ADA, FERPA, Click-wrap, & Copyright
At this point, you know a lot about developing your course. As you incorporate readings, writings, and multimedia, it’s critical to make sure that you’re abiding by the University’s legal requirements. Because laws may change, please check with the University for the most current legal restrictions. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) also has a robust set of accessibility guidelines and standards related to web accessibility.
Here are a few well-known legal requirements:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans lives with a disability, including auditory, physical, cognitive, visual, speech, or neurological impediments (Census Bureau, 2012). Be mindful that every student is different and unique, and needs an exceptional learning experience. While not a comprehensive guide, here are some beginning strategies for faculty seeking to comply with ADA requirements.
- Closed captions are text captions synchronized with video audio and images. Include a transcript of words spoken in the video, but also full descriptions of sounds, gestures, or other elements.
- Alternate text refers to brief captions, or text descriptions, used by screen readers to describe what is portrayed in the image.
- Text size should be reasonably large (size 10 or higher) and text color should contrast the background page color. For example, black text on a white background is very visible, but yellow text on a blue background could be difficult to read.
- Choose legible typefaces. Avoid stylizing text with italics, bold, etc. unless it conveys meaning. Arial and Times New Roman are examples of common fonts used by most internet browsers.
- Color palettes should be contrasting but easily viewable. For example, black and white are opposite colors and are very easy to read, but contrasting colors like blue text on an orange background may be difficult for some viewers to process. A site like Color Safe can help you check your hues.
- Structure page content to include headings, subheadings, etc. This is ideal for a screenreader but also helps all students organize and “chunk” content. Organizing content by hierarchy is another way to visually convey importance. And, blank space—also known as negative space—should be considered an organizational strategy, too. Too much and a web page may look empty, but too little and your students may get lost in information overload. Certain text editing and presentation software, such as Adobe Acrobat Pro, Google Apps Suite, and Microsoft Office, integrate native accessibility checkers within their platforms.
- Shapes and icons can be useful visual signifiers to convey information or actions. Remember to consider the cultural backgrounds of your students to ensure that an icon, shape, or color will resonate with your intended meaning.
- Make your course content available through a variety of modes and mediums, if possible. This could include PDFs, images, videos, audio files, etc.
- Utilize an online web page checker like WAVE by WebAIM to determine if there are elements of your course content that may be inaccessible.
- The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) “is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.” To comply with FERPA requirements, instructors must ensure that grades and other private student data are not accessible by other students or the public. Keeping grades in the LMS helps to ensure the grades remain private.
- Click-wrap agreements “require a user to click ‘I agree’ or ‘I accept’ before the software or hardware can be installed.
- Citing copyrighted sources. Copyright relates to the four fair use factors:
- Character and purpose of proposed use
- Nature of the work to be used
- Effect on the market or potential market for the work
- Amount and sustainability of the portion to be used
- To comply with copyright guidelines, instructors should seek out public domain images, ask publishers for permission to use copyrighted items, and post links to documents and videos rather than reposting them in the course.