Web Accessibility Legal Overview

PCC is required to comply with federal disability discrimination laws. These requirements are given in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

While accessibility of the World Wide Web is not mentioned in either of these laws, a Dear Colleague letter from the Office of Civil Rights was sent to every college and university president on June 29, 2010, specifically to make the point that inaccessible technology required in a course is considered discrimination under the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, unless an equally effective alternative is provided.

A year later, the Office of Civil Rights followed up with a Q & A on the original letter. In this Q & A, they specify that even if no students with disabilities are enrolled in an online course, that course still needs to be accessible or prepared to be made accessible immediately.

In order to comply, Distance Learning consulted the college Web Team on the appropriate web accessibility standard to follow. We selected the commonly used Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA as our standard. By following this standard, access to the web can be greatly improved for people with visual, hearing, mobility and learning limitations. Overall usability for all is usually enhanced, not just usability for students with impairments.

But what then do you do, when some 3rd party platforms, applications and content cannot be made accessible? Let's say a flashcard study aid on a publisher's website isn't accessible to a blind student. Then, allowable accommodations or modifications are those that permit the student to receive all the educational benefits provided by the technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner with substantially equivalent ease of use (Office of Civil Rights resolution agreement with South Carolina College System, 2/18/13). Since the flashcards are a study tool, find another study tool that is accessible, equally effective, equally integrated with substantially equivalent ease of use. If you can't think of anything, consult with your colleagues, Disability Services, and Distance Learning about options. the Office of Civil Rights wants us to plan ahead, so that a last minute course retrofit isn't required (which often is less than equally effective).

See Accessibility in Online Courses for an overview of the legal regulations and settlements related to IT accessibility. There have been lawsuits over inaccessible:

Since 2009, the National Federation of the Blind has pursued a legal campaign to ensure post-secondary institutions fulfill their obligations to make electronic and information technology accessible to blind students and staff. You may have read about some of these lawsuits and civil rights complaints that had to do with web accessibility. Settlements with the Office of Civil Rights often consume a lot more college resources than if accessibility is factored in from the beginning.

Both PCC as an institution and individual instructors are legally obligated to develop an accessibility action plan and to implement this plan. Distance Learning and Disability Services/Instructional Support are here to help.

Accessibility Survival Guide for Instructors, © 2014 by their respective authors, Marc Goodman, Gayathri Iyer, Supada Amornchat, Karen Sorensen, and Susan Watson