Accessibility vs. accommodation vs. modification

The goal is not to modify the curriculum but to maintain the standards and rigor through an accessible curriculum. It is essential that all students can reliably demonstrate your course learning outcomes to achieve a passing grade.

Students in the Library Remember, changing a course to ensure it is accessible does not require the instructor to reduce its rigor or place the integrity of the course or credential in jeopardy. The goal is not to modify the curriculum to reduce the requirements, but to maintain the learning goals and allow more flexible methods for learning and achieving those goals. There may be times when an accessible course will require accommodations for a student with a disability (eg. longer test times), but an accessible course design improves the learning opportunity for all students and significantly reduces the need for accommodation.

For example, if you are using videos in your course, those videos may require captioning depending on the needs of the students (eg. a student who is hard of hearing or deaf). What research has found is that captioning not only benefits students who have hearing disabilities, but also assists students whose first language is not English, those who may have processing difficulties, or those who may be watching the video in a noisy area such as a bus, cafe or cafeteria where hearing it may be difficult.

Accommodation refers to changes made to the course after the course has been set to enable a student who has a disability to gain access to the learning. For example, a sign language interpreter may be required, large print books or materials, longer testing times, a note taker, specialized computer equipment, chairs or other tools. The course learning outcomes remain the same, but accessing the materials may have to be altered depending on the student's disability. The more accessible we make a course, the less accommodation is required.

Modification refers to changes to the course outcomes and, therefore, to the learning and assessment that is done. For example, at Durham College, modified curricula has enabled students with intellectual disabilities to attend post-secondary and take classes through the Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) program. With a modified curriculum, students receive a specialized certificate from the program upon completion.


Meghan Houghton, Director of Learning and Disability Services, discusses accommodations versus modifications (1 minute). 



Academic Freedom and Accessibility

Using the principles of UDL in course design does not require that faculty members surrender academic freedom. Academic freedom is the acknowledgment that academics and colleges must be given the freedom to pursue and create knowledge and to bring that knowledge to students. The expertise of the faculty member provides students with opportunity to learn from the leaders in that field. Making that knowledge as accessible as possible helps to ensure that more students are able to learn and benefit from that expertise.


The Ontario Human Rights Code and Academic Freedom outlines the legal requirments of all faculty to create an accessible learning environment in which persons with disabilities can "access their environment and face the same duties and responsibilities as everyone else, with dignity and without impediment".[105]