Designing Accessible Online Courses

Broadly speaking, Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 collectively prohibit organizations that receive federal financial assistance to discriminate against people with disabilities. That includes requiring that all online materials are accessible to all.  In addition to making accommodations for students with disabilities (i.e., extended time on a test) UMass Lowell is required to adhere to accessible design standards. We refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) in ensuring materials are accessible.

As a UML online instructor, you should do your due diligence to develop ADA-compliant courses. Design of an accessible course involves considerations related to IT, accessibility, and pedagogy. The Blackboard software is at WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance, and so you should use Blackboard and supported UML platforms, like Echo360 and Zoom, for your online courses. In addition, there are some simple steps you can take to create accessible online course materials that are for all of your students.

GPS staff will provide training and assist you with these efforts. New online courses are reviewed by GPS for ADA compliance. Please contact if you require assistance. The UML Disability Services Office handles all accommodation requests. You may hear from them and need to access the Accommodate platform to receive and sign off on accommodation requests.



  • All audio files must have a transcript available for students to download (this includes audio that you’ve created and external podcasts)

Documents and Blank Pages in Blackboard


  • All non-text content presented to the user must have a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose. This may include ALT tags or image descriptions entered in all documents and Blackboard pages for all images, charts, graphs, and visuals.

Web Links

  • The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone or from the link text together with its programmatically determined link context. Use descriptive language for your links instead of “Click here”. Do not use a long URL only for a link description.

3rd-Party Apps

  • If you are using publisher resources or an external software application that UML does not license, then it must be ADA compliant. Please contact for a review of 3rd-party apps you plan to use in your course.

Live Sessions

Predictable Navigation

  • Course navigation should be consistent and predictable. Blackboard provides an accessible platform (WCAG Level, AA), so using their built-in tools and navigation will go a long way in developing an accessible course. Additionally, GPS strives to maintain a consistent experience