Currents in Electronic Literacy

The Imagination Gap: Making Web-based Instructional Resources Accessible to Students and Colleagues with Disabilities

by John Slatin

The Challenge of Accessibility

  1. None of us would knowingly build a course Web site that students of color, or students who are women, or students who are men, would be unable to use simply by virtue of their racial or ethnic status or their gender. It should be equally unthinkable for us to design Web resources for our classes that are inaccessible to students or colleagues with disabilities simply because of those disabilities. It's no less morally wrong to discriminate against individuals on the basis of disability than on the basis of race or gender or creed, and it's no less against the law. As Paul D. Grossman writes in "Making Accommodations: The Legal World of Students with Disabilities,"
  2. Several federal laws protect students with disabilities from discrimination by institutions of postsecondary education; the primary ones are Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), which applies to all colleges that receive federal financial assistance, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which applies to three primary groups: employers; government entities, such as state universities; and private entities that serve the public.

    I offer in this article what I call the AccessFirst Design principle as a way to approach the technical challenge of meeting our ethical and legal obligation to make the Web-based resources we create accessible to all of our students.

    AccessFirst Design

  3. A Web resource that is effective and aesthetically rich for people with disabilities is likely to be effective and aesthetically rich for other people too. The reverse is not true, as attested by the current state of the Web: People with disabilities are three times less likely to complete routine tasks than similarly experienced peers without disabilities (Coyne and Nielsen). The solution? Make it your first priority to design for people with disabilities. That's AccessFirst Design.

  4. The AccessFirst Design principle expresses itself in several ways. First, people practicing AccessFirst design address accessibility explicitly at every stage of design and development. It is far less costly, in terms of time, money, and good will, to talk about accessibility and explore alternative solutions when fundamental changes can be made with the stroke of a magic marker on a flipchart page or the swipe of a dry-eraser across a whiteboard, rather than after actual implementation has gotten underway or been completed. Accessibility solutions discovered at the planning stage have a much greater likelihood of being carried out gracefully throughout the site, whereas changes made after the fact are much more likely to be piecemeal and unsatisfactory for all concerned.

  5. AccessFirst design also involves treating accessibility guidelines and standards as design resources rather than items to tick off on a checklist or hoops to jump through. I say this despite the fact that I often hand out the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) "Checklist of Checkpoints" for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG), along with an unofficial checklist, published by Utah State's WebAIM, for the Section 508 federal accessibility standards that took effect in June 2001.

  6. It may be easier to see the guidelines and standards in the way I'm suggesting if we think of the checklists as reifications (Wenger), or rather as second-level reifications that codify a hard-won consensus reached through a rigorous process of drafting, reviewing, and revision involving dozens of people working over a span of years. The challenge for us now is not to mistake the map for the territory, the checklist for the principle. The map is an index to the territory, a resource for travelers to help them get to where they're going. Similarly, the checklists and the guidelines they represent are resources to help Web-authors produce materials that are accessible to the widest possible audience.

  7. It's in this spirit that AccesFirst Design may treat accessibility features as design elements. My models here are the Centre Pompidou (Beaubourg Museum) in Paris and, more generally, "warehouse style" architecture and design, whereby infrastructural elements-conduits, wiring, ductwork, stairways, elevators, etc., are translated into "exostructure," made visible for all, painted, polished, burnished, or left to weather. We might consider making analogous uses of features in HTML (such as the ALT and LONGDESC attributes for images; the SUMMARY attribute for tables; the LABEL element for forms; captions and audio descriptions for video and animation; and of course headers (H1, H2, etc.) to mark off the formal structural components of our Web-texts. And just as the Beaubourg's pipes are painted in bright primary colors, we can use Cascading Style Sheets to "paint" the accessibility exoskeleton and make it something fun to look at, even while it's being invisibly useful.

  8. Finally, there are the people themselves-students, colleagues, and others-and their capabilities, and the capabilities of the assistive technologies they use to negotiate the Web. Rhetoric is all about knowing your audience, understanding what information audience members are likely to possess already, what beliefs they hold, and what might move them to the action or the change of belief we're calling for. Underlying all this is the fundamental conviction that members of that audience can read and understand and make appropriate responses. We also should extend that expectation to audience members who have disabilities.

  9. It's all too easy to think in terms of deficits, to imagine what someone can't do: A person who is blind can't see my text, a person who is Deaf can't hear my voice, a person who can't user her hands can't click on a link, and someone with traumatic brain injury may have trouble focusing in on the salient points on a screen dense with word and image. True enough. But those same people can do many other things. People who are blind can listen, for example--and they have screen readers that can recognize Web-based material and speak it. Some people who are blind, as well as people who are deaf-blind, have the highly developed tactile discrimination that comes with reading Braille, and screen reading software can also route material to refreshable Braille displays. People who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing can see, can read lips, can communicate with their entire bodies (Sign isn't just hands in motion: It's body position, facial expression, and the whole person). People with learning disabilities can grasp visual representations of complex ideas. People who can't use their hands can use their feet, or their voices, or the movements of their eyes, or their breath. Often, too, these native capacities are technologically augmented.

  10. Videoconferencing, for example, allows Deaf people to sign across distance; motion-capture technologies build libraries of "reusable" signs that can be assembled on-demand by a real-time speech-to-sign conversion system; Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), an HTML-like language for transmitting three-dimensional animated graphics over the Web, plays animations of three-dimensional cartoon characters signing stories to young Deaf children. Digital Talking Books narrate themselves for students who are blind; a karaoke-style highlight moves through the text so that people who are dyslexic can more easily follow what's being read. Graphical "idea processors" allow people who think in images to organize and communicate ideas in rich detail. Word-prediction tools help people with limited vision or limited use of their hands to enter text with more economy of movement. Some quadriplegics control their computers by moving their eyes or blowing through a straw to specific points on the screen; others issue voice commands to computers that can take dictation.

  11. You and your students can take advantage of these extraordinary tools: If you know about onscreen keyboards, for example, you can consider designing resources that can be used more effectively by people who use those keyboards. If you know about screen readers, you can write text that only screen readers will read, as well as the material that everyone sees who comes to your site.

  12. It is possible to design and code your site in such a way that facilities provided for the benefit of users with disabilities can be tucked away, out of sight, so as not to interfere with the visual experience of other users. But perhaps we should rethink the assumption that doing so is a good thing. Why should accessibility have to be hidden? When I say that good design is accessible design, I mean that it's not enough to make a site "look good" and then "add accessibility": That's like adding wheelchair ramps to existing buildings where it's convenient for the architects and engineers, not the people who need to go in and out. It's good to have that ramp, but for a person in a hand-propelled chair it's a whole lot better if the slope meets the specifications in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG): one inch of rise for every foot of length (the ADAAG is available on the U.S. Access Board Web site; specifically, see - ). And it would be even better if the ramp led to the front door instead of going in through the loading-dock. Accessibility isn't additive: it's integral.

    Definitions: Disability and Accessibility

  13. Several years ago, an exchange of emails reminded members of the Web Content Accessibility Initiative Interest Group that before talking about accessibility it would be useful to define disability. "People are not 'disabled,'" wrote Alan Cantor. Rather, disability is what we call it when functional limitations (of sight or hearing, for example; or of movement, speech, or cognition) encounter "design flaws in the environment" (such as something that assumes a specific sensory modality or physical capability).

  14. A Web site or other software application is accessible when people with disabilities can use it as effectively and for the same purpose(s) as people without disabilities (see Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended by Congress in 1998 (available at As I have written elsewhere ("The Art of ALT"), this operational definition makes accessibility a quality of people's experience rather than something inherent to the Web site. In this context, accessibility might be provided by tools that make it easier to negotiate those rough patches in the environment. Adding ALT text to an image for the benefit of people using screenreaders, for example, puts together two technologies to provide access to something created with a third technology that does not directly support accessibility: That is, you can create gorgeous images in Photoshop, but without some additional help those images are utterly inaccessible to someone who is blind. So HTML adds an attribute to its image (IMG) element whereby an author can associate a short phrase with that image and a screenreader can then read it.

  15. You can go back to an existing Web site and "retrofit" it for accessibility--for example by adding ALT text for each graphical element, by labeling Web-based forms (such as those used for message forums and online quizzes), or by marking up data tables (such as those used for displaying schedules of assignments) so that assistive technologies can recognize row and column headers and associate data cells with them. But a recent study conducted by the AccessFirst Design and Usability Studio at the Institute for Technology and Learning (ITAL), of which I am the director, suggests that such retrofits don't necessarily make the site significantly more usable for people with disabilities. We tested two versions of each of four separate Web sites. One version had been designed without accessibility in mind; the second version had been retrofitted for accessibility. We found that people who were blind or had low vision were still significantly less likely to complete routine tasks (such as locating information or completing an online form) than their sighted counterparts--and success rates were not significantly higher for the retrofitted sites than for the "original" version of the same sites. (A short paper describing the study and a presentation showing the results are available on the ITAL Web site at

  16. This doesn't mean that there's no point in taking the trouble to make your Web site accessible. On the contrary: one important message is that it's clearly much better when you can design for accessibility from the outset--creating an environment in which disabling design flaws have been replaced by features that enable people to act more freely, spending less of their energy on routine things like selecting options from a menu or positioning the cursor in a textfield and shifting that energy instead to composition, to communication, and to rich interaction with course materials and peers. When you do this, you're practicing AccessFirst Design; and practicing AccessFirst Design will give you opportunities to think through different ways of organizing information or providing textual alternatives for image and sound that treat both the "original" elements and the "alternatives" as integral parts of the way people experience your site.

    Imagining Disability

  17. Solutions like the ones I'm talking about don't come out of nowhere. I become more convinced each day that practicing accessibility means closing the imagination gap that separates most people from people with disabilities. It means imagining disability, and working at it long enough to get over the first shock of being unable to do what you're accustomed to doing in the way you're accustomed to doing it--long enough so that you begin to find solutions and workarounds, long enough so that you can begin to tell the difference between good design and bad design, between things that you can't do because you haven't learned how to do them yet and things that you can't do because there's no way for a person in your (imagined) circumstances to do them.

  18. Following are a number of things that you and your students can quite safely try at home (or in the classroom) to emulate some small part of the experience of disability.

  19. The Mouseless Week is one example. This exercise provides a dramatic lesson in the challenges of shifting from mouse to keyboard. It also offers an opportunity to discover accessibility features built into the operating system (for example, Windows or Macintosh OSX) and individual applications. These features are available to all users, but they are critical to people who are unable to use pointing devices, or who have other accessibility needs. Simply unplug your mouse and stick it in a desk drawer for a week. Now go about your business: read your email; jump on the Web; go to your favorite search engine or your favorite news site; look for something in the online library catalog; edit your class Web page; crop an image; write an instant message to a friend. And while you do these things, keep a journal. Write down the keystrokes that you learn and the other things that you figure out; write down the things you can't figure out at first, and note the way you feel when you finally do find ways to do them. During this process, note which applications are easy to use, which are hard, and which are impossible; note the places where you think to yourself, Never mind; I don't really need to do that now.

  20. Or how about the Week of No Images? This one offers a "graphic" illustration of the difficulties that many Web pages and software applications pose for people who are blind, people who have text-only displays, people with limited English proficiency, and people with other print disabilities. Turn off images in your Web browser and leave them off. Or, if you're willing to invest some time, download and install Lynx, the text-based browser, and, for the next week, use it for everything you do on the Web. Again, keep that journal with you: Note what's fun and what's not, what works and what doesn't, and what makes sense and what comes up as gobbledygook. At the end of the week, consider how your perceptions of and attitudes toward images have changed.

  21. We could call this next one Blow-Up: It helps you understand the loss of context that affects people with limited vision who use screen magnifiers to use the Web and other software. In MS Windows, choose Accessibility from the Accessories menu, and then choose Magnifier. Set the magnification to, say, 4x. Tape a piece of paper over the lower portion of your screen so that all you can see is the magnified material in the upper part; now go about your ordinary business. Keep that notebook handy! Notice how many lines and words are visible at any given moment. Consider what it's like to do routine things--like scrolling down a page, clicking buttons, and finding items in a menu.

  22. The Virtual Keyboard activity gives you a very slight hint of what using the Web and other software is like for people who cannot use their hands or voices to control the computer. It works like this: Download and install a virtual keyboard (for example, the Click-N-Type from Lake Software available at A virtual keyboard is an on-screen keyboard designed for people with limited or no use of their hands. People in that situation might use a puff-stick to aim a stream of breath at the screen, or a head-mounted pointer to select each key. For this exercise, you can use your mouse to select the keys you need. Use the virtual keyboard for a week; again, you'll want to keep your journal handy to record your experiences and observations and to keep track of the problems you encounter--including the ones you solve and those you don't.

  23. Finally, there's the Talking Computer, which can help you gain an understanding of what the Web and other applications are like as auditory experiences for people who are blind. Install a screenreader demo (a free JAWS demo is available from; the Window-Eyes demo, also free, is available at Then unplug your mouse and put it in a drawer. Start JAWS, and turn your monitor off. Go about your business, and maintain a log to describe your experiences and feelings as well as the problems you encounter and the solutions you discover.

  24. When it comes to setting up class activities, it might work well to divide the class into groups and have each group take on one of the tasks outlined above. This strategy has a couple of advantages. First, it creates small communities of practice within the class, as members of each group will have colleagues to talk to and brainstorm with; at the same time, it broadens the experiential understanding of the class as a whole without asking each student to spend five weeks practicing serial disability. These experiences (and the records thereof) can serve as the basis for class discussions about a variety of issues. Groups can continue to function throughout the semester, developing increased expertise in the area of disability which they begin to experience and serving as consultants to other groups during the design, development, and testing of class Web projects. These shared experiences should also provide a good basis for understanding accessibility guidelines and standards and using them as resources.

    Accessibility Guidelines and Standards as Design Resources

  25. Detailed examination of WCAG 1.0 and the Section 508 federal accessibility standards is beyond the scope of this essay. The following is just one illustration of how accessibility guidelines can serve as resources for Web-authors (and their instructors). The first item in both the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 and the Section 508 federal standards calls upon Web-authors to provide "equivalent alternatives" for all visual and auditory material on a site. For images, this typically involves adding an ALT attribute to the HTML image (IMG) element; the ALT attribute specifies a short text--a phrase or perhaps a sentence--that replaces the image for people who can't see it (whether because they're blind or because they're using a text-only display). For richer, more complex images such as photographs, works of art, charts, or graphs, it may be necessary to use an additional attribute, LONGDESC, to provide a "long description" of the image as well as the ALT attribute that provides an "equivalent" for the image or the function that the image serves.

  26. Text alternatives are intended primarily to be rendered by text-based devices, including screenreaders, talking browsers, refreshable Braille displays, and text-only browsers. ALT text generally doesn't appear on the screen (except in text-only browsers), or appears only briefly when the mouse passes across a graphical element. The LONGDESC attribute is actually a reference to a separate HTML document that contains the long description; individuals can choose whether to read the description or not. This gives Web-authors an opportunity to exploit the relationships between on- and off-screen text; it also requires that they keep track of those relationships.

  27. But there are other ways to provide the information that these attributes are meant to offer. In some cases, for example, it might be appropriate to include the information about an image provided by both the ALT and LONGDESC attributes in the on-screen text; this would mean setting the ALT attribute to empty (using the syntax ALT="") and simply omitting the LONDESC attribute altogether. It also involves thinking about text as a design element, which opens other opportunities as well. This is one way to help students recognize accessibility guidelines as flexible instruments rather than uncomfortable constraints.

    Suggested Class Activities

  28. The following offers some concrete suggestions for class activities that focus on writing text alternatives that work effectively and appropriately in specific contexts.

  29. Divide the class into three groups: Art, Charts and Graphs, and News. Assign each group an appropriate image (a work of art, a recent news photo, a chart or graph presenting statistical information, etc.). Then further divide each group into pairs or trios. Each pair or trio should write ALT text and a LONGDESC for the assigned image, and create a Web page that presents the image plus associated text. Students can evaluate each other's descriptions and alternatives, discussing how or whether different kinds of images call for different kinds of textual alternatives. In a subsequent activity, students would incorporate the image and its associated text into a more complex page design that includes navigation links, on-screen text, etc. Students can then discuss how the changing contexts created by these different designs affect their judgment about how to write text alternatives.

  30. Detailed discussions of ALT text are available in the books listed in the References, including Maximum Accessibility (forthcoming in 2002) and Beyond Exclusion (Thatcher, et al.). Students may also find it useful to follow the guidelines for describing visual art in Adam Alonzo's "A Picture is Worth 300 Words" (

  31. It might also be helpful for students to review descriptions that accompany photographs of the World Trade Center shortly after terrorists attacked on September 11, 2001. A New Zealand Web developer named Stephen Cope posted these "WTC Captioned Photographs" at as part of an experimental response to a news story titled "Web News Still Fails Blind Users" (at,1284,47054,00.html).

  32. The accessibility guidelines may have other pedagogical advantages too. Asking students to write ALT text and LONGDESCriptions for the benefit of readers who cannot see the images they've used in their designs may be a way to circumvent a common belief among inexperienced writers that images "speak for themselves" and don't require explanation. Similarly, meeting the needs of readers who can't see images may encourage in students a willingness to work for concision and accuracy in a way that a more abstract notion of accuracy for its own sake might not. Furthermore, the very idea of "equivalent alternatives" is sufficiently problematic, and sufficiently ambiguous, to provoke discussion. The WCAG 1.0 and Section 508, as well as explanations of what constitutes effective ALT text, like those in the books listed below, can provide important external reference points for these discussions.

  33. But the challenge of finding or devising equivalent alternatives isn't unidirectional--it's not always a matter of finding textual alternatives for visual and auditory material. As an extension of the activities discussed above, then, have students work in the opposite direction: That is, starting from a substantive block of text (for example, an historical narrative, an explanation of economic data, a news item, or an exposition of a complex concept), ask students to locate or create alternative visual or auditory representations to help people with learning disabilities or other cognitive impairments understand what's being said. Alternatively, start with a piece of audio--a recorded interview, for example--and have students create a verbatim transcript; or, if the audio material is part of a video soundtrack, have students write captions and synchronize them with the soundtrack using the National Center for Accessible Media's free software, MAGpie (available at (Persons with certain types of cognitive disabilities may be helped by visual symbols like those afforded by the Bliss symbol language; see See also "LDD Symbols" at

    Some Techniques for Testing Accessibility

  34. Finally, here are a few suggestions about things students can do to incorporate accessibility testing into peer review activities for Web-based projects. These techniques, drawn from discussions with Jim Allan, webmaster and statewide technical specialist at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, are relatively simple and can be carried out using a conventional Web browser such as Internet Explorer, Netscape, or Opera.

    • Turn off images in your browser, and then use the site in the normal way--follow links, read text, etc. You're looking for images, animations (including animated GIFs), and image maps that don't have appropriate ALT text associated with them. If the ALT text is present, it will be displayed on the screen in the place where the image or graphical link would appear if images were turned on. If there's no ALT text, you'll see a "broken image" icon (in Internet Explorer) or nothing at all (in Netscape). Note that all images need ALT text--even so-called "transparent" images that are used for layout, which often have filenames like "spacer.gif." These spacer images, and any other images that are purely decorative, should have "empty" ALT attributes (that is, ALT="") to force screen readers, talking browsers, refreshable Braille, and text-only displays to skip over them as if they weren't there.

    • But it's not just a matter of hunting down missing ALT text--accessibility evaluation tools like Bobby (, the WAVE (, and A-Prompt ( can do that more quickly and thoroughly than you and your students can. (All three of these tools are free; all evaluate Web pages against WCAG 1.0. All three have limitations, but they all do a good job of catching IMG elements without ALT attributes. The W3C's HTML Validation Service, available online at, doesn't specifically check for accessibility problems, but it does review the entire document for HTML coding errors.) What you're really testing is the appropriateness of the ALT text that is there. The test is that the site makes sense without images. Link text (whether it's on-screen text or ALT text) should be concise yet long enough to enable peer reviewers to identify correctly all links and what they point to. Links with the same link-text (for example, "Community") should go to the same point on the site, and, conversely, links with different link text should go to different destinations.

    • Turn images on, but now turn colors off. What you're looking for this time are places where the site assumes that all users are able to perceive color--a risky assumption, since approximately 12 percent of males have red-green color deficiencies, while many other people use black-and-white or grayscale displays (such as those on PDAs and cellphones, or on older computers both in the U.S. and overseas). Typical examples include forms with required fields labeled in red, or instructions that tell users to "Click the blue button." Other color-related problems have to do with contrast between background and foreground. Slight variations that appear subtle and elegant to readers with good color vision may just look muddy to someone who has difficulty perceiving certain colors. (For more information about color contrast, see Lighthouse International's "Effective Color Contrast" at See also "Information about Color and Color-Blindness" on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired site at

    • Re-size the window--make it smaller, and make it larger; make it wide, and make it narrow. What you're watching for are any problems with overlapping text or images, anything that "breaks" the visual design. These problems may not affect people who use screenreaders or talking browsers but might cause real headaches for people with low vision and people with cognitive difficulties--and for people whose computer displays aren't a typical size.

    • Use your browser's built-in options to increase and decrease font sizes. If the size doesn't change, this means that font-size has been "hard-coded" in absolute units of measure such as points or pixels rather than in relative units such as em or %. Using relative units for font-size allows people with low vision to use the sizes that are easiest for them to read. Note that if enlarging the font causes unexpected side effects such as text that flows over margins or table borders, this indicates that table-width has been defined in absolute terms (e.g., "width=562") rather than relative ones (e.g., "width="85%").

  35. The World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative includes a working group focusing specifically on accessibility evaluation. The Evaluation and Repair Working Group site at includes an up-to-date list of existing accessibility evaluation and repair tools ( as well as a draft document explaining principles and procedures of "Evaluating Web Sites for Accessibility" (

    Further Reading

  36. Good starting points for those interested in pursuing accessibility issues further are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 themselves at, and the Section 508 standards available at Readers may also wish to consult several new and forthcoming books on accessibility. Beyond Exclusion: Constructing Accessible Web Sites (2002), with chapters by Shawn Lawton Henry, Paul Bohman, Michael R. Burks, Bob Regan, Sarah J. Swierenga, Jim Thatcher, Mark D. Urban, and Cynthia D. Waddell, has just been published by Glashaus Press. A forthcoming update of Mike Paciello's groundbreaking Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities (originally published in 2000) is due out in June 2002; Joe Clark's Building Accessible Web Sites is scheduled for publication by New Riders in May 2002. Finally, my own Maximum Accessibility, co-authored with Sharron Rush, is forthcoming from Pearson Education in August 2002.

  37. There are also accessibility guidelines specifically geared toward education. The most important of these are the National Center for Accessible Media's guidelines for Making educational software accessible, on the Web at; these guidelines focus on CD-ROM-based multimedia but are useful for Web-based multimedia as well. The California Community College system's distance education accessibility guidelines (1999), available at, are useful for those designing sites for use by resident as well as distant students. Finally, the National Center for Accessible Media and the IMS Global Learning Consortium are collaborating on Strategies for Accessible Learning Technologies; working draft 0.6 is currently available at

    Some Closing Observations

  38. I've taken a dual approach in this essay. First, I've argued that, as teachers of writing for whom the Web has become an indispensable resource, we have an ethical and legal obligation to ensure that the Web-based materials we use for our classes are accessible to all our students, including those with disabilities. I've also argued (or at least implied) that that obligation extends to Web-authoring that students do in our courses. If, for example, we require students to participate in peer-reviewing activities for Web-based composing projects, the projects themselves must not create insurmountable barriers for peer reviewers who happen to have disabilities. Accessibility review can be integrated into the peer reviewing process: Accessibility is fundamentally a rhetorical issue, a matter of fleshing out (literally) our conception of audience to include an awareness that there are people with disabilities in that audience and developing effective skills and strategies for addressing the entire audience.

  39. It's Spring now (I'm writing this in the last week of April 2002). So we have time, as we look ahead, to do what we can to ensure that the Web sites for our Fall classes meet the appropriate accessibility requirements, whether those requirements have been set by our institutions or other entities. This anticipatory, proactive stance is crucial. If we wait for a student with a disability to inform us that a Web site required for successful participation in the class is wholly or partially inaccessible, we will be too late: That student will already be a victim of discrimination--however unintentional--and already at a disadvantage relative to other members of the class.

  40. We can't afford this. As Paul Grossman (2001) explains,

    Section 504 and the ADA require that students with disabilities have equal access to information and to the avenues of communication, including Web sites operated by colleges, other Internet resources, distance education programs, and the like. When the educational institution involved is a government entity, the ADA requires that the students with disabilities are to be provided communication "as effective as" that provided to nondisabled students. "Communication" has been defined as the "transfer of information."

    Grossman continues:

    In construing the conditions under which communication is as effective as that provided to nondisabled persons, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has held that the three basic components of effectiveness are timeliness of delivery, accuracy of the translation, and provision in a manner and medium appropriate to the significance of the message and the abilities of the individual with the disability.

    In short, if the Web site for your class is available to students without disabilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, then that site should be available to students with disabilities on the same 24/7 basis.

Works Cited

Please cite this article as Currents in Electronic Literacy Spring 2002 (6),