Addressing accessibility concerns in online education
Growing concerns and challenges continue to face online education programs across the United States. The upsurge in distance learning has many institutions struggling to meet the needs of disabled students. In traditional classroom learning environments, the institution’s disability office would arrange the necessary accommodations for learners. Online instruction now has instructors carrying the burden of creating course content that is equally accessible to all.
In the past, educators were able to wait for students to self-identify as disabled and then adjust learning materials as necessary. However, in the online world, it is nearly impossible to redesign course content on such short notice. The push is to be more prepared and design content around accessibility regardless of student demographics.
In 2010, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education sent a letter to college presidents highlighting their concerns about inaccessible technology, in particular a lack of text-to-speech availability. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that technology be made easily accessible to those with disabilities. The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) partnered with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to create the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), which is used to assess the availability of commercial, electronic information products by highlighting features that support the Section 508 accessibility criteria.
ProctorU’s reliance on screen-sharing technology and live proctors helps remove some of these burdens in the technological chain of completing an exam. Offering the convenience of completing an exam from home, ProctorU strives to meet each and every regulation of the Rehabilitation Act and is currently developing a VPAT.