Web Accessibility History
In March 1996, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights notified Chancellor Thomas J. Nussbaum that it was about to begin a statewide compliance review under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The compliance review would focus on the status of community colleges in meeting their obligation under Title II and Section 504 to provide students with visual impairments access to print and computer-based information.
The review was to examine whether students with visual impairments, particularly blind students, were accorded an equal educational opportunity by California Community Colleges or whether they were being discriminated against on the basis of their disability. Specifically, OCR wished to consider whether the Chancellor's Office employed "methods of administration" which substantially impaired accomplishment of the objectives of the California Community College educational programs with respect to students with visual impairments.
As an outcome of this review, OCR offered nine suggestions for addressing areas of concern identified by the review. Among the suggestions/concerned voiced by OCR was the need for development of system-wide access guidelines for distance learning and campus Web pages. In a January 22, 1998 letter to Chancellor Nussbaum, Stefan Rosenzweig, Regional Director of OCR stated:
"California Community Colleges, individually and collectively as part of the California Virtual University, are rapidly developing their capacity to deliver educational programs to offsite students through technology. Little attention is being given to ensure that these distance learning programs are accessible to students with disabilities, especially students with visual impairments."
He further added:
"The need for guidelines regarding distance learning has been recognized by several different entities in the California Community College system, including the Academic Senate which in Fall 1997, adopted "Guidelines for Good Practice: Technology Mediated Instruction." It is OCRs understanding that four regional distance learning centers to assist in development of program and course materials will be set-up in 1998-99. The concept of accessibility should be firmly integrated into such development."
In responding to the Regional Director's suggestions regarding development of system-wide access guidelines for distance learning and campus Web pages, in a letter dated March 13, 1998, Chancellor Nussbaum replied:
"We concur with the strategies related to this issue. I will immediately direct that the Chancellor's Office Task Forces related to distance learning as well as California Virtual University have persons on them to specifically address access issues for persons with disabilities... To assure that the necessary guidance to colleges is available, I will specifically ask Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Economic Development, Rita Cepeda, whose staff oversees the distance learning issues, to develop in cooperation with the DSP&S Unit and the High Tech Center Training Unit (HTCTU), guidelines for distance learning to assure it is accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities."
This is the beginning of the California Community College's Chancellor's Office Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities.