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Accessibility: Creating a Culture of Outreach: Everyone

This guide collects accessibility information for different campus stakeholders to enhance and develop accessibility outreach and culture on campus.

Why Accessibility Matters

Text states "Accessibility: Creating a Culture of Outreach" with an outstretched hand holding a diploma.

Higher Education Accessibility

For institutions to be compliant with the law, increasing their online footprint of course offerings, adopting flexible models or hybrid teaching, the accessibility of courses must be a priority.  Efforts to increase accessibility benefit not only those with permanent disabilities but also situational or temporary disabilities and those seeking supplementary study options.

Equitable Access

A focus on accessibility and universal design facilitates equitable access to learning and course materials.  The campus office or contact for disability services determines accommodations for students in accordance with the law.  

Left box shows on person tall enough to look over the wall, a shorter person that can't see over the wall, and the third person in a wheelchair can't see over the wall. The text reads: Inaccessible: Everyone receives the same support, regardless of need.  The middle box shows the first person able to see over a wall, the second person is given stairs to see over the wall, the third person in a wheelchair is given a ramp to see over the wall.  The text reads: Accommodation: Individuals given different support/accommodation to enable access.  The box on the right shows a taller person, shorter person, and person in a wheelchair all able to see because the wall has been replaced with a fence.  The text reads: Accessible: Everyone has access.                

        Graphic created by the University of Illinois Chicago, text edited by the University of Saint Francis.                                       Video: How Haben Girma Became Harvard Law's First Deafblind Graduate

Accessibility Beyond Disability

Making content accessible increases its value to everyone an have an impact far beyond a specific individual need or disability.

Universal Design seeks to maximize usability by the most people possible. Microsoft's inclusive design methodology embraces this idea and Microsoft's Inclusive 101 Toolkit offers a good explanation of these concepts

OPTIONAL GRAPHIC (click this link for an editable version in Canva to brand to your institution):

                Examples of accessibility beyond disability


Some examples where accessibility and universal design are beneficial to those without specific disabilities:

  • Learning environment conditions
    • Limited internet access
    • Noise
    • Distractions
    • Limited access to physical spaces
  • English as a Second Language
  • Addressing different learning modalities or styles
  • Study Aids
    • Searchable transcripts
    • Technical language spelling
    • Descriptive information
    • Ability to review content at a later time or in multiple formats
  • Emergency settings such as quarantines
  • Undiagnosed or undisclosed disabilities

The Law

Law scales surrounded by a wreath with the text, "Accessibility Law."

The Law

According to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, any electronic information or technology that we develop, purchase, maintain or use must provide equitable access and use for individuals with disabilities. The access and use must be comparable to that provided to individuals without disabilities.  To learn more visit the U. S. General Services Administration 508 website. 

Higher education institutions that receive federal funds are also required to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 requires that institutions "respond to the needs of students with disabilities to the same degree as other students," and "provide the auxiliary aids or services that are required to meet these needs, as long as this wouldn’t impose an undue burden" (see Essential Accessibility for more information). To learn more visit the Section 504 Website.

Failure to comply with Sections 504 and 508 may result in accessibility related lawsuits.  This is the case in the time of Covid-19 as well, with the pivot to increased online learning

Campus Accessibility Contacts

Telephone icon with the text, "Accessibility Contacts."

For more information on campus accessibility, get in touch with:


You can also visit our website for Disabilities Services: **INSERT URL

Copyright Notice

PALNI's Accessibility: Creating a Culture of Outreach LibGuide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. PALNI’s logos and branding template are not covered by this license, and all rights to such material are reserved.

Creative Commons License

Accessibility Task Force

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This guide was created by a task force of PALNI contributors.

Task Force Members:
Brent Graber | AMBS
Carla Harper | University of Indianapolis
Kelsey McLane | Goshen College 
Nathalie Rouamba | University of Saint Francis
Noah Brubaker| PALNI

Higher Education Commitment & Ethos

A small hand holding a heart with the word,"Commitment."

Higher Education Accessibility Policy Rationale

Higher education institutions strive to create an accessible and accommodating environment that is open to all learners.  To best serve students, most institutions rely on policies and procedures to address identified accessibility or accommodation issues with course materials or structure.  It is necessary for the institution as a whole to be familiar with, anticipate,  and, when necessary, adjust for accessibility and accommodation requirements.


Accessibility of Information and Communication Technology  

The University of Saint Francis strives to ensure that all people, including those with disabilities, have equal access to its educational services and content, including services and content made available through the use of information and communication technology (ICT). ICT refers to electronic resources used for instruction, information distribution, or communication. The University’s commitment to ICT accessibility aligns with federal and state law as well as the University’s Franciscan Values. Creating an accessible ICT environment is the responsibility of all University administrators, faculty, and staff. 

A student wishing to notify the University of an issue with information and communication technology accessibility should contact the Executive Director of Student Success.  The Executive Director will investigate any report and work with necessary university entities to evaluate how the level of accessibility can be addressed or improved.  A non-USF student with an information and communication technology accessibility issue or question should contact who will follow-up and respond as needed. 

Additionally, the Coordinator of Student Accessibility Services provides services and accommodations for students with disabilities in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  To learn how to request assistance, visit 

Resources for creating policies and ensuring campus-wide accessibility:

Key Concepts & Terminology

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Definition of Accessible

"Accessible" means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability. Although this might not result in identical ease of use compared to that of persons without disabilities, it still must ensure equal opportunity to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology and equal treatment in the use of such technology. (Office of Civil Rights in the Resolution agreement with South Carolina Technical College System, 2/18/13) 

Universal Design

Universal Design, or Inclusive Design, is the design and creation of environments both physical and digital that can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, physical stature, preferences, disability or ability. It should be a fundamental goal to design environments that meet the needs of all people. Incorporating the needs of all people results in spaces, products and service that are useful, beneficial and enjoyable for all. 

Developing your electronic materials using Universal Design principles is easy and simply, good design. To learn more review the Universal Design tab at the top of this page.


Click on the tabs to open the collapsible content.

  • *From the National Federation of the Blind
  • Accessible: Individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services within the same timeframe as individuals without disabilities, with substantially equivalent ease of use.
  • Alternative Text: A textual description of non-text content.
  • Assistive Technology: Adaptive hardware and/or software and other devices that are used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Examples include text-to-speech screen access software, screen magnification software, refreshable Braille display, tactile graphics, speech input software, head pointers, and wheelchairs.
  • Captions: A textual representation of sounds--usually associated with television programming or movies; captions are meant to display in real time and to capture speech sounds and sounds beyond speech in some cases.
  • Electronic and Information Technology (EIT): EIT includes information technology and any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of data or information. The term electronic and information technology includes, but is not limited to, the internet and intranet websites, content delivered in digital format, electronic books and electronic book reading systems, search engines and databases, learning management systems, classroom technology and multimedia, personal response systems (clickers), and office equipment such as classroom podiums, copiers, and fax machines. It also includes any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the automatic acquisition, creation, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information. This term includes telecommunications products (such as telephones), information kiosks, automated teller machines (ATMs), transaction machines, computers, ancillary equipment, software, firmware and similar procedures, services (including support services), and related resources.
  • Instructional Support Applications: A software application, whether used in a single course, by a department, by a college or by a school, or university-wide, that a college or university makes available to students, and which is designed and dedicated to the purpose of collecting or delivering course content or assignments, or assessing student performance. An instructional support application is peripheral to a learning management system and is not necessarily used alongside a learning management system. Instructional support applications are either "non-standalone" because they contain supplementary digital content provided (either directly or through third parties) by the publishers of texts and book-length course materials, or "standalone'' because they do not contain such content. Examples of instructional support applications include: Turnitin, LearnSmart, MyStatLab, Vista Higher Learning, Sapling, and WebAssign.
  • Learning Management System (LMS): A software application, whether used in a single course, by a department, by a college or by a school, or university-wide, that a college or university makes available to students and uses to plan, create, administer, document, track, report, deliver, and maintain electronic educational courses and course content and assess student performance, ncluding by enabling collaboration and communication among members of the class and between the class and instructor; by supporting the assessment of learning outcomes; and by supporting formative and summative feedback to students.
  • Screen Access Software: Software programs that convert the text on a computer screen into synthesized speech and/or Braille. Examples include JAWS (Job Access with Speech), NVDA (Nonvisual Desktop Access), and Window-Eyes.
  • Tactile Graphics: A text only version of what's said in a movie or television program; they are not real time and they generally are limited to speech only; they are not a recommended substitute for captions.
  • Transcript: Objects that use raised lines and surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs, and diagrams.
  • Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT): The VPAT provides a standard format for vendors to use in reporting on the accessibility of their products.
  • WCAG 2.0: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these, and some accommodation for learning disabilities and cognitive limitations; but will not address every user need for people with these disabilities. These guidelines address accessibility of web content on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. Following these guidelines will also often make Web content more usable to users in general.
  • Academic Success Center: located in the library, this is where students will meet with the Director to set up documentation and accommodations.
  • Letter of Accommodation (LoA): This letter is written by the director of Disability Services and will be handed out to the student. The student is responsible for delivering this letter to all professors before accommodations are required to be made.