Web Accessibility

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:

Closed Captioning

It is required that ALL video content shared openly 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, or can easily be supplemented with lecture notes, written transcriptions, or other alternative formats.

For faculty who create their OWN videos, there are several ways to handle captioning.

  1. Provide a text-only transcript, lecture notes, or PowerPoints slides that convey the same meaning as the video.
  2. If you are using Camtasia, you can use automatic speech-to-text, import, or type your captions directly into your video. See Techsmith’s tutorial series under Captions.
  3. If you publish to YouTube, edit the Captions using YouTube’s built-in options.
  4. Consult with the Disabilities Services Coordinator at (219) 785-5374 about support for specific students with documented disabilities.

PDF Accessibility

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.

Additional Web Accessibility Resources