Accessibility Buy-In: Rubrics and Faculty Development Workshops

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Rubrics can be one of the most effective ways to provide support to help faculty make their courses more accessible.

image of human figures walking around a mobile device on a game board
Credit: elenabsl / © 2019

Faculty enter physical and virtual class spaces (including learning management systems) as content experts. The majority don't have backgrounds in classroom management, pedagogy, assessment, curriculum development, or accessibility. Institutions often provide training but do not always offer ongoing support. Yet ongoing support and faculty buy-in have consistently been proven to be crucial to sustained faculty growth, engagement, and motivation.

There are many dimensions to accessibility and universal design for learning (UDL) and many ways to become more proactive and inclusive in developing course content and delivery. As instructional technologists, we focus here on the benefits of rubrics and peer workshopping to promote universal design and garner buy-in across campus.

Creating an Accessibility Rubric

During the recent ID2ID mentoring program, we collaborated on the development of a rubric for enhancing accessibility efforts across course materials within an LMS. Specifically, we wanted to:

  • think across various user needs;
  • provide needed supports;
  • model and highlight current best practices;
  • create a structurally dynamic rubric; and
  • stretch beyond a once-and-done checklist.

Through months of research on the topics of accessibility, universal design, and existing standards, we decided on thematic areas to address and collaborated in Google Docs on making a rubric. Our rubric was influenced by the accessibility section (Standard 8) of the Quality Matters rubric (6th edition, QM for Higher Education), while adding criteria such as mobile accessibility and lockdown web browsers for assessments to construct a growth model for faculty. The addition of mobile accessibility aligns with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, as well as with our own observations regarding the pertinence of testing instructional technologies across phones and tablets.

To illustrate how our rubric works, we provide some examples here.

Mobile Accessible Criteria


  • Items have been considered in terms of how users might be trying to access/use content via a tablet or mobile device such as a smartphone.
  • If there are large differences in user experience, documentation or denotation occurs so user knows/anticipates that from onset.


  • Links are provided to user instructions and/or instructions on how to obtain apps or how-to/start guides for mobile or tablet formats.
  • All items in course can be navigated outside of desktop/laptop experience.

Resources, links for all users


Lockdown Browsers Criteria (for assessments)


There is at least one means of accessing and navigating through the assessment through the lockdown browser beyond sight alone (text-to-voice, assistive screen reader accessible, shortcut key navigation).


There are at least two means of accessing and navigating through the assessment through the lockdown browser beyond sight alone (text-to-voice, assistive screen reader accessible, shortcut key navigation).

Resources, links for all users

Do note that some of these areas are suggestions known to vary based upon individual institutional mandates, requirements, etc.

Our rubric has the following elements:

  • The Criteria row was influenced by the Quality Matters rubric and the experiences of the rubric's designers.
  • The Beginner row lists goals that meet some levels of accessibility. This column is intended for faculty who are just beginning to understand UDL and accessibility.
  • The Intermediate/Advanced row lists goals that meet most levels of accessibility. This column is intended for faculty who have foundational knowledge of UDL and accessibility but want to take their courses to the next level.
  • The Resources, links for all users row provides links to resources that further explain the criteria and provide faculty with additional ideas.

During the process, we knew that we would not be able to develop a rubric that is a perfect model for all institutions or situations. Rather, we wanted to think about rubrics differently as they relate to accessibility and universal design. Our rubric is a model of continuous improvement, with these general rules:

  • We do not tell those using the rubric whether they meet or exceed the standards.
  • We avoid what many of the currently existing accessibility checkers do, including:
    • assigning a percentage of completion,
    • providing minimal supports on how to make the necessary changes, and
    • risking gamifying the process.

As we designed this rubric, we gave thought to its future and possible growth as a resource. We acknowledge that:

  • the rubric at many institutions would be not a mandate but rather a voluntary resource for reflection;
  • technological changes and shifts could produce more categories and the need for more criteria to be added; and
  • this rubric can go with faculty into subsequent semesters and course development endeavors.

Only recently is the growth dimension making its way into rubrics such as the Open SUNY review. We encourage others who are developing accessibility and UDL rubrics to give some consideration to the growth model, as it not only promotes sustainability but also increases buy-in.

Faculty Development Beyond the Rubric

To move beyond the rubric and encourage faculty to take ownership of it at Gateway Technical College, Meg Hunter created a faculty development course to develop a plan for how they could incorporate the accessibility standards into their own work and explore accessibility issues. Over the course of eight weeks, faculty would create and execute a plan of their own design that focused on increasing accessibility in their courses in a supportive peer environment.

Hunter's plan exposes faculty to areas of most frequent use within a course (syllabus, slides). Faculty will also review best practices, educational literature, and examples. Faculty then take their drafts through accessibility checkers as they develop or refine their course materials with the mind-set our rubric supported. These efforts promote an environment of universal design for learners and continuous efforts in accessibility gains.

The Pathway Moving Forward

Whether one works in technical and community colleges, in four-year colleges and universities, or in postgraduate environments, there are both strengths and challenges to this type of work. The strength of inclusion and serving all learners should be the end goal, although the challenges of awareness gaps, institutional funding, staffing, and specialized training for faculty specifically in inclusive practices are real as well.

We hope that by sharing our rubric's general design, readers will sense how faculty buy-in can be secured with a little help from instructional technologists and designers through rubrics and workshop series for marked improvements and development.

This post is part of the 2019 ELI Key Issues series, which focuses on the top five teaching and learning issues as cited in the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative's recent community survey.

Meg Hunter is an instructional technologist at Gateway Technical College and served as a mentor in the 2018 ID2ID mentorship program.

Alison Diefenderfer is an instructional technologist at Muhlenberg College and participated as a mentee in the 2018 ID2ID mentorship program.

© 2019 Meg Hunter and Alison Diefenderfer. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0 International License.