Section 508 compliance grants and other funding resources. The question is common and it may…
It’s important for educational institutions to stay on top of the news about new federal regulations regarding accessibility laws and to comply with them. A case in point was passage of section 508, a 1998 amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Although section 508 only applies to electronic information stemming from federal agencies, it does require states which receive funding through the Assistive Technology Act (ATA) to be in compliance with section 508. That would include public universities in those states.
What Section 508 Means for Public Universities
Rutgers is New Jersey’s only comprehensive public research university. With branch campuses in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden, Rutgers serves more than 65,000 students and has developed an extensive library of online courses. Because it receives funding through ATA, Rutgers is required to comply with section 508 standards in all of its web-based offerings, including online courses.
Like many public universities across the country, Rutgers has fully embraced captioning for Section 508 & compliance laws and standards. Specifically, Rutgers ensures that disabled individuals can access all of their web-based media materials, including audio and video files. For example, they add alternate text to all web-based images and provide captioning for all files which include audio.
How Compliance Can Boost Business
Universities like Rutgers understand that section 508 is about more than compliance. Disabled Americans represent a huge untapped market for them and for thousands of other public and private sector institutions and businesses. According to the 2010 census, almost 20% of Americans, close to 57 million people, have a documented disability.
Needless to say, these Americans want to complete their educations, and to purchase the products and services offered by businesses. And they’re more likely to purchase from companies and enroll at educational institutions that can meet their special needs.
Captioning Improves Student Experience and Performance
Adding features like video captions to course materials like videos makes it easier for all students, not only those with disabilities, to quickly find the information they need. This translates into improved test scores and grades. For example, Robert Keith Collins, an Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University, discovered that when he included captions to course videos, his students’ grades increased on average by one full letter grade.
Improved grades are just one of the benefits of tools like video search and searchable captions. In addition to facilitating a student’s ability to search relevant content, they improve information comprehension and fact retention. They also ensure compliance with government regulations, enhance access and help schools meet their enrollment goals. Clearly there are advantages beyond captioning for section 508 & compliance laws.
Current tools available to caption for Section 508 & compliance laws, represent a win-win scenario for higher education institutions. They ensure compliance with ADA regulations while simultaneously improving enrollment and student performance. Increasingly, forward-thinking media solutions companies are able to provide accessibility tools efficiently and cost effectively for all industries.