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Digital Accessibility: A Brief Overview: Home

Digital Accessibility / WCAG 2.0

Background

 A white icon on a blue background with an outline of a person in a wheelchair. It denotes accessibility.

 

The Rehabilitation act of 1973 contained Section 504, which granted civil rights to people with disabilities to prevent discrimination and created reasonable accommodation. In 1998 section 508 was amended to include companies doing business with the government that provided electronic and information technology goods, further protecting the civil rights of the disabled.

On January 18, 2017, the United States Access Board updated the standards for section 508, making conformance to WCAG 2.0 standards a requirement for any institution receiving funds from or doing business with the federal government. The standards apply not only to websites, but also to software and electronic documents (Section 508 Law and Related Laws and Policies). Compliance is required by January 18, 2018.

As, a public Texas community college, Lee college receives funds from the federal government and must comply with the WCAG 2.0 standards by January, 2018. 

WCAG 2.0 Overview

WCAG 2.0 is a stable, referenceable technical standard. It has 12 guidelines that are organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are at three levels: A, AA, and AAA.

WCAG 2.0 Guidelines Brief

 

Perceivable

Operable

Understandable

Robust

provide text alternatives, captions, make it easy to see and hear content, provide information in a variety of ways.

make all functionality available from a keyboard, help users navigate content, does not cause seizures, give users enough time to use the content

make content clear and understandable, make content behave in predictable ways, help users avoid and correct mistakes

will scale with future technologies

 

WCAG 2.0 Guidelines Detail

Concerns

Concerns

The main concerns of the college are its online courses and website accessibility. The college uses Blackboard as its learning management system, and the website uses WordPress as its backend. The college formed several committees to handle the WCAG 2.0 concerns and create an action plan.

Online Course Concerns

 

The online courses are maintained by Paula Lee who is change of the Blackboard server and its operation. However, individual instructors are responsible for their own course content. All the information in the courses must be compliant with the WCAG 2.0 standards. Professors utilize a variety of different medias in blackboard. Most typically, professors use Adobe pdf documents, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and recorded video in their classes. Preliminary ADA/508 committee discussions have decided to teach the faculty how to create accessible documents and presentations the online classes, but the video content would be much more expensive and time consuming. UDL classes have already been creating for faculty to teach them the basics of Universal Design for Learning, so they can become familiar with the tenets and apply them to their coursework and online classes. The UDL tenet of Multiple Means of Representation are being focused on in the initial classes (UDL Guidelines: Theory & Practice Version, 2017). Captioning has long been an issue of contention, among the handicapped. Netflix was sued in 2010, for not providing captioning for much of its online content. Netflix complied, but the case was eventually thrown out, because Netflix is not a physical place, but an online entity (Donald Cullen v Netflix, 2015).  Lee College has no such recourse, and must comply with captioning. Lee College is currently considering multiple possible vendors for captioning.  Other concerns include checking all non-Learning Management System software for WCAG 2.0 compliance. In these cases, the college will try to get VPAT’s (Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates) from the vendors. Louisiana Tech University was sued for using a non-accessible internet based tool for some of its math and science courses (SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, LOUISIANA TECH UNIVERSITY, AND THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA SYSTEM UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2013).

 

Website Concerns

 

            The college website is maintained by a primary webmaster, Roger DeMary, but each college department is in charge of their department’s website. There are many departmental webmasters, who typically have additional duties. Concerns are mostly about images, alt text tags and online videos. The primary webmaster is currently in the process of updating the website to become compliant with WCAG standards. Much of his work involves creating alt-tags for images, and incorporating Universal Design for Learning in the website, to make it more navigable and easier to use for anyone with disabilities.

            Another issue is the library databases. The library subscribes to over 150 databases, which contain over a hundred thousand eBooks and millions of articles. There is no way to check every single digital item for compliance. The library is working on obtaining VPATs or Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates from every vendor that it uses. Some initial concerns are that many vendors seem to have VPATs that are several years old. The libraries actions are still in the preliminary stages.

The Future

 

The college will continue its efforts as best as it is able and is dedicated to meeting all section 508 refresh mandates by the end of 2017.

UDL Concepts

What is UDL?

Universal Design for Learning
is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.

Why is UDL necessary?

Individuals bring a huge variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning. Neuroscience reveals that these differences are as varied and unique as our DNA or fingerprints. Three primary brain networks come into play:

Graphic of the brain with the affective network shown in green

Provide Multiple Means of
Engagement
Purposeful, motivated learners

Provide options for self-regulation
+
 Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation
+ Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies
+ Develop self-assessment and reflection

Provide options for sustaining effort
and persistence
+
 Heighten salience of goals and objectives
+ Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge
+ Foster collaboration and community
+ Increase mastery-oriented feedback

Provide options for recruiting interest
+
 Optimize individual choice and autonomy
+ Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity
+ Minimize threats and distractions

Graphic of the brain with the strategic network shown in purple

Provide Multiple Means of
Representation
Resourceful, knowledgeable learners

Provide options for comprehension
+
 Activate or supply background knowledge
+ Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships
+ Guide information processing, visualization, and manipulation
+ Maximize transfer and generalization

Provide options for language, mathematical expressions, and symbols
+
 Clarify vocabulary and symbols
+ Clarify syntax and structure
+ Support decoding text, mathematical notation, and symbols
+ Promote understanding across languages
+ Illustrate through multiple media

Provide options for perception
+
 Offer ways of customizing the display of information
+ Offer alternatives for auditory information
+ Offer alternatives for visual 

Graphic of the brain with the recognition network shown in blue

Provide Multiple Means of
Action & Expression
Strategic, goal-directed learners

Provide options for executive functions
+
 Guide appropriate goal-setting
+ Support planning and strategy development
+ Enhance capacity for monitoring progress

Provide options for expression and communication
+
 Use multiple media for communication
+ Use multiple tools for construction and composition
+ Build fluencies with graduated levels of support for practice and performance

Provide options for physical action
+
 Vary the methods for response and navigation
+ Optimize access to tools and assistive technologies