Monday, June 24, 2013

Online Course Accommodations

Not making online course material accessible to all students is a violation of ADA law. That's the message to schools contained in a letter from the Department of Education and Department of Justice in 2010. Now, college lawyers are emphasizing the need to take action immediately because
inaccessible education technology violates the Act. Colleges have faced a number of discrimination lawsuits since then, because of the lack of specifics. Some of these lawsuits did not involve courses but challenged the fact that prospective students couldn't even access enrollment applications for online classes. A federal study conducted in 201, which you can read here, found that some new technology places "unintended and nearly impenetrable barriers" to disabled college students.  At the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Attorneys last week in Philadelphia, attorneys were encouraged to get rid of barriers to accessibility soon than later. It's just a matter of time before the Office for Civil Rights tightens the rules on compliance, according to L. Scott Lissner president of the national Association on Higher Education and Disability and the American Disabilities Act coordinator at Ohio State University. He told the audience that instructors themselves should be working to design courses that are equally accessible to all students. If schools wait until students self-identify, it will likely be too late to redesign online courses, Lissner advised.