Nondiscrimination and Equal Access for Students with Disabilities

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that U.S. programs and services be accessible to individuals with disabilities. A 1996 Department of Justice ruling makes it clear that ADA accessibility requirements apply to Internet resources. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of  the impairments that are covered. 

What You Should Know about the ADA and the Internet

The Web offers many educational opportunities for those with physical impairments. In addition to easier access, there are reports that the comfort level is much greater during group discussions where visual impressions and judgments are less likely to occur. Educators who utilize the Internet should be aware of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which involves agencies that receive federal funding, like Binghamton University.

When a request is made by a student, the university must make reasonable efforts to provide access to the learning experience at a level equivalent to that of non-handicapped students. Therefore, Section 508 compliance should be taken into account as new course sites are developed and existing ones revised.

According to Binghamton’s Web and Media Accessibility Policy:

Websites that contain information used in instruction must be accessible to all students in the class. This includes information posted on Blackboard and internet/intranet web pages. All students should have the opportunity to join class related experiences including interactive electronic experiences such as chat rooms. Accessibility must be considered when purchasing and licensing software, videos and related media.

Each person posting a university or instructional website, as well as information on Blackboard, is responsible for ensuring that it is designed to be accessible. Departments within divisions have responsibility to monitor continued accessibility compliance of its web pages.


Student Rights and Responsibilities

Include information about students’ rights and responsibilities in your syllabusServices for Students with Disabilities provides a syllabus statement that you are free to use.  You should be aware of the rights and responsibilities of students with special needs. New students may not be aware of these requirements. Know the law for providing access as well as your responsibilities ensuring equitable access.

Tips and Suggestions for ADA-Compliant Page Layout

The CLT maintains a page of suggestions (link) for ensuring your myCourses/Blackboard course and course content is compliant with the ADA. In addition, Services for Students with Disabilities provides several guides on how to create accessible course materials.

Captioning Video Content

Accessible content isn't just necessary for students with formal accommodations; it serves everyone. Captions make it easier for students to find a relevant point in a video clip. Captioned video can also aid comprehension for students where English is their second language, where complicated vocabulary is involved, or when students study in a noisy environment. The CLT encourages instructors to caption all of their audio and video content as appropriate, and to select 3rd party captioned content where available.

Panopto can generate easily edited automatic captions for English audio content, for audio and video files. 


This material is based on Legal Issues: Copyright, Accessibility, and FERPA by Educational Technologies (ET@MO), University of Missouri, Special thanks to Charles Rigdon, Educational Technology Specialist, for allowing us to modify and redistribute this work.