Federal and State Laws
Both state and federal laws require community colleges to operate all programs and activities in a manner that is accessible to students with disabilities. Access to persons with disabilities is guaranteed by the following laws covering digital accessibility:
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - provides the actual standards to follow when creating digital technology
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) - read how ADA Title II and III apply to Web Accessibility at Higher Education Institutions
- California Government Code 11135 - sets out the non-discrimination obligation for state entities
- California Government Code 7405 - applies the accessibility requirements of Section 508 to state entities, including CCCs
- Dear Colleague Letter [PDF] - issued by the Department of Justice and Department of Education affirming the rights of individuals with disabilities as it pertains to use of technology in higher education
Accessibility vs Accommodation
The guideline for online courses is not "reasonable accommodation" but rather "accessibility." That means all courses must meet federal and state laws requiring all online materials to be accessibility compliant.
Board Policy 2.17P outlines an exemption process. If making an online course accessible would alter the fundamental nature of the course, an exemption may be possible for certain disabilities. For example, a student with severe hearing impairment might not be able to participate in Music Appreciation. The music course might be exempt from serving students with a severe hearing impairment, but not exempt from serving students with a visual impairment.
Instructors who feel an exemption is warranted for a particular course should e-mail the Distance Education Instructional Accessibility Specialist.
Delivery of online instructional materials
- A learning management system will be provided for faculty to deliver course materials.
- The district recommends that online courses, at minimum, use the learning management system for the following:
- grade book
- providing the syllabus
- linking to outside publisher materials
- To comply with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), Gradebooks must be provided via SRJC resources and be password protected.
- 3C Media Solutions is recommended for storage and delivery of webcast videos.
Password protection is important to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and reduce liability for the school.
- To comply with the law, all SRJC online courses must be behind password protection
- Syllabi can be open to the public, but all other components of the course need to be password protected.
Sources of Authority
Six-Year Cycle of Review
Online courses are due for accessibility compliance reviews on a six-year cycle. Faculty whose courses have been identified for accessibility review in a given year will be contacted by the Distance Education Department starting in late spring or summer. The review and required compliance actions must be complete by the end of the following February.
Courses due for review are per instructor, meaning each instructor's version of a course needs to be reviewed, even if the course material has been copied from another faculty's course.
Where Reviews are Conducted
The review can be conducted in person in the Instructional Accessibility Specialist's office in Doyle Library (room 4427, on the third floor in the CETL area) or from a distance by using Confer Zoom virtual meeting software.
First Time Online
Faculty teaching a particular course online for the first time are due to meet with the Instructional Accessibility Specialist for an accessibility review as soon as the materials are completed, ideally before the start of the course. If the instructor will be developing content as the course is being taught, it is best to review the course before it starts, and review it again upon completion of the materials.
SRJC ACCESSIBILITY POLICY
2.17 It is the policy of the Sonoma County Junior College District to conform to federal accessibility regulations, appropriately tailored to the specific circumstances of the District, in the procurement, development, maintenance, and/or implementation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The District will maintain procedures to promote adherence to these regulations to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the benefits and services of the District.
2.17P 3. All District employees who are responsible for information and communications technology produced, maintained, distributed, purchased and/or used by the SRJC community are required to ensure that accessibility standards for individuals with disabilities are met by said technology. District staff and resources shall be available to educate and support employees working towards meeting ICT accessibility regulations.
2.17P 3.3. All District employees who create content published on District websites, Learning Management Systems and any other online platforms must ensure that such content is accessible and conforms to the current WCAG standards. Assistance and guidelines will be provided by the Instructional Accessibility Specialist and the Coordinator of Online Accessibility. The District will deliver regular accessibility training.
There is an exemption process when remediating for accessibility compliance, if it will fundamentally alter the nature of the instructional activity.
2.17P 3.3. In the case of instructional online content, if after good faith effort to make such content accessible, it is determined that the required changes would fundamentally alter the nature of the instructional activity, consideration may be given for an Accessibility Exception. Requests for an Accessibility Exception will be considered on a case-by-case basis, based on the nature of the instructional content and the scope of the accessibility limitations.
A faculty member may submit an Accessibility Exception Request Form, which will be routed to the DSPS Coordinator and the Instructional Accessibility Specialist, who will then convene an Accessibility Exception Review Panel.
Accessibility Exception Review Panel:
The panel will be convened to determine whether the course shall receive an Accessibility Exception. The Instructional Accessibility Specialist, in conjunction with the DSPS Coordinator, will establish an Accessibility Exception Review Panel consisting of the following members (or designees):
- Faculty member from Instructional Area with content area expertise
- Department Chair or designee
- The DSPS Coordinator
- Director of Distance Education
- Instructional Accessibility Specialist
Additional members may be added in order to ensure a meaningful review process. The faculty member initiating the request will not be a member of the panel.
The panel will consider whether making the course accessible will fundamentally alter the nature of the course, and will strive to reach consensus regarding the granting of an Accessibility Exception. If, after thorough discussion, consensus cannot be reached, the decision will be made by majority vote.
The panel will provide prompt written notice of their decision to the faculty member and supervising administrator. When a course receives the exception, information advising that a component of the course may be inaccessible will be documented and made publicly available, with a notation that any questions or concerns should be directed to the DSPS Coordinator.
DISTANCE EDUCATION RESPONSIBILITIES
The Distance Education department has been tasked with reviewing all online and hybrid courses for accessibility compliance. Support for online accessibility compliance will be provided by the Distance Education Department, largely from the Instructional Accessibility Specialist. Support also may be provided by the Coordinator of Online Accessibility in the IT Department.
2.17P 4. Accessibility Reviews will be scheduled for all Distance Education courses being taught for the first time by a particular instructor. In addition, the District will perform an Accessibility Review for all Distance Education courses at least every six years. This review will include all class material required or realistically necessary for completion of a class, and all Distance Education class materials hosted at SRJC.
AFA Contract, Article 32.05 A. The District will provide the necessary support for online course accessibility compliance.