Welcome to Learning Technologies at Emporia State University. We are tasked with supporting educational technologies for faculty, staff, and students. Some of our services include: classroom support, video services, course design, research, 3D printing, class presentations, workshops, and training opportunities.
The term accessibility is often used as the "ability to access" the functionality and environment by as many people as possible. It typically focuses on people with
disabilities and their ability to access through a modified environment or with the use of assistive technology. Modifications are often seen in our physical space in a facility in the form of wheelchair ramps, elevators, wider doors and bathroom stalls, and alarm systems that can be seen and heard. Accessibility as used in this course also means we are in compliance with Federal accessibility standards and guidelines as defined in various laws.
Accessibility not only applies to facilities and buildings but also applies to learning materials and online environments such as the internet and its content. This is often referred to as web accessibility. This includes webpages, files on webpages, online classes, any files on Canvas, files and forms sent to students and just about anything digital. Not making these items accessible is the digital equivalent of not having an elevator or a ramp for a person in a wheelchair to get up to another floor of a building.
Making digital content accessible means meeting a standard such that assistive technologies can function effectively. Accessible content not only benefits those with disabilities but it can be useful to other users too. For example, a captioned video or an attached transcript would be necessary for a student with an auditory disability. However, it would also benefit an ESL (English as a Second Language) student, a student in the library (who forgot their earbuds), and a student with a different learning style (e.g. someone prefers to read instead of view a video).
The term Universal Design (UD) refers to the idea of creating products and environments whose features are as usable as possible to the widest variety of people as possible, regardless of their age, ability or status. A group of professionals (e.g. architects, product designers, engineers) originally developed seven principles that are associated with UD.
These principles are extended into the classroom and in the online learning environment and often referred to as Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a set of principles for curriculum development to serve all learners, regardless of ability, disability, age, gender or cultural and linguistic background.
In the literature you will see the universal design principles applied in different environments and products. You will see terms such UD, UDL, and UD for Instruction used interchangeably and in different ways. Designing with UD principles does not eliminate the need for specific accommodations for students with disabilities. The important thing to remember is if you design for all users you will likely meet the needs of those with disabilities.
These same principles can be carried over to the web or online environment. Many of these universal principles can be applied using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard. Most colleges have selected to comply with WCAG 2.0 AA standard. Emporia State has elected to meet this same standard.
SECTION 508 REFRESH
The United States Access Board (Links to an external site.) has issued final rule-making that updates accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 on Jan. 18, 2017. This rule also updates the guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act. The rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The rule references Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 and applies them to websites, electronic documents and software. This final rule is effective Mar. 20, 2017. Compliance with section 508-based standards is not required until Jan. 18, 2018.
Our team has taking measures to ensure you are getting all the information and training you need to ensure you are in compliance and offering accessible content. Please contact us for help or for professional development.