Web, Online Courses & Technology Access
Southern Miss is committed to providing equal access to its information, programs, services and activities, through its technologies and equipment. With the goal of ensuring access for all, the university is guided by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and guidelines set forth by Section 508. Because of disability laws, buildings would not be constructed where wheelchairs could not access. Similarly, the design of websites and online courses should not be obstacles for the participation of persons with disabilities.
Internet usage has been steadily increasing and will continue to expand. Online learning provides educational opportunities to many who would have difficulty in attending courses offered in traditional classrooms. However, this growing reliance on the Web and other information technologies can create difficulties for persons with disabilities, who may access traditional information sources in an alternative manner. For example, some with visual impairments may use screen readers or audio tracks to read print. Or persons with hearing impairments may depend on closed captioning to follow dialogues in movies or presentations. Others may have difficulty in using a mouse or submitting responses in a timely manner. With the variety of mediums frequently used on the Web, considerations must be given to access for persons with disabilities.
To ensure equal access to Southern Miss’ services, programs, and activities, the university is committed to adapting to the ways that users access materials and information. Therefore, in the procurement, development, and/or maintenance of information technology and services for persons with disabilities, the university strives to meet the accessibility standards specified by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), appropriately tailored to the specific circumstances of the university.
Ensuring disability access on the Web, in online courses, and in technology involves many steps:
- Evaluating the accessibility of a product, service or software during the purchasing process. Specific guidance for this process is available at Purchase Accessible Software, Equipment and Services (Word).
- Assessing the accessibility of online courses and Web pages then implementing the needed changes. Web access standards are explained on the Website Accessibility and Standards Checklist (Word).
- Ensuring that all forms of course material are accessible. Through ODA’s Document Conversion Services (DCS), assistance is available to ensure that textbooks and reading materials are accessible. For more information about DCS, read “Text Books and Reading Materials”.
- Ensuring that all course materials are available in formats that can be used by persons with disabilities. The links, PDF Access and PowerPoint Access, offer instructions for creating access. Even if a class is not fully online, it is important to ensure that all course materials are usable for persons with disabilities.
- Ensuring that captions are readily available for videos, video clips and audio tracks. For more information, go to Captions for Accessible Videos and Audio.
- Adding a web access statement about who to contact if one experiences difficulty using any part of a website or webpage because of a disability.
Example: "If you have difficulty accessing any portions of this website with adaptive technology or because of a disability, please contact John Doe at 601.266.1234 or email@example.com."