Accessibility (504 & 508 Compliance)

Sections 504 & 508 of the Federal Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility and Compliance Act guarantee equal access to programs and services for everyone in institutions receiving Federal funding. California also has its own set of requirements for accessibility. What this means is that prior to course approval and implementation, all courses must be designed keeping those students who have special needs and require assistive technology in mind.

Understanding Accessibility

Simply stated, accessibility refers to the ability for everyone, particularly those with special needs, to have equal access to materials on the web. This means instructors should think about using the principle of Universal Design, that is, creating course materials that accommodate the needs, learning styles and strategies of as many students as possible regardless of their ability.

Students who have disabilities may often have difficulty completing certain tasks on the internet such as reading, listening or typing. They may find chat rooms and videoconferencing challenging. It is important to understand what students may require in the form of assistive tools such as screen readers for the visually-impaired that require text tag modifications for images or captioning for the hearing-impaired. Creating courses keeping Universal Design principles in mind will also benefit students with a range of learning styles and preferences as well.

For more information about how to make courses accessible, contact the Distance Education Department and Disabled Student Programs & Services.

Differences between 504 & 508 Compliance

Section 504 specifies that institutions receiving federal funding have to accommodate individuals with special needs so that they can have equal access to learning facilities and materials. 504 compliance begins with the individual approaching the institution (at Shasta College this is through DSPS) and requesting specific assistance.

Section 508 specifies that institutions have the responsibility to provide resources that are accessible to everyone. Electronic resources need to follow principles of universal design, meaning that the creation of websites, online materials, and online courses have to be developed with the objective of meeting the needs of everyone.

The following chart1 summarizes the differences between 504 & 508 compliance:

504 508
  • Guarantees accommodations for an individual
  • Is handled by specific departments such as DSPS
  • Finds workable solutions as the need arises
  • Is used when 508 compliant materials still do not meet an individual’s needs
  • Guarantees access for all
  • Is the responsibility of everyone on campus
  • Creates workable solutions that are built-in to the system
  • Is the starting point for accessibility

1  Fiori, Carolyn, and James Glapa-Grossklag. Creating Accessible Online Courses. @One, n.d. Web. 5 Jan 2012.

Federal & State Guidelines

Federal guidelines for accessibility:
  • All applications should have accessibility features activated.
  • Assistive technology (captioning, TDDs) should be able to track interface elements.
  • All programs used should have keyboard-activated functionality.
  • Users should be able to modify display elements and style sheets as needed.
  • Images should:
    • Have text tags.
    • Have a description of the image that matches any function it may have.
    • Have a non-animated means of identification, if animated.
    • Have a frequency that is between 2 – 55 Hz, if animated.
  • Text should be used:
    • To highlight information that relies on color-coding for emphasis.
    • To identify frames in webpages.
    • To label headings in data tables.
  • Narration and captioning alternatives for videos and PowerPoint Presentations should be in sync with materials.
  • All elements in electronic forms should be easily identified by assistive technology and should not be subject to time constraints.
  • Links to plugins and special software should be provided.
  • Users should have a way to avoid recurring navigation links.
State requirements that apply to distance education:
  • Students should be able to use their preferred means of assistive technology.
  • The frequency, amount, and quality of communication with students should be equal, regardless of their disability.
  • Course materials should be updated following guidelines for regular effective contact.
  • Course materials and resources should incorporate accessibility guidelines internally, that is, within their framework, thereby reducing the need for outside assistance for students with disabilities.

Captioning Guidelines

The following table2 shows guidelines for when to capture video and audio materials:

  • Material that that will be archived or used in additional courses that has both video and audio.
  • Any compilation of video clips that is archived.
  • Archived video material that is used in the classroom.
  • Video created by the campus and placed on a public website.
Don’t Caption
(transcript/captioning only required as an accommodation)
  • Video and audio material that is used for one term in a class with restricted access (such as a password-protected class).
  • Links to YouTube videos (permission may be needed to caption since these materials are not public domain).
  • Short video clips from longer works (captioning only needed when clips are compiled).
  • Video material that already has foreign language subtitles.
  • Student work or raw footage that will not be archived.
Use Transcript
  • Any material that is audio only and is archived.

2  High Tech Center Training Unit of the California Community Colleges. Captioning Guidance. n.d. Web. 4 Jan 2012.

Captioning Assistance

Please contact the DSPS office to request captioning assistance.

Other Considerations

In addition to the material in the LMS, instructors also need to ensure that online third-party resources (websites, videos) comply with accessibility guidelines. This also applies to preloaded publisher-created content, known as e-Packs. Some e-Pack materials may not include alt tags or other accessibility options. Before considering an e-Pack for a course it is important to find out if instructors can alter the course content to make it accessible.

It has been suggested for students that use a screen reader to access your course, when developing content or including content from your publisher, the question as to whether the material is navigable with voice commands without the use of a mouse, should be considered​.


Creating Accessible Documents

This work, "Shasta College Online Faculty Resources", is a derivative of "PCCOnline Faculty Resources” by Pasadena City College Distance Education Program, used under a CC by Katie Datko, Editor.