Do postsecondary institutions have to provide assistive technology (for example, screen enlargement or voice recognition software) to students with disabilities who enroll in distance learning courses?

There has not been a court decision that can answer this question definitively, or any reason for OCR to administratively rule on it. Generally, §504 and the ADA require that a school provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. The Department of Education regulations suggest three types of accommodations that may be made, one of which is the provision of auxiliary aids.

Does the website developed by a professor for a particular course at a university or college have to meet accessibility standards?

The answer to this question is complicated by some unique academic rights enjoyed by faculty under the general concept of academic freedom. Academic freedom is generally considered to mean the right of faculty to speak freely on political and ideological issues without fear of reprisal. However, it commonly is thought to also encompass the right of faculty members to teach in the manner and style of their choosing.

Where can I locate the results of studies that test the accessibility of web pages?

In recent years, researchers have published their findings regarding the accessibility of web pages. Some of these findings have been made available on the web.

In Research on Web Accessibility in Higher Education, Terry Thompson, Sheryl Burgstahler, and Dan Comden evaluated ten critical sites at each of the 102 public extensive research universities in the United States. They conducted manual evaluations and automated evaluations using Bobby and compared results of the two methods.

What considerations should be made in order to develop accessible web-based distance learning courses?

Today, distance learning courses employ a wide array of electronic and information technologies. These include web pages, chat software, multimedia, and audio and video conferencing. To assure that the electronic and information resources used are accessible to all students and instructors associated with a course, administrators should address the following issues.

Oregon State University: A Promising Practice in Establishing Information Technology Accessibility Guidelines

Postsecondary institutions nationwide routinely purchase information technology (IT) that is inaccessible to individuals with some types of disabilities. Most wait to consider accessibility issues until after a student or employee with a disability faces an access challenge, an approach that often results in significant time and expense trying to retrofit inaccessible products. Alternatively, some institutions are taking proactive steps at the procurement level to assure that purchased products are accessible to people with a variety of disabilities.

Michigan Virtual University: A Promising Practice in Developing Standards for Online Courses

Michigan Virtual University (MVU) was established in 1998 by Michigan Governor John Engler and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. It is a private, not-for-profit organization. MVU is a central access point through which academic and commercial organizations can offer online education and training.

How might information technologies present barriers to students and employees with disabilities?

A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks. Examples of disabilities include AIDS, cancer, Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes, Epilepsy, head injuries, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, loss of limbs, Muscular Dystrophy, psychiatric disorders, speech impairments, spinal cord injuries, and blindness.

How does my choice and use of color affect the accessibility of my website?

As people create websites or electronic documents, they should consider whether their use of color will prevent some users from accessing their content. Any information that is communicated using color should also be communicated using some means other than color. For example, if color is used to differentiate link text from other text on a page, users who are unable to perceive color differences will be unable to spot the links. A solution in this example would be to underline the link text or provide some other cue other than color alone.

How can I develop accessible web-based forms?

One of the more challenging tasks facing web developers is creating accessible online forms, particularly forms that are accessible to screen reader users. This is partly because there are a variety of form control types—text, checkboxes, radio buttons, menus, and others—each with its own distinct accessibility challenges. It is also because different screen readers handle these form control types in different and somewhat unpredictable ways.