Design and development of information portals to enable accessible digital teaching using the example of U.S. universities

Start of the project: 01-Feb-2021 - End of the project: 18-Jun-2021

Educational opportunities must be designed inclusively in order to implement the socially formulated claim of offering equal participation possibilities to all those interested in the offerings of tertiary education. Therefore, the special needs of students with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or other physical impairments must be taken into account with regard to the infrastructure of educational institutions and the access and use of information and teaching materials. The digitization of teaching is a focus in the design of inclusive higher education, as digitally supported teaching and learning arrangements offer the opportunity to adapt higher education offerings to the needs of diverse target groups.

Due to the legal requirements of the federal government and the EU for the implementation of digital accessibility in public institutions, there is an urgent need for action at German universities. In 2016, the EU set a binding legal framework with Directive 2016/2102 "on barrier-free access to the websites and mobile applications of public bodies", which also applies to universities. At national level, this is being implemented through amendments to the Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz (BGG) and a new version of the Barrier-Free Information Technology Ordinance (BITV).

As far as the current situation in Germany is concerned, it can be seen that despite intensive efforts on the part of many universities to provide accessible digital teaching offerings and structures, the measures taken generally do not meet the requirements formulated by politicians. In contrast, the higher education infrastructures in other countries are much better developed. In the USA in particular, a wide range of systematic information and support services for designing accessible digital teaching have long been established at universities.

The study, commissioned by the Stiftung zur Förderung der Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, analyzes – in the sense of best or good practice – the content structure of the offerings of U.S. universities, their target-group-specific design, and their technical implementation. Based on a significant sample consisting of 20 universities, the status quo is first determined by means of a website analysis. Based on this, recommendations for transfer to the German context and for the further development of digital accessibility in Germany will be developed.

Lead Researcher

Axel Oberschelp
Dr. Axel Oberschelp Lead Researcher +49 511 450670-348


Stiftung zur Förderung der Hochschulrektorenkonferenz