Rewriting the Syllabus Accessibility Statement

Do you use your institution’s standard syllabus accessibility statement, or do you develop your own? Where is your accessibility statement located? Near the beginning of your syllabus or the end? Do you introduce your accessibility statement the same way you introduce the course’s marking scheme and assessments?

I never read the syllabus accessibility statement as a student. Most of the course syllabi from my undergraduate years did not include an accessibility statement (yes, that was a long time ago), and for those that did, the statement was buried within a page full of standard policies, from academic integrity to grading and late penalties. What does your syllabus accessibility statement say about you, and what do you want to say in your syllabus accessibility statement?

Language, Location, and Life

The questions that I posed at the beginning of this post addresses the language, location, and life of the syllabus accessibility statement. The boilerplate accessibility (or disability) statements that institutions provide can feel impersonal, especially when your students have seen the same statement in all their courses.


What are the takeaway points you want your learners to know after reading your syllabus accessibility statement? For me, I want my learners to know they can talk to me about their learning needs throughout the semester. I recognize that learning needs change as the environment and circumstances change. I acknowledge that there are dedicated offices to support the learners, but I am also aware of the obstacles to accessing services. Most importantly, addressing learning needs and adapting my course is a pleasure, not a chore. My job as an instructor is to foster learning, and only continuous dialogue with my diverse learners followed by appropriate adjustments will help me fulfill my role. Anne-Marie Womack writes, “Accommodation is the most basic act and art of teaching. It is not the exception we sometimes make in spite of learning, but rather the adaptations we continually make to promote learning” (2017).

Tara Wood and Shannon Madden (2014) recommend rethinking the title of the syllabus accessibility statement. What are the connotations of “Accessibility Statement,” vs. “Disability Statement,” or “Accommodation Statement,” “Inclusion Statement,” or even “Statement of Commitment to Universal Design for Learning”? Think about the temperature of your language. Your syllabus’s tone will affect the learners’ perception of the course (see Harnish and Bridges, 2011). The Accessible Syllabus team at Tulane University has compiled rhetoric samples highlighting how language can promote an inviting atmosphere.


What type of first impression do I want to make with my learners? I want my learners to know that I value their individuality and support their learning. As a result, my syllabus accessibility statement resides at the beginning of my syllabus. How can one think about grading schemes and assessments when they cannot thrive in the learning environment? It’s all about location, location, location. Much like real estate, the syllabus accessibility statement’s location can add value to the course at the beginning and the end of the semester (see the “life” section below). Placing the syllabus accessibility statement in a prominent location reminds learners of your values and priorities.


You must think it’s odd that I am associating the word “life” with the syllabus accessibility statement. By life, I mean how do you “give life” to the accessibility statement (or how do you introduce the syllabus accessibility statement)? What is the afterlife of the statement throughout the semester? Do you spend time in the first session or your introductory video talking about the accessibility statement? Do you re-introduce or remind your learners about learning needs requests in the middle of the semester? How do you maintain an open invitation for conversations about diversity and changing learning needs? Needs can and often will vary from the beginning to the end of the semester. Talk to your learners. Invite conversations and lengthen the life of your syllabus accessibility statement.

Before the summer semester begins, take some time and read some examples of critical accessibility statements that Zoë Wool compiled in 2018. I invite you to share your working drafts in the comment section below. Accessibility is a process. When the learning environment is accessible, everyone can contribute. As instructors, we can adopt best practices and be proactive in the rewriting, repositioning, and reminding the syllabus accessibility statement and working with our learners about our collective goal of fostering accessible learning space.

Works Cited

Accessible Syllabus. (2015). Rhetoric.

Harnish, R. J., and Bridges, K. R. (2011). Effect of Syllabus Tone: Students’ Perceptions of Instructor and Course. Social Psychology of Education, 14(3), 319–330.

Womack, A-M. (2017). Teaching is Accommodation: Universally Designing Composition Classrooms and Syllabi. College Composition and Communication, 68(3), 494–525.

Wood, T., and Madden, S. (2014). Suggested Practices for Syllabus Accessibility Statements. PraxisWiki, Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy.

Wool, Z. (2018). Check Your Syllabus 101: Disability Access Statements. Anthro{dendum}.

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