California Community Colleges: A Promising Practice in Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines

Date Updated

In the spring of 1996, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), notified the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges that it was about to begin a statewide review under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Specifically, the focus of the review would be on whether or not the community colleges were meeting their obligation to provide students with visual impairments access to print and computer-based information. Prior to and following OCR's announcement of the statewide review, it released opinions applying the requirements of the Section 504 and ADA regulations to situations involving access to distance education and/or computer-based instruction.

In response to this OCR review and to a subsequent directive by the Chancellor's Office, the California Community Colleges developed and implemented their Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities in August 1999. Today, these guidelines remain one of the only examples of accessibility guidelines that address distance learning accessibility issues, beyond those provided via the web. A growing number of institutions have now implemented web accessibility policies, but the California Community Colleges guidelines encompass a full breadth of technologies used in distance education, including the web, print media, audio conferencing, video conferencing/video transmission (live and prerecorded), instructional software, laser video disc, CD-ROM, and DVD.

The guidelines document also discusses legal requirements, documents basic requirements for providing access, provides clarification regarding relevant copyright issues, and describes processes and resources for obtaining alternate format materials, telephone relay services, real-time transcription, interpreter services, and captioning.

Exactly one year following the release of the Distance Learning Access Guidelines, the California Community Colleges released a similarly comprehensive set of guidelines for production of alternate media for persons with disabilities. For additional information about the alternate media guidelines, consult the AccessIT Knowledge Base Article California Community Colleges: A Promising Practice for Alternate Media Accessibility Guidelines.