What is Accessibility?

"“Web accessibility ensures websites are usable for people who are blind, low vision, deaf, hard of hearing, color-blind, have photosensitive seizure disorders and those with a mobility disability that prohibits them from using a mouse.” (Sorensen, PCC)

The definition of "accessible" used by the Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education regarding inaccessible IT states:

"Accessible" means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability."" (Burgstahler).

Why is it important?

“Web accessibility is not just important, federal law requires it for post-secondary institutions that receive any federal funding such as financial aid or Title III grants. If the websites from a federally funded institution of higher education or the content on those websites is inaccessible to a person with disabilities, that college or university is out of compliance with federal disability laws Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and at risk for an investigation by the Office of Civil Rights and a discrimination lawsuit from a student with a disability.”   (Sorensen, PCC)

Accessibility Standards

Fresno Pacific University aims to achieve the accessibility success criteria of the Level AA WCAG 2.0 standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). WCAG 2.0 is the standard for web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Standards surrounding web-based content can be framed around these main questions:

  1. Perceivable – Are content and controls perceivable by all users?
  2. Operable – Are content and controls operable by all users?
  3. Understandable - Are content and controls understandable by all users?
  4. Robust – Is content robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of users?


What are Accessible Course Elements?

Accessible course elements may be grouped into the following categories (adopted from QM and WCAG)

Syllabus Document hierarchy through Word styles

True columns, true lists
Clear table structure and headers

Course Navigation

Consistent layout and design
Clearly labeled links, files, and icons
Folder depth no greater than two levels

Use of Color

High color contrast
Simple themes, backgrounds, patterns
Color is not the only identifier

Use of Graphics

Alternative text for images
No flashing animations

Word docs, PPTs,PDFs

Checked with Microsoft or Adobe Accessibility tool and issues fixed


Sources: Podcast or audio lecture
Provide an accessible text transcript of the spoken word in .HTML, .DOC or
.TXT format. Speech recognition software is never 100% accurate. Transcripts made by software should be checked for errors.

  • SpeechLogger: free automatic speech recognition software and instant translation software
  • SpeechNotes: free web-based dictation tool
  • Speech recognition tool (Windows) or Dictation tool (Mac)


Third-party video Sources: YouTube, Vimeo, Ted Talks, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Crackle, iTunes.

Provide closed captions that are synced, accurate, and punctuated. Search YouTube and Google for captioned media.

Instructor video (pre-recorded)

Sources: Vidgrid, YouTube, Camtasia, Screencast-O-Matic  Provide closed captions that are synced, accurate, and punctuated. Any visual elements of an instructor-produced video need audio description to be accessible by people who are blind.

FPU has an institutional license with VidGrid with provision for closed-captioning services. Learn more about VidGrid.


Hyperlinks should be edited to be easily readable and to clearly indicate destination.

Who’s responsible for Accessibility of Online Courses?

Instructors, the Disability Access and Education, and the Center for Online Learning are responsible for assisting instructors in providing accessible course content, collaborating to identify and implement appropriate and reasonable accommodations for students.

Instructor Responsibilities

As the facilitator, subject matter expert and/or the course developer, an instructor:

  • Designs clear and consistent navigation.
  • Writes alternative text descriptions for images
  • Creates documents using accessibility guidelines
  • Retains original files (PowerPoint, Word, etc.)
  • Uses captioned media whenever possible.
  • Writes math and science with MathML (D2L equation editor), LaTeX, MathType or Libre Office
  • Checks accessibility of required software and web applications used in course
  • Supplies COL with list and course materials upon request for an accommodation
  • Prepares Accessibility plans for inaccessible content

An instructor is responsible for indicating to COL which items need to be retrofitted in pre-existing courses when notified by DAE that a student requires specific accommodations.

Disability Access and Education (DAE) Responsibilities

As a student and faculty resource, with expertise in alt formats and assistive technologies, DAE:
  • Increases awareness of the disability experience and works with staff and faculty to proactively reduce barriers by hosting information/training sessions
  • Reviews documentation of disability and determines student eligibility for accommodation.
  • Leads efforts to ensure students are appropriately accommodated.
  • Notifies faculty and COL when an accommodation is required
  • Supplies students with an accessible format of the textbook
  • Provides alternative format publisher PPTs
  • Administers other reasonable auxiliary aids and services

Center for Online Learning (COL) Responsibilities

As the online course development facilitator and faculty resource, COL:

  • Provides media captioning for online course accommodations.
  • Assists DAE and instructor with retrofitting course material for timely accommodation
  • Offers training sessions on making content accessible
  • Develops training materials (Accessibility Guidelines and Instructor Quick Guide).
  • Reviews courses for accessibility and provides feedback and support to instructors.
  • Supports Accessibility Plan development to proactively address course barriers
  • Maintains accessibility webpage with how-to video tutorials and step-by-step instructions, and resources

(adapted from PCC Distance Education)

Accessibility for Online Course Certification - How are Courses evaluated for Accessibility?

  1. New and Redesigned Online Courses
    New and redesigned online courses are designed and evaluated for meeting accessibility criteria as part of the online course development process, in collaboration with COL. Online course developers work closely with an instructional designer and media developer throughout the course development process to select and create course content that takes into consideration the various accessibility elements of a web-based course and learner needs.
  2. Other Existing Courses (including all courses using Moodle)
    Instructors can make course content accessible by:
    • using the Accessibility guidelines and resources above to retrofit inaccessible content
    • using Vidgrid, FPU’s media hosting platform to add closed captioning to videos and lectures

Resources Consulted