The Legal Side of Accessibility

​​​​​Guidance for Compliance in Ensuring Equal Treatment in the Form of Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

Definition of Accessible

"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. Although this might not result in identical ease of use compared to that of persons without disabilities, it still must ensure equal opportunity to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology and equal treatment in the use of such technology. (Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Resolution agreement with South Carolina Technical College System, 2/18/13)

Title II of The American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA prohibits disability discrimination and requires that entities provide accommodations to individuals who meet the definition of disability to ensure equal access of all goods and services.  Entities are to make reasonable modifications unless they would result in a fundamental alternation.  

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 

508 establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. Section 508 requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.
An accessible information technology system is one that can be operated in a variety of ways and does not rely on a single sense or ability of the user. For example, a system that provides output only in visual format may not be accessible to people with visual impairments and a system that provides output only in audio format may not be accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some individuals with disabilities may need accessibility-related software or peripheral devices in order to use systems that comply with Section 508.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 states that "no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.
Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations.

Regulations: Dept. of Education, Title 34, Section 104

Regulations: Dept. of Justice Title 28, Part 35
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Changes to the ADA in order to included web accessibility

Universal Design

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design (Ronald L.  Mace, 1941-1998). DMACC is committed to the concept of Universal Design by developing environments and educational experiences that are usable to the greatest extent possible by all persons. 

DMACC Educational Services Procedure (ES4610)


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The WCAG are an international set of guidelines for improving web accessibility.  Developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), the governing body of the web, the guidelines can help solve many of the issues students with disabilities face. The guidelines are organized around the following four principles:

  1. Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  2. Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
  3. Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
  4. Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

These guidelines are based on internationally accepted, web accessibility guidelines WCAG 2.0 AA. Follow these guidelines or the step-by-step document-specific instructions to keep your course content accessible.

  • Use properly formatted headings to structure the page.
  • Format lists as lists.
  • Links embedded in text should describe the link’s destination.
  • Create tables with column and/or row headers
  • Maintain a proper reading order in documents, web pages and slides.
  • Use sufficient color contrast between font and background.
  • Don't use color alone to convey meaning.
  • Ensure that any action that uses a mouse, can also be completed by keyboard alone.
  • Provide alternative text descriptions for images.
  • Design clear and consistent navigation.
  • Eliminate or limit blinking / flashing content to 3 seconds.
  • Don't require inaccessible applications be used.
  • Optional materials must include a balance of accessible options.
  • Write math and science equations accessibly.
  • Include the Accommodations Statement in your syllabus and link to accessibility or assistive technology user information for software or web applications that are required in the course.

DMACC Online Course Rubric (Checklist)


General Information for Further Study

Though a few years old, Tim Spofford’s (retired Office of Civil Rights attorney) lecture is still relevant to the current ADA discussion regarding accessibility.

Related Pages

• DMACC Disability Services