Accessibility on the Web
The Web is intended to be accessible to all, regardless of ability or other factors. It is an open forum where people from all over the world can collaborate, share, debate, and learn. But, when websites and other content are not designed with accessibility for persons with disabilities who may be using assistive technologies to help them access the Web, they may lose out on valuable content, or may not be able to get to a site at all. When this happens, frustration and sometimes even legal trouble can be the result, and of course, we never want our students to be unhappy or feeling left out of important course activities.
In order to understand accessibility more fully, it may help to review the two key standards documents that are followed by Web designers and software engineers today, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG – http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/) and the Section 508 government requirements (http://section508.gov). Some of the language used in these documents is somewhat technical, but there are usually notes and other guides to help you along the way. These documents are considered the standards-bearers of accessibility.
You may also be interested in trying a simulation of what it is like to use the Web for someone who has a disability. There are four very interesting simulations available at http://webaim.org/simulations/.
If you are using BlackBoard or another online medium to post instructional materials (such as Pearson MyLab products), you should be aware of Web accessibility policies and best practices. The following is a useful list of resources related to Web and electronic information accessibility:
- WebAIM: http://www.webaim.org
- WAVE evaluation tool: http://wave.webaim.org
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/
- Section 508: http://section508.gov
- Usability.gov: http://www.usability.gov
- Jim Thatcher’s accessibility resources: http://jimthatcher.com/
- Purdue Unviersity’s Web accessibility policies and resource site: http://www.purdue.edu/webaccessibility/
- Accessibility @ PUC – comprehensive resource from Purdue Calumet: http://webs.purduecal.edu/
- Archived webcast “Human Issues in Technology”: https://gomeet.itap.purdue.edu/p81345093/
It is required that ALL video content shared online must be close captioned according to Purdue’s policy. Faculty members should be proactive and only select online text publishers that offer this service for their instructional video content. In addition, they should selectively choose to share other videos with students (YouTube, etc.) that are already close captioned. For faculty that create their OWN videos, they can use a simple process to close caption them by utilizing the ‘edit captions’ option in YouTube:
Another problem area that many instructors and students encounter is inaccessible PDF documents. Use the resources below to assist you in ensuring that your PDFs are as accessible as possible for your students.
- Purdue Training Session Video Recordings (scroll to bottom of page)
- Create Accessible PDFs
- Creating Accessible PDFs in Microsoft Office 2010
Additional Web Accessibility Resources
- What does a screenreader sound like? (Video 1:22)
- Additional screenreader demo (video 3:04)
- Athen e-Journal
Copyright is an important part of working on the Web, as you and your students must be aware of copyright laws and policies in order to avoid accidental infringement. A good rule of thumb to follow is the Fair Use guideline, part of the legal code that ensures that copyrighted works can be used for educational and artistic purposes within certain limitations. The Fair use guidelines are:
- Purpose: The purpose of the use of the copyrighted work should be for educational use or to otherwise add value to the original. Parody and satire fall under fair use because they potentially add value to society’s understanding of the work.
- Nature: If the work is of a factual nature, there is far less limitation on fair use as opposed to works of a creative nature.
- Amount: The less taken from the copyrighted source, the better. In other words, it is acceptable to borrow a few lines from a poem, but it is not legal to make use of the entire poem, even if the purpose and nature of the use of the work are within fair use guidelines.
- Effect: If the use of the copyrighted work may have an impact on the original work’s continued marketability and the author’s right to earn money from the work, then it should not be used, even if the purpose, nature, and amount are all within fair use limitations.
A good place to start understanding the concepts surrounding copyright and Fair Use laws is the University Copyright Office at http://www.lib.purdue.edu/uco/.
Other resources to help you understand copyright and Fair Use:
- Stanford’s Copyright and Fair Use website
- Columbia’s Fair Use checklist
- Understanding the TEACH Act
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) info sheet from Harvard
Additional Copyright Resources