Accessible teaching

For the student, accessibility means the chance to study at the university regardless of personal characteristics or a different life situation. The accessibility of higher education extends to teaching methods, learning environments, electronic systems, physical spaces, attitudes, and culture. (OHO! project 2017–2019) The promotion of accessibility is based, among other things, on the Non-discrimination Act (1325/2014) and the Act of the Provision of Digital Services (306/2019). The term barrier-free can also be used related to physical spaces.

Accessible teaching allows all students to participate, learn and demonstrate their learning. The diversity of students is considered in the planning and implementation of teaching. (OHO! project’s accessibility criteria). In accessible teaching, teaching methods are versatile and students’ needs and different ways of learning are considered (Pynnönen, Eskola & Muuronen 2020, 132).

Considering diverse students in teaching

All students benefit from accessible teaching. As a group, students are versatile in different ways. They have different life situations, cultural or family backgrounds, health issues, or challenges related to study ability or skills. Read more about diversity in teaching.

Students with learning difficulties, an illness or disabilities benefit from accessible teaching the most. Learning difficulties may be caused e.g. by dyslexia, ADHD, or an autism spectrum diagnosis. A student may have mental health problems, a physical illness or a sensory or mobility impairment or limitation. Read more about learning difficulties in the Student’s Guide.

Accessible teaching and students’ individual study arrangements

You may look at accessibility in teaching in two complementary ways. You may plan and implement teaching to be accessible, to begin with in a manner that takes account of the diversity of learners. You may also offer personal arrangements for students who need them. Taking accessibility into account proactively can reduce the need for individual arrangements. (Nieminen 2021, 62, 70–72.) Neither of these approaches is intended to be flexible with respect to the learning outcomes of a degree or a course, but rather to support all students’ possibility to achieve them.

At Tampere Universities community, we call personalised arrangements special arrangements. You can refer a student for getting a proposal for individual arrangement if they have a learning difficulty or an illness, disability or similar condition that affects the studies. Read more about accessibility and individual study arrangements on the Intranet lock.

On this page, we focus on the second aspect: how to design and implement teaching that is accessible and considers the learning of all students as much as possible. This idea is supported, for example, by the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

You can design accessible teaching using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model. It focuses on the idea of flexibility, dynamism, and activity in teaching, with a particular emphasis on alternative teaching and the design of teaching methods to accommodate students’ diversity. The aim is also to reduce the need for individual special arrangements by making teaching as accessible as possible. (Nieminen 2020 2020, 123–124.)

The UDL model consists of three guidelines:

  1. Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge (representation)
  2. Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know (action & expression)
  3. Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn (engagement)

Use the model to plan accessible course units or their parts (materials, assessment methods etc.)  See the model and its practical implementation on CAST’s Universal Design for Learning page.


Recording from Accessible Teaching seminar (13.12.2021), in Finnish (Sign in with TUNI account)

Links checked 19.9.2023