Why Accessible Materials Are Important

On June 29, 2010, the Office of Civil Rights,  United States Department of Education, sent a joint letter to all United States college and university presidents.  In this letter the OCR attorneys affirmed that post-secondary institutions must provide equitable access to all learning materials and activities, digital or otherwise. This extends to textbooks, courseware, learning management systems, instructional software programs—in short, any and all curriculum resources required for use in academic programs.1

What Does This Mean for You and Your Course Materials?

There are two key reasons to make your course materials accessible.

  1. It will help students in your course be successful.
    No student should have to overcome obstacles that their peers do not in order to enjoy the same educational experience.[2]
  2. It is the law.

Retro-fitting course materials for accessibility when a student with a particular need enrolls in your course can be stressful and time-consuming. A better model is to follow accessibility best practices in the creation of your course materials.

The Challenges Faced by Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities face various challenges when accessing electronic course materials. Please view the following video, "To Care and Comply: Disability Access at PCC," produced by Portland Community College to hear about the experiences of students facing different challenges accessing electronic content.

Please take the time to watch the entire video (11:14). There is content specific to Portland Community College, but the video gives you a great overview of some of the difficulties faced by students with disabilities – difficulties you can help them overcome!

Ways You Can Make a Difference

When thinking about making course content accessible, there are four areas that are very easy for you to address and that can make a huge difference for students with disabilities.

  1. Making text accessible
  2. Making images accessible
  3. Making multimedia content accessible
  4. Making links accessible

[1] "Higher Education." National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials. 19 Aug 2014.  Web. 3 Dec 2014. <http://aim.cast.org/learn/post-secondary/higher_ed#.VH9ljzHF_NE>.

[2] "Accessible Course Materials: Guide for Faculty. Hampshire College. 2014. Web. Nov 10, 2014. < https://www.hampshire.edu/it/accessible-course-materials-guide-for-faculty>.

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