Feature Writer John Christie – Making Online Courses Accessible to All

Faculty members or instructors who teach online courses have to make their materials accessible to all according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was L. Scott Lissner’s bottom line as he spoke to a group of attorneys one afternoon. He also said that he didn’t think that you would have to make a whole textbook accessible but it was your responsibility to make a 20 page article accessible. Lissner is the President of The National Association of Higher Education and Disability and the American Disabilities Act coordinator.

Before the growth of Online Education, a disability office would coordinate a disabled person’s accommodation.

Also, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person with a disability cannot be excluded from a program, activity or service. However, this portion of the law is blurry. Because of this, colleges have withstood many lawsuits in regards to this topic. One lawsuit took place last May at the University Of Montana when a blind person sued because he couldn’t do his homework because a program was inaccessible. Before the lawsuit took place, Montana had a Disabilities Service Office on campus as well as an APA coordinator. In addition, the university has a committee that was put in place by the president to recommend changes. In spite of this, the Education Office of Civil Rights outlined 7 discrimination allegations. They included videos, assignments and chat functions. These functions were inaccessible.

Another point to bring in to the discussion is that online courses should be accessible from the beginning. In other words, professors shouldn’t wait until a disabled person self identifies themselves. Many instructors also attempt to make their online courses visually appealing. However, this is no help to a visually impaired person. Some students even had trouble accessing a university web site. Some couldn’t even access forms to fill out.

Colleges and universities should make their online courses accessible to the disabled. After all, those students pay the same tuition as everyone else.

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