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For Students with Disabilities
Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines
Issued: January 2011
Distance Education Accessibility
Guidelines Task Force
Disabled Students Program & Services Specialist
California Community Colleges, Chancellor’s Office
Dean of Disabled Students Programs & Services Cerritos College Brian Brautigam Alternate Media Specialist Riverside Community College District Jayme Johnson Web Accessibility Instructor/Training Specialist High Tech Center Training Unit Laurie Vasquez Faculty, Assistive Technology Specialist & ETAC member Santa Barbara City College Scott Vigallon Instructional Technology/Open Learning Coordinator & ETAC member Las Positas College Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines Table of Contents Executive Summary
Title 5, California Code of Regulations on Distance Education
Basic Requirements for Distance Education
New and Updated Laws and Regulations Relating to Distance Education
Access Guidelines for Media Categories
General Access Strategies by Media Type
Frequently Asked Questions
Resources Funded by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office
Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines For Students with Disabilities Executive Summary This document has been thoughtfully prepared as a resource for supervisors of Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS), Assistive Technology Specialists, Alternate Media Specialists, Distance Education Coordinators, instructional designers, faculty, ADA/504 Coordinators, trainers and administrators. It is the intention of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office that these guidelines will provide an extensive revision to the 1999 Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities and an expansion of the guidance provided in the interim document, Distance Education Guidelines, 2008 Omnibus Version.
Since 1996, the California Community College system has been striving to fulfill its obligations to assure accessibility and usability of all college offerings, including those provided through Distance Education, for people with disabilities. These 2010 Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines were developed in response to the results of a 2007 statewide needs assessment study appraising the resources needed to ensure that online distance education delivered in the California Community College system is accessible. The needs assessment was conducted after a recommendation by the High Tech Center Training Unit Advisory Committee, with the support of the Educational Technology Advisory Committee (ETAC), and following observations by the High Tech Center Training Unit (HTCTU) that efforts being made to ensure accessibility of distance education offerings varied significantly by local expertise, capacity and the level of resources available to the college. Since the publication of the 1999 Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities, there has been explosive growth in the number of distance education courses provided by the 112 California Community Colleges and concomitant growth in the technologies available to faculty in developing exciting and interesting course offerings, including information and communication technologies, course delivery systems and assistive technology. Despite the pace and complexity of technological advances, faculty and the overall institution have responsibility to ensure that distance education course materials and resources are accessible to students with disabilities.
These updated accessibility guidelines are intended to align with current technological access issues that colleges face in the delivery of distance education courses, while Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines offering practical solutions and strategies to address these accessibility challenges.
The guidelines reflect the concept of Universal Design, a holistic approach to designing inclusive environments; new state regulations regarding distance education; a reevaluation of the global standards on access; the many new technologies in use today;
and many of the barriers unintentionally created by these technologies. An historic overview and conceptual framework help to structure the discussion before the document delves into legal requirements, access guidelines by media categories and by disabilities, and frequently asked questions. However, in the face of a rapidly changing technological world, this document should be considered dynamic with the promise of future updates a given.
To successfully meet the legal requirements of accessibility, instructors and instructional designers will often require training and guidance. The intent and focus of the guidance provided in this document is not to simply promote avoidance of emerging tools and technologies that may be more difficult to make accessible. Rather, it is our goal to offer guidelines for overcoming the barriers to accessibility within the context of robust, media-rich, and dynamic distance education courses. Faculty are encouraged to use their preferred pedagogically sound instructional methods, such as captioned media and, when necessary, seek guidance and support on their individual campuses to ensure accessibility.
The task force, convened to update the 1999 Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities, brought together campus experts in distance education, web accessibility, curriculum design, instructional technology, new and emerging assistive technologies, DSPS program management, as well as, Chancellor’s Office staff to accomplish this goal. Draft documents were reviewed by DSPS Regional Coordinators, the High Tech Center Training Unit Advisory Committee and the Educational Technology Advisory Committee, with feedback incorporated into the final document.
Relevant Office for Civil Rights (OCR) cases were reviewed, as well as the proposed updates to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794d.).
It is hoped that through the implementation of guidance provided in this document, the utilization of Universal Design principles, and with our growing understanding of the barriers presented to students with disabilities, we can ensure that all distance education courses, resources and materials are designed and delivered in such a way that the level of communication and course-taking experience is equal for students with or without disabilities.
Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines
Background In March 1996, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) conducted a statewide compliance review under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The review was to examine whether students with visual impairments, particularly blind students, were accorded an equal educational opportunity by California Community Colleges or whether they were being discriminated against on the basis of their disability.
As an outcome of this review, OCR offered nine suggestions for addressing areas of concern identified by the review. Among the suggestions/concerns voiced by OCR was the need for development of system-wide access guidelines for distance learning and campus Web pages.
The 1999 Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities were the result of Chancellor Nussbaum’s directive.
In January 2007, HTCTU’s Advisory Committee submitted a request to the Chancellor’s Office, asking the Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) Program to conduct a system-wide appraisal of the resources needed to ensure that online distance Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines education delivered in the California Community College system is accessible to all students. That communication eventually led to a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) process for a statewide needs assessment study. One of the outcomes from the resulting study, completed by MPR Associates, Inc., was a recommendation to update the 1999 Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities, so that they will be more aligned to current technological access issues that colleges face in the delivery of distance education courses and, thus, more useful to the 112 California Community Colleges.
On July 9, 2007, regulations regarding the standards and criteria for distance education courses were approved by the Board of Governors. Regulations regarding distance education attendance accounting standards were approved by the Board on June 16,
2008. Earlier changes to regulations regarding the rules for immediate supervision and control within distance education were approved on January 15, 2002. All three sets of regulations and guidelines were combined in the 2008 Omnibus Version of the Distance Education Guidelines to provide an all inclusive reference on distance education related regulations. Through collaborative work between the Chancellor’s Office DSPS Program and the Educational Technology Advisory Committee, language was included in the
release of the new Distance Education Guidelines, which states, in part:
“…The following are a few general principles that should be followed in ensuring that distance education courses are accessible to students with disabilities. They embody the general concepts of the law but do not provide a detailed legal analysis of the ADA requirements. Persons utilizing this document who are unfamiliar with the ADA and section 508 may wish to consult district legal counsel or the college ADA Coordinator or DSPS Coordinator for further information. A separate and more detailed set of revised guidelines on accessibility and distance education will be issued by the Chancellor’s Office at a later date….(bolded for emphasis).” The eleven general principles that follow that paragraph can be found in the Basic Requirements section of this document and were closely considered when developing these new Distance Education: Accessibility Guidelines.
These actions and events, combined with less formal, but equally important, feedback from the field opining that the Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities needed to be updated to a more useful and relevant document, all resulted in the Chancellor’s Office committing to update the 1999 version of the guidelines. A new task force, consisting of campus experts in distance education, web accessibility, curriculum, instructional technology, new and emerging assistive technologies, DSPS program management, as well as Chancellor’s Office representation, was convened to Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines accomplish this goal. The following guidelines are the result of the work of the Distance Education Accessibility Task Force.
Highlights of the changes to the original guidelines include the addition of a Conceptual Framework section that includes a discussion of the relevance of Universal Design, a Frequently Asked Questions section, a new vision of the guidelines with a focus on newly defined categories of delivery and references to new and emerging technologies that were not in existence in 1999, and the release of the document in an accessible, easily searchable, user-friendly, electronic online format.
Conceptual Framework In updating these guidelines, it was essential to communicate them in the context of standards that exist in the public arena. As with the 1999 Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities, the Task Force followed the principles developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In this update, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 specifically were utilized.
The W3C is an international community. Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public worked together under a clear and effective consensus-based process with a goal of providing a shared standard for Web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 provide definitions and requirements essential to making web content accessible. Several layers of guidance are offered, including overall principles, general guidelines, testable success criteria and a rich collection of sufficient techniques, advisory techniques, and documented common failures with examples, resource links and code.
The use of WCAG 2.0 will make content accessible to a wider range of disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these Guidelines will also make Web content more functional to users in general.
Under each of the principles are Guidelines and Success Criteria that help to address these principles for people with disabilities by defining conformance to the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. A Success Criterion is a testable statement that will be either true or false when applied to specific Web content. "Understanding WCAG 2.0" provides detailed information, including intent, the key terms that are used in the Success Criterion, and how the Success Criteria in WCAG 2.0 help people with different types of disabilities.
Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0 only includes those Guidelines that address issues that significantly block access or interfere with access to the Web for people with disabilities.
Principles - There are four principles that provide the foundation for Web accessibility:
perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. The Guidelines and Success Criteria are organized around the following four principles, which lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use Web content. Anyone who wants to use the
Web must have content that is:
1. Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they have the ability to comprehend (it can't be invisible to all of
their senses), e.g.:
• Provide text alternatives for non-text content.