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ADA Compliance and Accessibility: Overview

Basic help and links to more information on making online instruction and resources accessible.


In 2013, the NC Community College System Office initiated a 5-year plan for web and e-learning accessibility in order to comply with federal regulations on web accessibility for people with disabilities.  According to the Office for Civil Righs (OCR), "Qualified individuals with disabilities must receive equal access to all of recipient's pograms, services, and activities."  Those with disabilities should be able to have the "same experience" as those without disabilities.

In order to ensure accessibility, all "digital resources" (including Word documents, PDFs, and Power Point presentations) used on campus by instructors and staff need to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Source: Adapted from a presentation by Alan Unsworth, Surry Community College Reference and Web Services Librarian, Jul 23, 2015.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: POUR

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are based on four main principles to determine whether electronic content is usable by all people.

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

You can look at the Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust boxes on this page for definitions and details about these principles, including specific guidelines for how to apply each principle to online content.


Guideline 1: Perceivable

Perceivable- Can the student read, hear, or otherwise consume the content presented, either in the formats presented or using assistive technologies?

Example: Someone who is deaf wouldn't be able to perceive a lecture presented as an audio podcast, so a visual alternative, such as a transcript, must be provided.

1.1  Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.

1.2  Provide alternatives for time based media, such as live multimedia (like webinars) and prerecorded audio and video presentations.

1.3  Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.

1.4  Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.

Guideline 2: Operable

Operable- Can the student control and interact with all necessary elements?

Example: A person who isn't able to use a mouse to navigate a tutorial must be able to use the keyboard or assistive technology, such as eye-tracking, to operate the tutorial's controls.

2.1  Make all functionality available from a keyboard.

2.2  Provide users enough time to read and use content.

2.3  Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.

2.4  Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

Guideline 3: Understandable

Understandable- Is the content presented clearly and with a minimum of confusion and ambiguity?

Example: An online registration form should include clearly labled entry fields, important clarifying examples like required date format, logical progress through the form, and descriptions of what is wrong when a form isn't filled out correctly.

3.1  Make text content readable and understandable.

3.2  Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

3.3  Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Guideline 4: Robust

Robust- Can the content be accessed by a variety of methods and technology?

Example: A webpage should be readable by multiple screen readers AND completely navigable by keyboard alone as well as with a mouse.

4.1  Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

Helpful Websites

Need help?  Contact the VGCC Library.