Understanding Barriers to Accessibility: An Educator’s Perspective

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to be used by all intended audiences. According to the Government of Ontario, there are five identified barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities. These barriers are attitudinal, organizational or systemic, architectural or physical, information or communications, and technology.

As an educator, you have a responsibility to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Requests for accommodation are made on an individual basis by students through the Office for Students with Disabilities and require medical and/or formal documentation.

Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, you also have a responsibility to learn about accessibility for persons with disabilities and how it relates to the development and delivery of accessible programs and courses. To create an accessible learning environment, educators must be aware of the barriers that affect student learning and educational opportunities, and they must proactively remove the barriers that are within their control.

What are the five barriers to accessibility?

Getting started

Consider working with a curriculum developer or education specialist at your university in the faculty development office or teaching and learning centre, or with staff in the Office for Students with Disabilities to learn how to make your courses more accessible. Learn from your peers and discuss what works well.


[i] Ontario Human Rights Commission. The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving Barrier-Free Education for Students with Disabilities. Consultation Report (October 2003), p.69. Cited in University of Toronto Scarborough, Universal Instructional Design, Creating an Accessible Curriculum, AccessAbility, Teaching and Learning Services.