4.2. Supporting Learners with Diverse Needs

Almost one fifth of the world’s population has some kind of disability. Online courses can reduce many barriers to education for these learners by providing access to courses from any location, at any time, and through the use of assistive technologies.

EdX is dedicated to creating a platform that is not only itself accessible, but also enables course content creators to create accessible content. If you encounter platform issues that you believe might affect your ability to provide accessible course content, please contact us at accessibility@edx.org. We welcome any comments and questions.


Use of authoring tools other than those provided by edX might result in inaccessible course content. However, for clarity, use of edX authoring tools does not ensure that your course content will be accessible.

4.2.1. Who Are Our Learners?

In the following sections, we provide guidance on creating and delivering course content that allows students to use built-in accessibility functionality (such as text-to-speech and magnification features), assistive technologies, and alternative formats. These practices consider learners with diverse needs, such as those in the following list.

  • Blind learners who use a screen reader, which reads page text aloud, or a Braille display device, which renders page text in refreshable Braille.
  • Low-vision learners who use screen magnification software to enlarge or modify the contrast of text and other onscreen content.
  • Learners with vision impairments, such as difficulty seeing in low-light conditions, who modify their browser or operating system to change background colors and text settings to make text easier to read.
  • Learners with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, who use text-to- speech technology that reads page content aloud.
  • Physically disabled learners who control their computers using switching devices, voice recognition software, or eye gaze-activated technology instead of mouse devices or keyboards.
  • Learners who modify their operating system settings to make the mouse or keyboard easier to use.
  • Learners with hearing impairments who cannot access audio content and need the equivalent information in an alternative format, such as captions.

4.2.2. Removing Barriers to Learning

EdX highly recommends that you implement the best practices in this document and in other resources. If you cannot easily address any of these barriers to providing accessible course content, edX recommends that you consult with resources at your organization such as Disability Services, or assistive technology and accessibility specialists.

The following resources might also assist you in producing accessible course content.

While your ability to support students in the MOOC context might be different from supporting on-campus students, we encourage you to develop a plan to respond to students who inform you of accessibility barriers to learning. However, given the large numbers of learners enrolling in many of the courses, you will quickly see how important it is to address accessibility concerns when creating a course.