The University of Missouri “strives to assure that no qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of the disability, be denied access to, participation in, or the benefits of any program or activity operated by UM.” This explicitly includes online programs and activities.
Accessibility is for everyone. Although there are legal mandates requiring us to make educational materials accessible (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act), accessibility is essentially just good design. Here are two examples of how accessibility benefits everyone.
Computers can read the text on a screen or document, but images and graphs are meaningless to persons without vision or to those who run their devices with the images turned off. Redundancy increases the likelihood that information will be understood by everyone. Text descriptions of graphs and charts (needed by persons without vision) can help all students understand difficult concepts.
Needed by persons who are deaf, captioning also helps students with learning disabilities by presenting text visually. It also helps clearly convey important information to all students, including those for whom English is a second language and those who watch videos in soundsensitive environments, like offices and libraries.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
You might already know that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires federal, state, and local government agencies to provide equal access to accommodations and facilities. In the physical world, these accommodations include wheelchair ramps, handrails, parking spaces close to building entrances, and so forth.
The ADA also applies to the online world; moreover, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 specifies that federal agencies must make all electronic information accessible to people with disabilities.
Disability most commonly includes five major categories:
- Blindness, low vision, and color blindness
- Deafness and hearing loss
- Cognitive limitations (e.g., learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADHD)
- Low-mobility/limited movement
- Photosensitivity (e.g., seizure disorders)