Section 508 and Online Course Content Accessibility

As a public educational institution and because Alabama is a recipient of federal funding through the Assistive Technology Act  for STAR – Alabama’s Statewide Assistive Technology Resource, online course content published by Athens State University must be compliant with Section 508 requirements and specifically with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

The WCAG 2.0 is an international voluntary standard for web accessibility that is comprehensive and up-to-date with the technology commonly used today.  The following content types are affected by the standard and will required modification for compliance:

Audio/video content will require transcripts/closed captioning while documents will require standard formatting and alternate text included with graphics

Previously, the Disability Services office staff has partnered with faculty to provide alternate content and access accommodations for students who identify as having a disability.  With the Section 508 revision, the content must be accessible by default when it is published on the public website or in online course content.

The Section 508 revision was finalized in January 2017 and will require WCAG 2.0 at priority level AA conformance.  This revision removes the biggest and most common barriers for disabled users.

The new Section 508 standards apply to the following specific areas:

  1. Public-facing content that includes electronic information and data.
  2. Non-public facing content that falls within the following nine categories of official communications:
    1. emergency notifications
    2. initial or final decisions adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding
    3. internal or external program or policy announcements
    4. notices of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action
    5. formal acknowledgements of receipt
    6. survey questionnaires
    7. templates and forms
    8. educational or training materials
    9. web-based intranets

The deadline for compliance with Section 508 has been set for January 2018.

Additional documentation on the new Section 508 standards and the requirements it outlines for online course content can be found at: https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/25-508-standards/719-e-learning-conforming-to-section-508 .

The Office of Disability Services recommends that faculty include the following statement in syllabi:

 “If you are a student with a disability that might require special materials, services, or assistance, you should notify your instructor as soon as possible and arrange a meeting with the Disability Services Specialist in the Career Development Center, Sandridge Student Center, at (256) 233-8143.”

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