Accessibility and Copyright of Materials

As you begin the process of building your course you will want to review FERPA and copyright guidelines and resources related to accessibility and options for Open Educational Resources (OER). In addition to Cornell’s Copyright Services, you can review SUNY’s Copyright Information Center for additional information on fair use.

You may be wondering why accessibility matters. In addition to the legal reasons, such as ADA and section 504/508, universal design creates a better learning experience for all students. The universal design process provides a way to create instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyonerather than a single, one-size-fits-all solution. 

Examples of recordings on how to make your content accessible.

For specific questions please contact Cornell Student Disability Services.

Legally online course materials are required to be accessible to all students. However, designing accessible course content is not solely for the benefit of students with disabilities. Research has shown that all students can benefit from certain improvements in the usability of course materials.  For example, providing accurate video transcripts can improve comprehension for non-native speakers.

When creating online courses keeping in mind the principles of Universal Design will help you ensure that materials are easy to use and understand for all learners.

Online courses are evaluated for accessibility using a checklist that was developed from the industry standard Quality Matters and the SUNY OSCQR rubrics. The three areas of primary concern include

  1. Video captioning – All video assets should include a caption file that is timed to display in synch with the video. Videos may also include interactive transcripts. This allows viewers to not only read the spoken words and descriptions but to search for key terms and jump to relevant portions of the video. Some video may also benefit from having a separate descriptive track recorded. Low-vision viewers can use this to hear a description of the on-screen visuals.
  2. Image tagging and descriptions – Images include all photographs, graphs, charts, and other visual representations of information within a course. Each image should contain alternative or ‘alt text.’ This is a textual description giving as much information needed for users to glean all necessary data. Image tagging helps when students are using screen readers.
  3. Document readability – All documents regardless of format should be easily understood by students who use screen readers. Typically, screen readers provide linear narration of each element of a web page or document, while allowing users to jump between sections. In order for your documents to be easily understood, they should employ correct heading style structure. Screen readers will read the alt text for any image or graphic present. If no alt text is given they will completely skip over the image.

Use our Accessibility Quick Guide to understand how to create accessible content with different tools you’re already using like, PowerPoint, PDF’s, Word documents, and more.


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