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.
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
For more information about how to
make courses accessible, contact the Distance Education Department
and Disabled Student Programs & Services.
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:
Guarantees accommodations for
- Is handled by specific
departments such as DSPS
- Finds workable solutions as the
- Is used when 508 compliant
materials still do not meet an individual’s needs
Guarantees access for all
- Is the responsibility of everyone
- Creates workable solutions that
are built-in to the system
- Is the starting point for
Fiori, Carolyn, and James Glapa-Grossklag. Creating Accessible Online Courses
. @One, n.d. Web. 5 Jan 2012.
& 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
- 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
- To label headings in data
- Narration and captioning
alternatives for videos and PowerPoint Presentations should be in sync
- 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
- 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.
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.
(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
- Links to YouTube videos
(permission may be needed to caption since these materials are not
- 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.
- 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.
Please contact the DSPS office to request captioning assistance.
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
"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.