Associations Between Accessibility Knowledge, Practices, And Support In U.S. Online Higher Distance Education: An Exploratory Factor Analysis


December 2021

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Online distance education is one of the fastest-growing sectors of postsecondary enrollments. As more students take advantage of these opportunities, online course content has increasingly been found to be inaccessible to students with disabilities. As accessibility case law quickly changes the expectations for online course content, postsecondary institutions are struggling to shift to a proactive and systemic approach to accessible design practices. This study used a descriptive quantitative survey methodology to explore the characteristics of institutions and individuals who are responsible for implementing accessibility within online higher education courses. Using a nonprobability, volunteer convenience sample, this study included 62 U.S. higher education professionals who had a job role in which they were responsible for using, creating, reviewing, or enforcing the use of accessible content in online courses. An adapted survey instrument consisting of 41 questions solicited information about course designers and institutions in two areas. First, data was collected about the characteristics and relevant demographic data for designers and their institutions. Second, information regarding the accessibility practices for each was gathered through 29 Likert-scale questions. Overall, the findings indicate growth in the implementation of accessible course design practices. While there are still barriers to accessibility, many are reporting fewer limitations and more resources. The results from exploratory factor analysis revealed the presence of two distinct factor structures focused on institutional accessibility support and accessibility compliance support. Although no models or inferences can be made from these associations, they do suggest that institutional accessibility practices may have a key role in accessible online course design. Based on the results of this study and related research, five institutional recommendations to improve institutional accessibility practices were made.



Education, Higher, Education, Technology