Web Site Accessibility
Increasingly, teachers are using course and personal Web sites for instructional purposes. This raises an important question: How can we ensure that Web sites, and the pages comprising them, are accessible to diverse users? There is a legal aspect to this issue: the Americans with Disabilities Act (PL 101-336) requires colleges, universities, and continuing and adult education programs (referred to in the Act's title III as "places of public accommodation") to ensure that Web sites these educational institutions use to communicate with their students and prospective students are accessible and usable by people with disabilities. This interpretation of title III originated in a letter sent by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (a chief Senate sponsor of the law) to the U.S. Department of Justice, and in a reply sent to Senator Harkin by Deval Patrick, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights (see National Disability Law Reporter, 10(6), September 11, 1997). In this exchange of letters, key representatives of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government agreed that when places of public accommodation use the Internet, including the World Wide Web, to communicate with members of their publics, they must make sure that these accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.
There are several rules to follow--fortunately, they are simple ones. An excellent resource is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international working group with impressive support from government and industry alike. W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), under the leadership of Judy Brewer, has developed resources that you can use. These include:
Quick Tips ("business-card sized" highlights) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (includes checkpoints, techniques, a fact sheet, and a curriculum teaching the guidelines and techniques)