We all know that when teaching in a face-to-face format, there are sometimes accommodations that need to be made for students who choose to make those requests through COD's office of Disabled Students Programs and Services. We are legally obligated to assist students with verified needs and documented accommodations.

Those same obligations exist in the online environment with some additional requirements of which we must be mindful, including Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 standards. There are certain aspects of accessibility that are required in the online environment even if no student has self-identified as requiring accommodations:

  • Content in the course learning management system (CANVAS) must be navigable by keyboard and assistive technology.
  • Images must include meaningful alternate text (alt. text) so that images can be read by screen-reading technology.
  • Videos must include accurate closed-captions.
  • Documents distributed through the learning management system (CANVAS) must be accessible. This includes Word, PDF, and PowerPoint files.
  • Third-party sites and resources required for the class must also be accessible.

In addition to making the course accessible for students with disabilities, these practices also ensure a more robust experience for all students. We know, for example, that captions help non-native speakers better interact with videos.

Making a course accessible from the get-go is the best practice. It is easiest to do this when you are developing materials rather than having to go back to materials if you are notified by a student that they require an accommodation after the course has begun.

The Chancellor's Office provides the Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines for more information. It speaks to the need to ensure that online courses are accessible and includes the robust guidelines for ensuring this accessibility in distance education courses.

Complying with Section 508 is a campus responsibility and is not driven by individual request. It is our responsibility to ensure materials we provide are accessible.

There are Resources to Help You

The Online Education Initiative (OEI) has accessibility resources to support faculty in their effort to create accessible materials.

COD is committed to ensuring student success and compliance with accessibility laws. As part of our online course review process, COD is using the Online Education Initiative's course design rubric. To better understand some of the accessibility requirements, the document Accessibility Help provides examples in support of the course design rubric.

Faculty can also arrange to work with COD's DSPS Office for more training on creating accessible materials or attend an IT Technology Training. Online faculty are also required to complete formal training in accessibility.