Title 5 of Americans with Disability Act (ADA) makes it clear that online classes must fulfill the requirements of the ADA and section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act: “Distance education means instruction in which the instructor and student are separated by distance and interact through the assistance of communication technology. All distance education is subject to the general requirements of this chapter as well as the specific requirements of this article. In addition, instruction provided as distance education is subject to the requirements that may be imposed by the American with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. §12100 et seq.) and section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.


As you create materials for blended, hybrid or online classes, ensure that they are in line with these standards  and principles. Conforming to these standards will benefit students with disabilities, and will help all of your students to access and use the content of your online and hybrid classes. Below we compiled resources to get you started. As always, if you have any questions, please contact TLCs.


Section 508 and W3C Standards

Section 508, the Electronic and Information Technology Standards, is a Federal law requiring most US Government electronic information services to be accessible to persons with disabilities.

While Section 508 is a federal law mandating the use of electronic accessibility standards on government websites. W3C stands for the World Wide Web Consortium, an industry group seeking to establish programming and design standards for all elements of Internet based communications. W3C offers Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a set of recommendations developed to make Web accessible to people with disabilities.

The Quality Matters Standards and Rubrics

The Quality Matters Rubric is a set of 8 general standards and 41 specific standards used to evaluate the design of online and blended courses. The rubric is complete with annotations that explain the application of the standards and the relationship among them. Quality Matters Accessibility Elements – Standard 8 describes the guidelines for creating the face-to-face and online course components that are accessible to all students.

Accessibility Checklists and Comprehensive Guides

Accessibility Best Practices for eTeaching: A checklist of best practices from George Washington University to help faculty members think through and improve accessibility for online courses and materials. It is based on a rubric from Quality Matters, a collegial process for promoting quality in online/blended courses.

Creating Accessible Content: A resource from University of Central Florida for faculty teaching online/blended courses and dealing with ADA and 508 compliance.

ADA Compliance in Online Courses: Washburn University’s concise checklist of best practices to help faculty to improve their online and blended courses.

This free service allows to test web pages and help expose and repair barriers to accessibility and encourage compliance with existing accessibility guidelines, such as Section 508 and the W3C’s WCAG (quality, accessibility, and privacy issues).

Web content accessibility validation solution, created to identify errors in design related to Section 508 standards and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This service is a free accessibility validation tester.

E-Toolbox from University of Connecticut features e-Tools that faculty can select and incorporate into course planning, content delivery, and assessment of student learning in online and technology blended courses to address the different learning styles of students, including students with cognitive disabilities.

WebAIM Section 508 Checklist: A checklist by WebAim to determine if your online materials and courses are complaint.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)  is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. Read about UDL to find out how it provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone.

Official website for the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.

Principles of Universal Design for Learning: Based on neuroscience research, these three principles guide and provide framework for UDL guidelines.

Additional Information on ADA in Higher Education

2010 Managing Online Education Survey results regarding ADA and online classes show that:

  • many campuses do not have formal policies and procedures to assure that their online courses and programs are compliant with ADA mandates;

  • 34% of the campuses participating in the survey report that ADA compliance for online courses and programs resides with the individual faculty who teach an online course;

  • 24% report that ADA compliance responsibility resides with academic programs or departments;

  • 17% report no institutional policy or procedure for ADA compliance, and

  • 9% report that a central campus office examines a sample of online courses to ADA assure ADA compliance.

To learn more about this survey results and its implications, follow the link: 2010 Managing Online Education Survey

Developing an Accessible Online Course: A Process Overview. A presentation from Sloan-C conference that provides instructional designers, instructors, course developers and administrators with practical applications of procedures and processes for creating ADA compliant courses. Link to presentation slides.

The following technical brief from University of Connecticut on Students With Disabilities and Online Learning offers suggestions and strategies to assist students with disabilities to fully access and participate in online courses. Technical Brief #4.



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Want to know more or perhaps just to talk with a human? ASSETT’s Teaching and Learning Consultants would be thrilled to meet with you at your convenience to talk further about how these resources can be used to fit your personal teaching and learning goals. Just drop us a line and perhaps we can meet over a good cup of java or tea.