One of the key areas in course design that I see neglected is the area of accessibility. This poses several significant issues. The first is when you forget that “ALT” tags and audio transcripts are for accessibility and not SEO you neglect an important population. Second, the ADA and 508 requirements are not to be ignored, people do get sued over these issues. It can be massively embarrassing for a larger organization and it can end a smaller one.

What is ADA and how does it affect you?

ADA refers to the American’s with Disabilities Act which essentially requires your website, including your online course and educational materials, is accessible to those with disabilities.

ADA is a civil rights law that dates back to 1990 and it requires “all places of public access” including websites to remove “access barriers” this means anything that would stop a disabled person from using your website or course is illegal.

Schools and businesses are being sued for ADA non-compliance.

Organizations are being sued for these types of errors and omissions such as Harvard and MIT –

And Berkley –

And others:

Start Somewhere

The quickest place to start is with images and multimedia. The “Alt Tag” should always be used, both on web pages and within Word and Powerpoint. If the image is a decoration a NULL can be entered with an alt=“” with no space in-between the quotations marks. It is also important to consider these issues within PDF and Word documents, all documents should work with a text reader and have ALT tags for internal images.

For multimedia, in addition to the need for ALT tags to be used a transcript is required for any audio or video content.

For audio transcriptions and closed captioning there are several approaches. The first is to do it yourself starting with a script, the other is to use automated transcription and then correct the errors, or you can use a transcription service.

Designers shouldn’t rely too much on automation alone, you can find yourself with a critical error that can lead you to find yourself out of ADA compliance. When looking at the consequences taking proactive steps can be a much cheaper alternative. At $1 per minute, seems to be the most inexpensive option that (according to their website) is FCC, ADA, and 508 compliant.

Where to find the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to follow?

When looking into Website and Online Course Accessibility the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA is the standard to aim for and it offers a tremendous amount of detail.