Online Courses and Accessibility
Since the Americans for Disabilities act of 1990, it has become commonplace to see handicapped accessible parking and ramps, bathrooms and checkout lines in stores. However, some discrimination against people with disabilities can be easily overlooked. The Web, for example, offers unprecedented access to information and social interaction, but most websites have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to make use of the tools and information there.
In designing and delivering courses the law requires colleges to make gradual progress toward full accessibility. Web accessibility for online learning is required under Title VI, of the Civil rights Act of 1964; Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Equal Educational Opportunity Act (EEOA) 1974; the Americans with Disabilities Education Act 1990 and the 2008 amendments to the Act.
Accessibility and Student-Centered Learning
We have a legal and ethical responsibility to create accessible online courses. A student with a disability has the right to an equally meaningful learning experience. Beyond that, there are added benefits to accessible course designs. By meeting accessibility requirements, we allow all students a better opportunity for learning, not just those with an identified disability.
For instance, a student who is not visually impaired may benefit from audio content by listening to spoken text while walking or driving. An example of an accommodation that became widely used by the general public is discussed in a 2006 study from the United Kingdom. The study noted that 7.5 million people in the UK used subtitles while watching TV, but 6 million of those did not have a hearing impairment (United Kingdom Office of Communication, 2006).
The goal should be learner-centered instruction that includes multiple teaching modalities that are accessible for students with disabilities and easily digestible for all learners.
Intellectual Property Concerns
Referring to the Association on Higher Education and Disability's Position Paper, the changing of the format of text materials solely for the use of a student with a disability is covered by the fair use and Chaffee Amendment provisions of U.S. copyright law.