ADA Law Requires Online Curricula to Accommodate Students With Disabilities

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that if college and university faculty have online course content, it must be designed to accommodate students with disabilities. A professional development webinar was held for RIC faculty to teach best practices. 

“As a college we’re moving more and more toward classes that are Web enhanced or that have online components,” said Director of Disability Services Keri Rossi-D’entremont. “Not many faculty know that they are responsible for making sure that any course content they post on the Web, whether it’s documents or video clips, is available in formats that are accessible for all students.”

Equal accessibility applies to Web applications, Web pages, attached files, intranet, public-facing Web pages and online courses, says the ADA, and failure to comply to these regulations have resulted in civil rights suits at some colleges and universities.

The goal, Rossi-D’entremont said, is not to wait until a discrimination suit is filed. The goal is to begin each semester by designing courses around equal access.

Rossi-D’entremont described a variety of special needs that students with disabilities might have. There may be students who are visually impaired and need screen readers, she said. There may be students who are hearing impaired in a course that makes use of online videos. In that case, the videos will need to be captioned and designed with the appropriate font size and layout, she said. Other students may qualify for extra time on an online exam. In other words, accommodations need to be made for all students.

Rossi-D’entremont encourages faculty and staff to become informed about the various barriers to accessibility. 

This event is sponsored by the offices of Disability Services and Information Services, and the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning.