Framework for teaching accessibility


This framework presents a way to create more engaging, educational trainings and courses on accessibility. It leverages research on education theory to help non-teachers create effective course content, whether that course is 10 minutes long or a week long.


Learning Goal:

Sensory representationsTeach factsAllow reflectionApply learning
GoalTeach concrete facts with examples to build novice understandingProvide time to reflect, ask questions, discussUse exercises to move students to increasingly abstract applications of knowledge
•Graphics and images
•Time away (breaks)•Summary or next steps slide
•Draw or evaluate visual content
•Group discussion
•Question answer / discussion of abstract questions
Kinesthetic•Interactive demonstrations
•Guided exploration
•Self-guided exploration•Practical application
Reading/Writing•Additional reading
•Writing & submit questions
•Write a summary of what you learned•Write a lesson, essay, presentation
Content framework for Accessibility Course

Learning Checkpoint:

General Approach

  1. Write a learning goal…then use it
  2. Provide multiple paths to gain the knowledge that use different sensory representations
  3. Give time for reflection
  4. Move learners from concrete to abstract
  5. Check learning goal
  6. Re-enforce key points

Writing a learning goal…then use it

Learning goals help you create your course by narrowing down the focus. Learning goals should be specific and measurable.

Use your learning goal to:

  • Help create your course
  • Double check you’ve covered everything
  • Create a checkpoint at the end to ensure the goal was met

Below are some samples beginnings to your learning goals to get you started.

Students (attendees, participants, I…) will be able to:

  • Demonstrate…
  • Produce…
  • Explain…
  • Find…
  • Apply…

Note that if you are creating your own course of study, you can use this framework to guide your efforts.

Sensory Representations

You have likely heard of learning styles. If you have not, check out the first link in additional reading. This has been a popular way of thinking about learning for years but research shows that matching a learning style with a student does not improve learning. It is much more effective to make sure the materials you provide engage as many senses as possible. This flips learning styles on its head a bit, but research supports it. The sense a course material engages is called its sensory representation. Below are examples of each.

  • Visual: Learn by seeing
    • Presentations with graphics, charts, etc.
    • Whiteboard
    • Handouts
  • Auditory learners: Learn by hearing
    • Participate in lesson
    • Ask questions and have students answer
    • Group discussion
  • Kinesthetic learners: Learn by doing
    • Activities that involve movement
    • Physical interactions
  • Reading/writing learners: Learn by reading and writing
    • Read content
    • Write essays or summaries

When you design a course, its effective to use a variety of these types of materials. Fill in each box of the framework to ensure a more effective learning experience.

Give time for reflection

Build in time for students to think about what they’ve learned. These can be breaks where students stretch or snack, conversations that promote reflection, or an around the room question asking what a take away is. Be intentional about pacing your content.

Move learners from concrete to abstract

When you introduce a topic, provide concrete facts with examples. This helps novice learners grasp a topic. Over time, help them advance to more abstract concepts.

For example, if you are teaching how to write alternative text, start by explaining the alt tag. Then provide a number of examples starting with icons and moving to charts, art, and other images that can be interpreted. Give an exercise for students to try writing their own alt text. Finally discuss the results and give students a chance to reflect on what they learned. This movement from concrete to abstract helps the learning process.

Check Learning Goals

Provide a survey, assessment, or follow up question that allows you to check whether the student’s learned what you set out to teach.

Re-enforce Key Points

At the end, review the key points for the course. Consider giving students a handout or a link to the most important content.

Example: 15 minute intro to a11y

Learning Goal: Participant will be able to explain accessibility, why it is important, and at least one thing they can do to improve it

Teach factsAllow reflectionApply learning
VisualPresentation including a graph of disability population breakdownQuestion / answer sessionNext steps questions to consider in presentation
AuditoryShort video of someone using a screen readerQuestion/answer sessionTalk with a neighbor about the most actionable thing you can do to improve accessibility
KinestheticTabbing to the most important thing on a web pageUse the keyboard to navigate your organization’s website.
Reading/ WritingProvide presentation ahead of time.Write names of 2-3 people you know who benefit from accessibility.Email yourself a next step.

Learning Checkpoint: 2 question survey at completion and a follow up email

Additional Reading

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