Sunday, April 12, 2015

@ONE Course Creating Accessible Online Courses Week 1

The first week of this course provided an overview of accessibility for online teaching, including media types, assistive technologies for various disabilities, and legal issues. There was no big assignment for this course for this week. Instead, there was a lot of reading, video viewing, a couple of forums, and a CCC Blackboard Collaborate online Web meeting (as there will be Wednesday of each week).

Here are my notes from this week, from the course:

Digital Media Categories
  • Text
  • Images
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Complex
These classifications of media effectively cover the majority of options for delivering Web-based instructional content. Each media type has certain advantages and considerations in regards to accessibility, but with a little understanding they can all be used to deliver digital content in an accessible way.
With any digital media, it is always important to understand the playback context the student will open the content in.
Following is a table of basic access strategies for these media types.

Media Type
Access Strategy
Generally accessible to most assistive technologies such as screen readers and electronic reading systems.
Provide a textual equivalent that can be rendered into an accessible format via assistive technology for non-sighted viewers.
Provide a text transcript of the audio information that can be rendered into an accessible format via Assistive Technology for non-sighted viewers.
Captioning should be put in place (open or closed) in order to provide an equivalent experience for individuals who are unable to hear the audio content.
Complex media containing other media types (text, images, audio, and video) must begin with the best practices for accessibility in each of the included media types. In addition, appropriate markup of headings and other content must be applied to the different media constructs throughout the media file. By applying appropriate markup and definition to content, assistive technologies can better process and interact with the material.

Digital text comes in a variety of formats, and it is common to denote the type of file format with a three or four letter extension following a period, indicated here in parenthesis after each file type.
There is a range of accessibility and usability potential among the digital text flavors, running from simple to powerful. Starting with Plain Text (.txt), which is quite literally, plain text with no formatting, moving to Rich Text Format (.rtf) documents, spanning proprietary document formats like Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) and InDesign (.indd), etc., and ending up with the ever common HTML (.htm or .html) and PDF (.pdf).
Digital Text Formats in Order of Potential Usability:
  • HTML
  • RTF
  • TXT
Digital Text Formats in Order of Intrinsic Accessibility:
  • TXT
  • RTF
  • HTML
Proprietary Issues
There are many digital file formats that use digital text, but not all file formats will open interchangeably without owning the proper application. Because of this, a key consideration is to use a non-proprietary file format or ensure that the necessary technology to open the file is also available to the student.

Of all the digital text formats, properly formatted HTML provides a high level of access and usability while being freely distributable and easily viewed by many freely available applications.
Images -- in the case of images that contain information significant to the instruction, you will need to provide a textual description of the content.
Containing the Image
Whatever the ultimate purpose and instructional value of an image may be, most of the time images will be contained in some sort of document file. Depending on the document format, you may be able to associate a text description of the information directly into the image. Sometimes you will need to place the textual description in the document either before or after the image, or as an image caption.
The relationship between digital images and the documents they are contained in is important to understand. Most digital image files do not allow you to embed textual information inside the image file. Typically, when you place the digital image into an electronic document, the electronic document will provide some means of associating a textual description with the image. However, if you use that image in another document or different document format, you will likely have to re-associate a textual description with the image in the new document format. This is because the textual information is only associated within the context of the bigger digital document. The individual digital image file remains a separate entity from the associated text. For example, in a Web page, the “alt” tag is used to describe the content of an image, but the “alt” tag is part of the Web page , not part of the image.

In the above image, the alternate text given is "relationship between alt text and image within a document". This description effectively conveys the message contained in the image. Note that the complex details are not mentioned, as the concepts they are explaining have already been presented in the preceding text.
As part of the range of content that can be contained in an image, you will find digital images of textual information, but this is not the same as digital text. A quick and easy way to check if you’re dealing with digital text or a digital image of text is to try and select the text on your screen and copy it to a word processor or text editor. If you can copy the text into the word processor or text editor, you’re dealing with digital text. If you can’t copy the text, you may be dealing with an image of text.
There are computer programs that can try to determine what the actual text is inside a digital image, these programs are known as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) programs. When you use an OCR program on digital text, it will save the resulting digital text as a text file (.txt, .rtf, .doc, .html, etc.)
Until computers are able to look at an image and automatically determine the content, providing an effective text description for images is vital to ensuring accessibility and usability of that digital image.
Digital audio can be stored in several different formats, and with a wide variety of quality and file size. Regardless of the specific digital audio format used, the strategy for providing access remains the same: provide a transcript.
Unlike digital image files, certain audio file formats will allow you to permanently associate textual information with the audio content. In this way, the audio file always has the textual description included no matter where you copy or move the file. There is an important limitation, however, as the playback device or software must provide a method for viewing the textual description.
Some common audio files that support the permanent association of textual descriptions are MP3 (.mp3), MP4 (.mp4), Apple Audio Codec (.aac), Quicktime Audio (.mov), and the Apple proprietary formats (.m4a, .m4b, .m4v). It is important to know which file format your audio information is in, and how to associate textual information with that file.
Even if you embed the transcript of an audio file in the meta-information (ID3 tags) of that digital file, you should also provide the text transcript as a separate download. If a student is completely deaf (as opposed to having a degree of partial hearing loss) they may prefer to only have to download the smaller text file rather than the much larger audio file where the transcript is embedded in the ID3 tags.
Remember that producing good quality recordings can also help increase the accessibility and usability of audio files for individuals who are hard of hearing. If the overall quality of an audio recording is poor, AT will have an even more difficult time with the information.
Digital video information typically includes audio, which again needs to be transcribed. However, because it is video, the text transcript must be delivered synchronously with the corresponding dialogue as it is spoken on screen. This is called captioning, and it comes in two flavors: open and closed.
Closed Captions are the captions that you can turn on and off, assuming that you know how to work your television’s remote control.
Open Captions are the captions that are permanently turned on, similar to foreign language subtitles.
There is an important distinction between captions and subtitles: subtitles provide a translation of dialogue, while captions provide a textual indication of all significant audio information, including sound effects and music. For accessibility concerns, subtitles are not equivalent to captions because subtitles do not convey all of the significant audio information of the video.

Captions vs. Subtitles
Native Language
Significant Audio

Today there is a small pool of digital video file formats commonly in use that allow for captioning. They are Quicktime Movie (.mov), MPEG (.mpg or .mpeg), AVI (.avi), Flash Video (.flv or .swf), Windows Media (.wmv or .asx) and Real Player Media (.rpm)
Complex Digital Media
Complex media refers to those digital media formats and systems that can contain multiple media types at the same time, and/or provide means for user interaction with the content.
Complex media can be a single digital file or a system that coordinates multiple digital files being exchanged between the instructor and students. HTML and PDF files are common examples of complex media files that can support a variety of different media types. Learning Management systems such as Moodle or Blackboard are examples of complex media delivery systems, providing a variety of ways to organize and deliver digital content and offering multiple methods for interaction with the content and other users.
Typically, complex digital media is an assemblage of discreet media files such as text, images, audio, and video. By following the best practices for creating these individual digital files, you can help ensure the accessibility and usability of the information when it is presented as part of a complex document or digital media system. In addition, it is important to become familiar with any built-in accessibility tools that are included in whatever complex media file format or system you use.
In addition to ensuring the accessibility of the discreet media assets used in a complex media file or system, it is critical to ensure accessibility of the various interactive aspects to ensure that they are compatible with different AT.

Relative to Distance Education, AT typically refers to a range of technology used for communication and cognition. As technology is often a determining factor in how distance education is designed and delivered, it is critical to ensure accessible technology is compatible with instructional technology and media.

Many forms of AT deliver a specific format of media, or "alternate media" to an individual with a disability. Alternate media is any form of media that is appropriate and effective in communicating with a specific sensory ability. Many forms of modern media such as MP3’s and HTML pages become “Alternate Media” specifically when used by individuals with disabilities. One of the key aspects of understanding alternate media is separating the message or content from the mode of presentation or specific media form. This means you create one piece of content that can be used by multiple forms of AT.

One of the ultimate goals in designing accessible instructional materials is to provide the end user with the ability to effectively control and customize the presentation of information. The ultimate realization of this concept is a single electronic document that can be presented through any interface the student might choose (or require). By defining content with consistent logical and navigational structures such as headings and page numbers, you allow content to be consistently and accurately rendered on a variety of interfaces. This allows for the end user to have control over the various nuances of their specific interface without the author having to anticipate every possible technology that might be used to view the content.

Principles of Universal Design
The concept of one source document that can be accessed by all forms of assistive technology and automatically converted into an accessible format needed by the recipient is sometimes referred to as “Universal Design for Learning” or “UDL”, borrowing from the architectural concept of Universal Design. While the overall concepts of Universal Design are admirable, within the context of designing accessible online courses, it can sometimes be more helpful to think in terms of “Universal Compatibility”. The idea of creating a document that can be everything to all users can be a bit overwhelming, but perhaps it is a little less intimidating to create a document wherein the material has the appropriate structure for assistive technology to snap onto. Ensuring that instructional technology and media is able to interface with assistive technologies is the primary focus of creating accessible web-based instruction.

Assistive Technologies
Following is a list of common categories of AT. It is important to recognize that this list is just a starting point, as the ultimate range of assistive technologies is as varied as the range of disabilities.

·        Screen Readers: Typically used by individuals who are blind, screen readers are intended to provide visual information as audio information (sound). This is not altogether difficult in and of itself, but challenges can arise when screen readers are faced with certain types of content; also used to control Refreshable Braille Displays, which allow for dynamic representations of Braille characters through tiny mechanical pins aligned in a long strip.

·        Screen Magnifiers: provide an enlarged view of the computer display; Closed Circuit TeleVision (CCTV) systems provide a means for enlarging non-electronic information, and in some cases, provide limited means for altering the display characteristics to improve legibility for certain visual disabilities.

·        Speech Recognition: spoken dialogue is analyzed and converted into digital text.

·        Closed Captioning Decoders: essential element in displaying traditional analog broadcast captions, often referred to as “Line-21” captions. Whatever the underlying technology may be, the concept is the same: present a synchronized text version of the spoken dialogue and meaningful audio content.

·        Alternative Keyboard Access: specialized switches and software that provide better control for individuals with various disabilities. Sometimes these solutions are just physically adapted keyboards, and sometimes they are limited switches with software-driven routines to provide the full range of key options available through a traditional “QWERTY” keyboard

·        Refreshable Braille Displays: system of presenting computer information as Braille code. Using a series of plastic pins, different Braille characters can be presented dynamically to allow the information from a computer display to be rendered as Braille information

·        Reading Systems: present visual information as auditory information, as well as providing a means to alter and customize the visual appearance of electronic information. Common features of reading systems include an ability to visually highlight words as they are being read aloud, as well as the ability to enlarge and change text fonts and document colors. Some reading systems include dictionaries, homonym checkers, and word prediction functions. Mind mapping and critical thinking tools are also provided in some reading systems.

Disabilities and related forms of Alternate Media and Assistive Technologies

Recognizing that both human difference and technological innovation contribute to the dynamic nature of AT, the lines can blur between categories of AT, and sometimes technologies are abandoned as newer and more effective technologies are developed. In addition, often individuals will have multiple disabilities that require combinations of AT and alternate media.

Here are some common disability types with corresponding examples of common AT and alternate media accommodations:

·        Blindness: Screen Readers, Refreshable Braille Displays, DAISY, Braille, Books on Tape, Audio CDs, MP3s, Digital Note-taking

·        Low Vision: Screen Readers, Screen Magnifiers, Large Print, DAISY, MP3s, Audio CDs

·        Deafness: Cochlear Implants, Hearing Aids, Assistive Listening Devices, Closed Captioning, ASL, Remote Captioning, Remote Video Interpreting, Text Transcripts, Digital Note-taking

·        Mobility Impairment: Speech Recognition, Specialized Keyboards, Alternate Switching Systems, Word Prediction Software, Custom Interface Modifications

·        Learning Disabilities: Reading Systems and Study Tools, which typically provide some sort of audio and visual reinforcement, separation, synchronization, and layout alteration. Other common study tools provide word prediction, and features for organization and outlining information.To see how reading can be affected by Dyxlexia see (opens in new window).

Alternate media is an alternative medium of presentation from that in which the work was originally done. A regular hard-copy book, for instance, may be converted into an electronic (e-text) book. E-text is words (text) that a computer can read. E-text is the basis for all alternate media formats.

The Office for Civil Rights (sometimes abbreviated OCR) has determined that there are three important criteria for providing accommodations to students with disabilities:

·        timeliness of delivery

·        accuracy of the translation

·        provision in a manner and medium appropriate to the significance of the message and the abilities of the individual with the disability
·        Electronic Text (Etext)
·        HTML, ASCII, MS Word, RTF
Digital or Electronic Text (Etext) is the category of media comprised of simple text. While some digital media formats such as HTML or MS Word documents can also contain images and sound files (among others), they are also representative of the first level of technical access for electronic information.
·        Large Print
Large print is a category of print larger than the standard printed addition. While this definition is somewhat arbitrary, most body type set as larger than 14 pts is considered to be “Large Print,” though typically the value is closer to 18 or 20 pts. However, sometimes large print is created in much larger sizes. As one of the least sophisticated visual accommodations to use, large print is a very common form of alternate media for older individuals dealing with sudden degenerative vision loss
·        Braille
Created in the mid-1800s and named after its inventor Louis Braille, braille is a code for tactile reading and writing, used by individuals who are blind. Based on a six-dot pattern that was designed to fit under an individual's finger-tips, braille characters are used to transcribe words, numbers, characters, and symbols. Since braille only contains 63 symbols, there are extensive rules, known as braille "codes," that assign different meanings to the same braille symbols, depending on when and how the symbols are used. Special braille codes are used for complex information such as math, science, and music. Braille can be embossed onto paper or rendered via refreshable braille displays to display digital information.


Closed Captions (CC)

Closed Captions are the textual transcripts of spoken dialogue and significant auditory information in video and film media. A variety of technologies are used to create and present closed captions, depending on the specific visual media being used. There is also a significant difference between Closed Captions and Subtitles, as Subtitles only present textual equivalents of spoken dialogue, whereas Closed Captions provide a textual equivalent for all meaningful audio information. Closed Captions are different from Open Captions in that Closed Captions can be turned on or off by the person watching the visual information. Open Captions, like traditional subtitles, cannot be turned off by the person watching the visual information, and are always onscreen.

MP3s and Other Audio Files

WAV and MP3 are file formats for audio information. MP3 is a smaller (more compressed) format, which is why it has become so popular. Most MP3 players provide limited ability to navigate (move forward and backwards) through the content. Some MP3 players do allow "time jumps" or allow an individual to create “bookmarks” that create reference points for easy navigation.


Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) is a media format that combines the power of digital text with the appeal and power of audio-based information to provide an alternative for individuals with traditional print disabilities like Dyslexia, Blindness, and other learning disabilities that make visual learning more difficult.

DAISY content can be navigated via a logical heading structure as well as traditional page numbers, offering an efficient and easy method to navigate audio content. In addition to improved navigability, users can also interact with the content in more powerful ways. Keyword searching and the ability to add custom bookmarks to the content allow auditory learners to interact with their learning materials in much the same way as visual learners interact with traditional printed materials.

Alternate Media and Assistive Technologies by Disability Type

Recognizing that both human difference and technological innovation contribute to the dynamic nature of AT, the lines can blur between categories of AT, and sometimes technologies are abandoned as newer and more effective technologies are developed. In addition, often individuals will have multiple disabilities that require combinations of AT and alternate media.
Here are some common disability types with corresponding examples of common AT and alternate media accommodations:
Blindness: Screen Readers, Refreshable Braille Displays, DAISY, Braille, Books on Tape, Audio CDs, MP3s, Digital Note-taking
Low Vision: Screen Readers, Screen Magnifiers, Large Print, DAISY, MP3’s, Audio CD’s
Deafness: Cochlear Implants, Hearing Aids, Assistive Listening Devices, Closed Captioning, ASL, Remote Captioning, Remote Video Interpreting, Text Transcripts, Digital Note-taking
Mobility Impairment: Speech Recognition, Specialized Keyboards, Alternate Switching Systems, Word Prediction Software, Custom Interface Modifications
Learning Disabilities: Reading Systems and Study Tools, DAISY (these typically provide some sort of audio and visual reinforcement, separation, synchronization, and alteration. Word prediction, organization, and specialized study tools.

Video Real Connections: Making Distance Learning Accessible to Everyone

Keyboard Access

Complete Keyboard Command List

CCCConfer (Elluminate) Keyboard Commands

Windows, Linux Keystroke
Mac Keystroke
Quit Blackboard Collaborate
Hide Blackboard Collaborate
Hide other applications
Close window (Notes, File Transfer, Activity, Closed-Captioning, Session Plan, Quiz, Multimedia, Calculator)
Switch to Whiteboard Mode
Switch to Application Sharing Mode
Switch to Web Tour Mode
Move to the next main module in the user interface. The default order is Audio/Video panel, Participants panel, Chat panel and Collaboration toolbar. (If you change the order of the panels, the order will change.)
Open the Action bars of Whiteboard Mode and Web Tour mode
Move to the previous main module in the user interface. (See F6 above for the order of modules
Move to the next user interface element (e.g., button, field, option) in in a main module or UI element. (For example, if focus is in the Collaboration toolbar, Tab and Shift-Tab can be used to move between the three modes (Whiteboard, Applicaton Sharing and Web Tour), the Information menu, the Load Content button and the Record button)
Move to the previous user interface element (e.g., button, field, option) in a main module (see example for Tab above)
Activate the currently selected function
Enable tabbing in toolbars of secondary windows (Closed Captioning, Notes, Activity Window, File Transfer, Session Plan, Quiz, Multimedia)
Move keyboard focus between open windows (Notes, File Transfer, Activity, Closed-Captioning, Session Plan, Quiz, Multimedia, Calculator) (For Windows machines, Alt+F6 only works on Windows XP)
Open Options menu of the panel or toolbar in focus (Audio/Video, Chat, Participants, Whiteboard action bar, Whiteboard navigation bar or Web Tour)
Open Preferences dialog box
Create new Quiz, Whiteboard page or Whiteboard page group
Open Multimedia file, Quiz, Session Plan, file for transfer or Whiteboard presentation
Save Participants List, Chat conversation, Quiz, Session Plan or Whiteboard
Print Participants List, Session Plan or Whiteboard
Activity Window Functions
Open Activity Window
Close Activity Window
Audio Functions
Press the Talk button (Note: this is a Hot Key)
Release the Talk button (Note: this is a Hot Key)
Adjust microphone level down
Ctrl+Shift+Down Arrow
Command-Shift-Down Arrow
Adjust microphone level up
Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow
Command-Shift-Up Arrow
Adjust speaker level down
Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow
Command-Option-Down Arrow
Adjust speaker level up
Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow
Command-Option-Up Arrow
Video Functions
Start Video transmission (Note: this is a Hot Key)
Stop Video transmission (Note: this is a Hot Key)
Whiteboard Functions
Switch to Whiteboard Mode
Select all objects in Whiteboard
Open Page Explorer window
Open Object Explorer window
Copy selected object(s) or text in Whiteboard
Cut selected object(s) or text in Whiteboard
Paste copied or cut object(s) or text to Whiteboard
Group selected objects
Group selected objects and send to background
Ungroup selected objects
Delete selected object(s) or text in Whiteboard
Go to next page
Alt+Page Down
Option-Page Down
Go to previous page
Alt+Page Up
Option-Page Up
Move to first page at this topic level
Move to last page at this topic level
Application Sharing Functions
Send Application Sharing snapshot to Whiteboard (Note: this is a Hot Key)
Ctrl+Print Screen
Take back control of Application Sharing (Note: this is a Hot Key)
Stop Application Sharing (Note: this is a Hot Key)
Chat Functions
Move cursor to the Message text box of the Chat panel
Select all Chat text in conversation pane
Copy selected Chat text in conversation pane
Paste copied Chat text to Chat Message text box, Whiteboard or external application
Participant List Functions
Raise or lower your hand
Show that you have stepped away or come back
Show smiley face
Show LOL
Show applause
Show confusion
Show approval
Show disapproval
Show Slower (when you want the presenter to slow down)
Show Faster (when you want the presenter to speed up)
Show None (when you want to clear all displayed emoticons)
Notes Functions
Open Notes window
Close Notes window
Session Plans Functions
Go to the next item
Go to the previous item
Close Session Plan window
Recording Functions
Start or stop recording
Add recording index entry
Closed-Captioning Functions
Open Closed-Captioning window
Close Closed-Captioning window
Polling Functions
Yes - polling response
No - polling response
A - polling response
B - polling response
C - polling response
D - polling response
E - polling response


Suggested accommodations for visually-impaired students:

  1. Make allowances for special seating.
  2. Be open to communication with students.
  3. Post PowerPoint presentations online in advance.
  4. Provide advance copies of handouts in class or online.
  5. Use more descriptive speech and avoid words like, "this, there, and that".
  6. Request an electronic version of your textbook when you order it.
  7. If an electronic copy of your textbook is not available from the publisher, ask for an additional desk copy.
  8. If you are notified of a student needing accessible format, make your textbook available to the office responsible for the conversion two (2) months prior to the first day of class.

Suggested accommodations for hearing-impaired students:

1.     Allow students to use alternative methods to receive or record lectures.

2.     Ensure inclusiveness in the classroom and discourage stereotypical behavior.

3.     Make important information more visual with handouts, PowerPoint slides, and online class notes.

4.     Buy only videos with captioning.

5.     Have non-captioned videos captioned before using.

6.     Provide list of vocabulary and technical terms to interpreters as well as all members of the class ahead of time.

7.     Repeat questions asked by students so that remote captionists or interpreters can communicate all information occurring in the classroom.


  1. Talk directly to the deaf students and not through their interpreter.
  2. Understand the purpose of note-takers and enthusiastically ask for volunteers to assist the students who need this accommodation.
  3. Position students in a circle for better communication.
  4. Ask students to speak to you privately if they are concerned about meeting course requirements.
  5. Allow students to choose their seat.
  6. Use a loud, strong voice.
  7. Be open to new ideas and suggestions.
  8. Caption all video used for instruction.
  9. Avoid lecturing while you are writing on the blackboard. Face the class to make comments.
  10. Write material on the board prior to your lecture or provide a handout of any material written on the board prior to class.
  11. Do not use uncaptioned videos.

Suggested accommodations for learning-disabled students:

  1. Ask students if they require alternative ways to interact with the material.
  2. Ensure that students are fully engaged in classroom activities.
  3. Use methods that give a feeling of belonging in the classroom.
  4. Adopt and make textbooks available early enough for conversion to alternate formats.
  5. Use visual aids to accompany lectures and oral presentations.


  1. Provide alternative ways to demonstrate mastery of the subject.
  2. Use other teaching modalities to reach those who don't learn from lectures.
  3. Provide course materials electronically so they can be converted into multiple formats. For example, audio or large print.
  4. Take advantage of the student's background and capabilities.
  5. Create the sense that students are receiving some one-on-one instruction.
  6. Don't allow students to stereotype each other.

Suggested accommodations for students with psychological issues:

  1. Understand the capabilities and backgrounds of students.
  2. Be sensitive that students with a psychological disability may feel stigmatized.
  3. Understand that some students with disabilities require more time to complete readings and assignments.
  4. Provide "clean" copy of class materials or use materials that are already in electronic format.
  5. Speak more clearly and slowly.

Suggested accommodations for physically-disabled students:

  1. Be open to communication with students.
  2. Provide more than one way to demonstrate knowledge of the subject.
  3. Use the textbook if students are required to purchase it.
  4. Explain the goals and objectives when classes begin.
  5. Put lecture notes online.
  6. Use PowerPoint presentations as a review to support your lecture.
  7. Be open to communication with students about their learning style.
  8. Ask before erasing the board to ensure that students have gotten the information.


  1. Make sure there are no physical barriers to getting into your classroom.
  2. Know the campus procedures for assisting students with disabilities during an emergency.
  3. Be sensitive to a student's need to sit in front of the classroom.
  4. Allow for full participation in course activities and don't make assumptions about the student's ability to participate.
  5. Hold students with disabilities to the same academic standard.
  6. Use the campus course management system to post the syllabus and other important class information and materials online.


Federal Laws Requiring Access

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title 2

Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Sections 504 & 508

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act is federal legislation that requires private and public entities to provide accessible accommodations to facilities, programs, and services, for individuals with disabilities.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 is federal legislation prohibiting discrimination based on disability. The legislation applies to all federal agencies, agencies receiving Federal assistance, Federal employment, and contractors working for the Federal Government. You can find more information about Section 504 by visiting Section 504.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508 is federal legislation requiring that electronic information and information technology be accessible to individuals with disabilities. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic information and technology. There is more information about Section 508 at (link will open in a new window).

State Laws Requiring Access

California Government Code 11135

Section 67302 of the California Education Code

California Government Code 11135

California Government Code 11135 brings to California state law the protections and standards of access found in Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Read the legislation at (link will open in a new window).

Section 67302 of the California Education Code

Section 67302 of the California Education Code requires publishers of post-secondary instructional materials to make available an electronic version of the materials for students with print-related disabilities. Certain provisions apply, such as the requirement for the student to legally own a copy of the book, and to have a verified print-related disability. You can read the legislation at (link will open in a new window)

Table of Comparisons

Federal LawSection 504 of Rehab ActAnyone receiving federal fundsOpportunity for disabled students to participate must be as effective as that provided to others
Federal LawSection 508 of Rehab ActFederal entitiesProvide access to electronic and information technology
Federal LawADA Title IIPublic entitiesEqual information access, including print and computer-based information
State LawSection 11135
(SB 105 & 302)
California state entitiesApplies Section 508 standards and Title II guidelines to state
State LawSection 67302
(AB 422)
Postsecondary textbook publishersMust provide print-disabled students with e-text of purchased textbooks


Legal Opinion E 00-33 regards AB 422, which added section 67302 to the California State Legal Code, requiring the publishers of post-secondary instructional materials to provide electronic versions to students with verified print disabilities. Read the legal opinion at: will open in new window)

Legal Opinion M 01-17 specifies that Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as Amended in 1998 applies to the California Community College Technology and Telecommunications Infrastructure Program (TTIP) funding. 

Legal Opinion M22-02 details the responsibilities of community colleges to ensure that students with disabilities are provided equal, effective and legally-required access to audiovisual materials in video format.

Legal Opinion M 03-09 explains the requirements added to California State Government Code section 11135 by SB105. These requirements extend the obligations of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as Amended in 1998 to all California State\ entities. 

Legal Obligations

California community colleges, along with all public institutions of higher education, are required to provide access to classes and materials for students who have disabilities. A number of federal and state laws apply, but we are going to focus on two: Section 504 and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Section 504 applies to any college campus that has received federal funding. If you take the money, the requirements of Section 504 trail along with it.

Section 508 applies to the California community colleges and the California State Universities because of California state law (SB 105 and SB 302, codified into California State Law as part of the Education Code Section 11135).

Section 504 requires that the specific needs of individuals with disabilities be accommodated so that those individuals can learn as effectively as their nondisabled peers. These accommodations are driven by student requests. The disability service offices on your campuses are set up specifically to deal with accommodations under Section 504.

(Please note that accommodation laws also apply to campus employees, and your campus human resources department will handle these. The campus disability services office is specifically for student needs.)

Section 508, on the other hand, requires that the campus buys (in the case of hardware/software) or creates (in the case of Web pages and distance ed courses) provide access to all electronic and information technology (E&IT—Web pages, computers, course management systems, hardware, software, etc.) for all individuals with disabilities—students, staff, and even the general public. Complying with Section 508 is a general campus responsibility and is not driven by individual request, rather the E&IT on campus is expected to be as accessible as possible right from the start.

Section 504 deals with specific accommodations for specific persons; Section 508 deals with general access for all persons.

Under Section 504, the individual makes a request and the campus honors it. Under Section 508, the idea is to have the access already in place whenever someone who needs it shows up—even if you did not know the person was coming.

Section 508 is designed to provide general access. When something is not fully accessible, however, then the individual makes a request under Section 504. So the two laws work together, with Section 504 taking over whenever full access has not been provided under Section 508.

Section 504

Section 508

Based on requestNo prior request needed
Helps individual student/employeeAs accessible as possible to all
Handled by specific departments on campusGeneral campus responsibility (everyone!)
Doing what it takes to make it workFinding the most workable solution from the beginning
Begins where Section 508 leaves offLeaves off where Section 504 begins

What these Laws Mean to You

Section 504, Section 508, and Distance Education

Under Section 508, distance education courses need to be designed in an accessible way from the very beginning. Section 508 is very clear on the requirements for Web accessibility, giving very specific standards, which include examples. An extensive look at the Section 508 standards is beyond the scope of this course, however, the point of all the standards is to ensure that materials delivered on the Web are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The key points to keep in mind are summarized below.

Usable Web Accessibility

  • Use Headings
  • Describe content-based images
  • Name hyperlinks descriptively (examples below illustrate good usability practices for labeling links). To read more:


The ability to create and present "links" to other documents and information is a major component of Web pages. While this is one of the simplest methods to direct individuals to other Web pages, documents, or to perform specific functions, hyperlinks can also have potential accessibility challenges. The issue is not how hyperlinks function, but rather the "name" that is used to identify the specific hyperlink itself.

One feature of screen readers is the ability to collect all the hyperlinks on a Web page and present this information to the individual. This allows the user to listen to a list of hyperlinks that are available on the page and navigate directly to the desired hyperlink as opposed to searching line-by-line.

Links list in JAWS (screen reader)

When hyperlinks have a descriptive name that identifies the purpose of the link, it is fairly easy for an individual to navigate the Web page and choose the appropriate hyperlink. However, hyperlinks may be named in such a way that either the purpose or destination of the link is unclear. For example, often times a news headline or teaser to a full news article will have the hyperlink text "Read More" for the rest of the article. An individual using a screen reader will be informed that there is a hyperlink called "Read More." On the Web page, we can visually infer that the "Read More" hyperlink will provide more information about the news headline that it’s closest to. But for someone who is unable to see the page itself, the text "Read More" does not provide the context as to the name of the news headline. The problem is magnified when there are multiple "Read More" hyperlinks on a page that takes the person to different Web pages. A person using their voice to access the links on the webpage will be able to navigate more efficiently if descriptive names are used for links.

Best Practices for Hyperlinks

Generally speaking, it is beneficial to identify the purpose or function of the hyperlink as part of the hyperlink name. This often raises questions as to "how much is enough" and "how long is too long" regarding the name of the link itself. While there are no established answers, the name should be descriptive enough so that the user can understand or infer what information will be obtained by choosing that specific link. Example: "Read More about the Carl Brown Scholarship" rather than just "Read More."

For hyperlinks that take a user to different file types (e.g., QuickTime movie, PDF, Word document), it can be helpful to include the file type in the name of the hyperlink itself. This can be as simple as appending the file type to the end of the hyperlink name. For non-HTML based documents, you could also include the approximate file size. This is not specifically an accessibility issue, but allows the user to determine how large the file will be and whether or not the connection speed will support such a file size. Here are some examples of including the name and file information in a hyperlink: Adobe Acrobat Datasheet [PDF, 500K], Course Syllabus [PDF], Letter of Introduction [MS Word], View Memorial Service [Quicktime MOV]

Example of well-labeled, clear directions: Click Here for the Course Outline
Example of unclear directions: Click Here

  • Include symbols with color to *emphasize differences*
  • Navigate the Web page using the keyboard

Solutions for MS Word

  • Use the styles and formatting options to specify headings
  • Avoid using tables or text boxes to control layout and positioning of Word documents
  • Include text descriptions when adding content-rich images
  • Specify column headers for data tables

Solutions for MS PowerPoint

  • Use the PowerPoint templates
  • Add your text descriptions to images
  • Avoid using the Save as Web page option as the only delivery method, can save as PDF using Microsoft Save as PDF plug-in OR Adobe Acrobat
  • If recording PowerPoint as a video, need to develop a captioned version

Solutions for Adobe PDF Documents

  • Start with the creation of accessible MS Word/PowerPoint documents
  • Styles applied in MS Word can automatically create PDF Bookmarks
  • Use the “Adobe PDF” option from the menu bar of MS Word
  • Need to be using MS Word 2000 or later AND Adobe Acrobat 5, 6, 7, 8, or
  • Another option is the Microsoft Save as PDF plug-in in Office 2007

Key Issue – Proper Document Workflow

Videos about accessibility and assistive technology:

DO-IT Streaming Video Presentation -

WebAIM Intro to Accessibility -

Assistive Technology Videos and Podcasts -



High Tech Center Training Unit

World Wide Web Consortium: Improving Accessibility of Your Website file

Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities

Distance Education Guidelines (2008 Omnibus Version)

CATEA Fact Sheets on Accessible Distance Education
Introduction to Web Accessibility

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