Thursday, April 30, 2015

Should Accessibility Factor Into Determining Award-Winning Online Courses?

USDLA just announced their 2015 Awards this week.

In the press release they say:
The USDLA Awards were created to acknowledge major accomplishments in distance learning and to highlight those distance learning instructors, programs, and professionals who have achieved and demonstrated extraordinary results through the use of online, videoconferencing, satellite and blended learning delivery technologies.

"This year's USDLA Awards recipients represent the finest examples of online courses, best practices, and leadership in our field.  The depth and breadth of the USDLA membership allows us to engage with leaders from higher education, K-12, industry, military, and government who daily demonstrate the power of distance learning.  We are so very proud and excited to be able to recognize this level of excellence," said Mrs. Elaine Shuck, President of USDLA.
When USDAL asked for award nominations I looked at their criteria and was unable to find any reference to criteria ensuring the nominations met legal accessibility requirements.  This is, as you know if you read this blog, an important issue, especially for those awardees in K-12 and higher education.  I wrote to the USDLA awards committee asking about accessibility criteria, and suggesting that it would be embarrassing for USDLA to give an award to an organization for a course or program that was subsequently found to be in non-compliance with basic accessibility legislation.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly,  I never did get a response from USDLA.  Now the awards have been announced and at least one award-winner in the K-12 category is a company that has been identified in OCR compliance reviews as being one of the providers of content that was not fully accessible.

OCR does not identify the courses that were found to be  non-compliant, nor do they indicate how many of courses is use were compliant versus the ones that were not.  It is possible that there was only one course not in compliance.  It is equally possible that many or all the courses provided by that particular vendor were not fully accessible.

Did USDLA recognize a course that does not meet the legal standard for accessibility?  

USDLA has a Quality Standards Certification that includes: Comply with legal and regulatory requirements of its jurisdiction. And since USDLA is international, that wording is appropriate, It would have been nice if the awards criteria said the same thing.

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