Creating an Accessible Learning Environment

What is Accessible Learning Environment

Accessibility is fundamental to George Brown College's core values of excellence, accountability, diversity and respect. As a college, we are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone: employees, students and our community members. To learn more, please visit the below link:

More information on Accessible Learning

Creating Accessible Learning Environments

Create Accessible Content

If you are producing content that is accessible to students, it is important to keep in mind the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (a technical guide). The guidelines have been simplified by the National Center for Accessible Educational Materials (AEM), into the acronym POUR: perceivable, operable, understandable, robust.


Perceivable content will make it possible for all your learners to see and hear the information.


Operable content will help all your learners navigate the information independently using their preferred tools.


Understandable content will support your learners' understanding through a consistent and predictable design.


Robust content will work for your learners on a range of current and future technologies, including assistive technologies.

Check for Accessibility

Many document creation tools have built-in accessibility checkers to help look for items in your document that meet the POUR guidelines from above.

Example: Microsoft Built-In Accessibility Checker - Step by step guide on checking the accessibility of a document.

What does “Disability justice” mean?

Disability justice is a social movement, a set of strategies and a way of engaging with the world that centers intersectional and liberatory approaches to disability and access. Sometimes, people use the term “disability justice” when they mean “disability rights” or “disability inclusion.” These are all different frameworks!  

Disability inclusion is a broad term to describe approaches to advance access and inclusion for disabled people. Disability rights work focuses on affirming the legal and civil rights of disabled people. Both these paradigms focus on including disabled people into the world as it currently exists. A disability justice lens is invested in dismantling the systems of power that shape our society, and building a new world together, led by the wisdom of Black, Indigenous and racialized queer and trans disabled people.  

The Origins of Disability Justice

The term “disability justice” was coined out of conversations between disabled queer women of color activists in 2005, including Patty Berne of Sins Invalid (and Mia Mingus & Stacy Milbern, who eventually united with Leroy Moore, Eli Clare, and Sebastian Margaret) seeking to challenge civil rights movements which were fighting to access existing structures and spaces. As Sins Invalid writes,  

"Disability Justice was built because the Disability Rights Movement and Disability Studies do not inherently centralize the needs and experiences of folks experiencing intersectional oppression, such as disabled people of color, immigrants with disabilities, queers with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming people with disabilities, people with disabilities who are houseless, people with disabilities who are incarcerated, people with disabilities who have had their ancestral lands stolen, amongst others."

Disability justice recognizes the interlocking nature of white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy, and ableism in understanding how people's bodies and minds are labelled ‘deviant’, ‘unproductive’, ‘disposable’ and/or ‘invalid’. 

Read more here about the 10 principles of disability justice

Because it is a disruptive and transformative paradigm, disability justice cannot be simply incorporated into pushes for equity, diversity, and inclusion at post-secondary institutions – but the movement does have an enormous amount to teach us about what might be different in the world.  

What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

UDL is a framework for teaching and learning, created by CAST. It is based on the principles of Universal Design in architecture, which seek to ensure that built environments can be used to the greatest extent possible by as many people as possible. Just like Universal Design asserts that people with a variety of different access needs can and should fully participate in public space, UDL assumes that learners who are traditionally failed and pushed out of classroom environments – including but not limited to learners with disabilities – are valuable members of a learning community who deserve to be supported.   

To learn more about UDL, visit the TLX UDL webpages

You may also access the open educational resource certificate course: Universal Design for Learning: Inspiring Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education

Registration is now open for those interested in taking part in GBC’s Winter 2024 UDL certification cohort

Building intersectional accessibility

Our intersession week programming is designed to support people in weaving together principles of Universal Design for Learning with other equity-oriented frameworks, inspired by some of the interventions made by disability justice. This work is happening across the college in different ways. Below, we feature some of the existing resources within GBC that might help you move your practice towards intersectional forms of access.  

George Brown College resources
Other accessibility resources

University of Waterloo: Tips for removing access barriers

Accessible Campus: Teacher’s accessibility toolkit 

Ann Gagné: Accessagogy Podcast Series 

Niagara College: Accessibility Hub 

George Brown College: UDL Glossary 

Just in Time Videos

Accessible Learning Services

Join Mandy, an Accessibility Consultant at George Brown, as she discusses accommodations and accessibility in the classroom.

Accessible Powerpoints

Watch as Joanna Friend, Professor from the School of Early Childhood, explains how to make the most out of your learning resources to help students stay engaged and feel included.