Technology is present in every facet of life. It is now common in classrooms of all varieties, placing a responsibility on instructors and administrators to ensure the equitable use of technology. Students at every level of education, from pre-K to graduate and professional studies, present with different abilities and needs. Technology must be accessible to each of these students, regardless of specials needs, different learning styles, or demographics. The most successful strategy for creating an equitable tech experience is the use of a platform that employs an accessible design in the earliest content development stages.
At CourseArc, our mission is clear–make the development of high-quality and accessible online courses easy. Our templated approach makes creating engaging and interactive content a snap, with accessibility built in or clearly prompted. This means that content creators do not have to be accessibility experts to develop content that can be used by any student, including students with disabilities and students who use adaptive technology.
It’s the Law
Creating an equitable learning experience through the use of accessible digital content is not only critical to student achievement, but it is also the law. Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Act all require that educators ensure their content is accessible and non-discriminatory to learners with disabilities. The types of disabilities may be visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, neurological, or a combination of these.
Consequences of Non-Compliance
A violation of any of these laws may lead to federal legal action against public schools and institutions of higher education. As educators rely more frequently on tech in their classrooms, the need for compliance grows as well. In recent years, the Department of Education, private individuals, and advocacy organizations, such as the National Federation of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf, have filed suit against a number of public education organizations due to a failure to provide accessible web-based learning tools for students with disabilities. Following investigations, the Department of Education entered into a resolution agreement with each entity requiring review and approval for a series of actions to resolve the violations.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), internationally agreed-upon criteria from WC3, are used to measure compliance with these accessibility laws. Since late 2008, WCAG 2.0 AA has been the standard for education. In June, WCAG 2.1 was approved. WCAG 2.1 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content even more accessible, while still keeping the WCAG 2.0 AA recommendations intact. These new guidelines will make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities. Also, following WCAG 2.1 will often make Web content more usable and understandable to users and learners in general.
If you want to dig into WCAG 2.1 in depth, here are a couple of great resources we recommend: