth in digital components of teaching and learning, making digital accessibility one of education’s most critical components today.

To engage the University community on this vital topic, Northwestern IT, AccessibleNU, and the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance partnered earlier this year to launch the Canvas Accessibility Project and the Mission: Accessible challenge. To guide and support instructors who need assistance bringing their learning materials and course sites into compliance with Northwestern’s digital accessibility policy, the project team worked directly with faculty to address and incorporate seven core skills into their course sites.

Mission: Accessible logoMission Accepted

Instructors representing nearly 50 courses have completed the challenge and are now prominently featured on the Mission: Accessible Wall of Fame on the University’s accessibility website. The instructors also received a statement to include in their course description to let students know their course content is designed with accessibility in mind. The team will continue to work with instructors and identify courses throughout the summer that meet accessibility standards in all seven areas.

A Focus on the Future of Digital Accessibility

As third-year Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences student Kyle Sullivan shared during a student panel on student learning engagement at this year’s TEACHx symposium, “Digital resources will be indefinitely linked to education to allow students to learn in a way that works best for them.”

The Mission: Accessible challenge will continue into the Fall Quarter. Along with guided support for the challenge, Northwestern IT’s Teaching and Learning Technologies team also offers instructors the opportunity to engage with workshops and consultations to help build and maintain course sites that meet digital accessibility standards.

Ultimately, the teams’ goal is to ensure Northwestern equips instructors with the tools and knowledge they need to develop course content in the University’s learning management system that meets the needs of the entire student population.

"The difference today is that access to information creates a much more enriching learning experience for me, my peers, and, hopefully, my professors,” said Zainab Maghrabi, a graduate student in Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies. “The value of my education has tripled simply because I have access to learning at the same pace as my peers."

If you are a faculty member seeking assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the Northwestern IT Teaching and Learning Technologies team at Digital accessibility remains a shared responsibility across the campus community. Together, we can advance this effort to improve the experience of all Northwestern students.