Accessibility 101

Students with disabilities are increasingly taking advantage of higher education opportunities due to: enactment of laws regarding equal opportunity and accessibility; technology enhancements in classrooms; successful inclusion of students with disabilities in public schools; and acceptance of individuals with disabilities by the general public.

Legal Timeline

1973 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is the first U.S. federal civil rights protection for people with disabilities.
1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination and promotes inclusion for people with disabilities.
1998 Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is amended to ensure electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities.
2008 The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 is signed into law to broaden and clarify the definition of disability.

Instructional Accessibility @ Pitt

To meet the needs of students with disabilities in the classroom, colleges and universities often rely on the disability accommodation processes established at their respective campuses. At Pitt, the Office of Disability Resources and Services (DRS) oversees these processes for students who self-identify a need for assistance and qualify for accommodations. DRS also works with the University Center for Teaching and Learning to inform faculty about how to proactively create accessible instructional materials that enable all students, regardless of disability status, to engage with course content, other students, and the instructor.

CourseWeb

CourseWeb is the University of Pittsburgh’s version of the Blackboard learning management system. Instructors use CourseWeb to disseminate course materials, conduct online discussions, collect assignments, and post grades. CourseWeb conforms to Blackboard’s accessibility compliance policy. This means that components of CourseWeb, such as the Grade Center, discussion boards, and quizzes, are in compliance with the standards set by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

Recommendations and Resources for Faculty

Although CourseWeb ensures the accessibility of its own components, it is still up those of us who create instructional materials, such as syllabi and PowerPoint handouts, to ensure their accessibility. This requires time, effort, and learning. The recommendations offered on these pages can help you to create course materials that are understandable, usable, and universally accessible to all students.