Connecting ADA and IDEA to Instructional Design

Owen Guthrie in ED 653 challenged us to work through some of the issues linking ADA, IDEA and or work as Instructional Designers and teachers in the online environment. My post and work are linked here:

Document Accessibility, ED 653 

Owen’s original assignment is linked here: Designing for Accessibility

It was good for me to go back to it and review the learning objects in light of Chris’s assignment here in ED 654. The core readings were taken from this ebook, available through the UAF library.

Coombs, Norman (2010). Making Online Teaching Accessible: Inclusive Course Design for Students with Disabilities. Jossey-Bass. Retrieved January 14, 2012, from Ebook Library. 

From Coombs book, I recalled three concepts that we should build into our thinking about instruction and design (pages 13-14) “Effective Communication, Timeliness of Delivery, and Undue Burden.” The heart of his message is that building these priorities into our planning is cheaper and easier than retrofitting or remodeling.

I like using Audacity and SoundCloud to deliver some instructional content, and that is well, and good except it excludes a deaf or hard-of-hearing-person. Accordingly, if I remember to create a pdf transcription along with my audio (and I work from a script so not a hardship) then I have built effective communication in at the outset, and that addresses the timeliness of delivery, as well. By anticipating this possible use, I have eliminated criticism regarding reasonable accommodation and reduced the burden on myself.

Another important source of information and insight comes from the W3C (International World Wide Web Consortium). Specifically, their policies on Web Accessibility are beneficial for teachers and designers. One interesting pressure on us increasingly as we seek to extend our delivery of online education internationally is our obligation to laws in other countries. Closer to hand, however, is just good practices in search engine optimization and basic web accessibility standards. Coombs offers four principles to help us organize our thinking (page 16):

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

“Perceivable” speaks to text and non-text alternatives, captions, and image alt tags also contribute. As well design principles that remember contrast, font, and size aid in making content perceivable are necessary. Keyboard accessibility, the pacing of video to permit subtitles to be read, and assistive navigation all contribute to improved operability. Understandability along with design elements like font and layout, also, might include paying attention to reading level analysis. Using the screen reading tools and staying current in that area, as well, can contribute to a “robust” or at least more thoughtful approach to design and instruction. I think one of the most important elements of this is not taking my abilities for granted. Certainly, as I age, I understand more about vision and sound as my sight and hearing change. Perhaps a key here is becoming learner-centered rather than self-centered in either the designer or instructor roles. However, it takes both learners and facilitators to create an online learning experience, and so I think there are obligations on the learner’s side, Coombs identifies:

  • Up-to-Date Technology
  • Skill in Using Adaptive Technology
  • Doing Good Work

as responsibilities of the learner (page 29-30). I am glad to see someone addressing responsibilities of the learner. My experience in rural Alaska further complicates the tension between facilitator-learner interactions. Our communities are relatively poor, our educational resources uneven, our internet access is expensive and slow, and our definitions of “good work” vary widely. And yet we know that online learning is incredibly important for our future and the continued existence of these rural communities.


Reasonable and Unreasonable Accomodations

Making accommodations and modifications means changing the way things are usually done to take into account a person’s disability-related needs. Examples of accommodations and modifications include modifying rules, policies or practices; removing architectural or communication barriers; or providing aids, services, or assistive technology.

“(i) modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position such qualified applicant desires; or

(ii) modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position; or

(iii) modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity’s employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.”

The Family Connect website is quite rich, the site is first for blind or visually impaired individuals but they also have resources for multiple impairments. They map out precedent for specific accommodations for specific needs. For example, Blind or Visually Impaired accommodations are charted out on this page.

Certainly, this is not legal advice, and I would use something like it to inform my thinking prior to meeting with the UAF compliance officer.  Indeed I would work closely with the university every step of the way through an accommodation request whether student or employee. The teeth that the ADA gives to civil litigation are pretty daunting and as a manager I want the university to have my back.


The ADA does not require modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of the services provided by the public accommodation. For example, expecting a specialist to become a generalist, or to switch specializations would count as unreasonable burden. Or, a student requesting a scribe for test taking, failing the test, and subsequently petitioning for both a scribe and additional time, when the real problem was content knowledge, and having more time would simply make it more apparent that the student didn’t know the content.


ADA, Questions

What are best practices for instructors and designers when building online courses sensitive to ADA?

What are public or private college-university’s responsibilities to students with disabilities?

Is money available and specifically relevant to assisting persons with disabilities in online activity and digital participation?


ADA, Single Starting Point

(though I guess you could do three not-so-long blog posts. But wouldn’t that be boring?)

So, Bob is a little overbooked and is playing the boring card. I started a new job 7/24.  I am participating in the iTeach summer intensive and trying to get, my winter fish in this week.

Exploring the ADA and IDEA

Reasonable and Unreasonable Accommodations

Connecting ADA and IDEA to Instructional Design


Search and Research

Search & Research

Protections for intermediaries from liability for users’ content are necessary to a vibrant, innovative Internet.  These legal protections allow Internet access providers, content hosts, social networks, and others to support a robust online environment for free expression without worrying about potential liability for the material stored on or moving across their networks. Without them, services would be much less willing to accept user-generated content for fear of potential civil and criminal liability. Center for Democracy and Technology Definition

The Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Wikimedia Policy pages both speak openly and in support of intermediary non-liability. The aim is an exchange of ideas; materials shared across the internet.  In the US, and Europe specific laws or sections of acts are essential for creating this environment Section 512 of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act (CDA Section 230), and the EU E-Commerce Directive are essential to ensuring to allowing isp, hosts, and social media to waive editorial responsibility. I find it interesting as well that Wikimedia keeps track of and publishes openly any take down notices it executes on. I do respect it as a kind of shareholder accountability, less fiscal and more socially responsible.

One article offers that “generally” Brazil, Russia, China, Thailand, and India have similar approaches to the matter.

Among the reports’ most positive findings, Bakhmetyeva said, is that the five countries generally do not hold internet intermediaries liable for unlawful content posted by users unless they knew about the content and failed to remove it. Most countries usually grant online service providers immunity, referred to as “safe harbor,” provided they comply with certain rules and remove problematic content quickly.Liability of internet ‘intermediaries’ in developing countries

I was struck by the analogy offered in this article by a journalist. Saying that holding internet intermediaries responsible for content is like holding the post office responsible for content. I also think it is fascinating once we get past the democracy, and creativity arguments and explore the potential economic impact of moving away from this model.

Requiring platforms to screen content hurts the entire U.S. economy.
Emerging technology businesses are driving economic growth in the UnitedStates. Placing more onerous requirements on internet services would decrease U.S. GDP by an estimated $44 billion and eliminate more than 425,000 jobs each year. That would be equivalent to giving away the annual GDP of Iceland, Jamaica, and Nicaragua combined and firing all McDonald’s workers in the U.S. Internet Safe Harbors: The Laws That Protect Speech & Creativity

When I read this, I understand a lot better why the US and Europe have the legislative protection it does.  It also helps me figure out why countries like Brazil, Russia, China, India, and Thailand have at least the spirit of the laws. The economic multiplier is huge and no self-respecting government is going to get in the way of that economic engine for the sake of vague ideals.


 Internet Safe Harbors: The Laws That Protect Speech & Creativity

The Center for Internet and Society: Intermediary Liability

Intermediary Liability in the United States

Liability of internet ‘intermediaries’ in developing countries

Wikimedia Policy Intermediary Liability

Liability of Online Intermediaries: New Study by the Global Network of Internet and Society Centers

Exploring the ADA and IDEA

Elevator Speech

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the civil rights of individuals with disabilities comparable to other protected classes. Discrimination against persons with disabilities is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II prohibits discrimination by disability by public entities, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance). The act guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications. ADA defines reasonable accommodations as modifications or adjustments to the way things are usually done that enable individuals with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to participate in academics or employment. The ADA also protects qualified persons with disabilities from discrimination in many areas of postsecondary education including admission, academics, and research. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures students with disabilities (infancy through high school graduation or age 21) have access to a free and appropriate public education, just like all other children. Under IDEA, parents have a say in the educational decisions the school makes about their child.

This, of course, is not my voice or way of speaking it is harvested and edited from a variety of internet sources.  However, an elevator speech is not better for extreme creativity or overthinking. What I would add to the summary above is a couple of thoughts about online instruction and design. Perhaps emphasizing a learner-centered approach, and anticipating effective communication, timeliness of service and anticipating and preventing burden would be some key elements in my more focused summary.

Section 504: Explained & Summarized

Section 504 prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating because of disability. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability in state and local government services by state and local governmental entities, whether or not they receive federal funds, this includes public school districts. Virtually all public school systems receive federal funds, and public education is a government service. Both statutes require school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities protected by those laws.

  1. Comparable Benefits and Services
  2. Criteria and Methods of Administration
  3. Reasonable Accommodations
  4. Maximum Feasible Integration

Key Legal Concepts and Standards-Based Education Reform

  • Using Standards as a Strategy for Reform
  • Linking Curriculum, Courses, and Instructional Strategies to the Standards Set for All Students
  • Using Assessment for School Accountability

These elements and statements are summarized from the PEER Project Overview. Title II explained 

Certainly, as a service provider at a public university, I am obligated by this legislation to consider accessibility for our customers. Here in rural Alaska, this is an interesting challenge. Recently, in anticipation of a new (to us) student we changed our office assignments so that our financial aid person is physically located in an office with greater wheelchair accessibility. We as well had a recent visit from representatives from a deaf and hard-of-hearing, non-profit/lobby, and that caused us to stop and think. The resources available in rural communities are constrained. And yet, as the recipients of federal money we are obligated to have thought ahead and had a plan for being responsive. We spend a great deal of energy on applying for, managing and delivering services funded by grants, probably at near capacity. However, we have equal responsibilities for this kind of legislation that represents a serious management concern.

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: History and Summary

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been amended several times since Congress first passed it in 1975. Its primary goals are:

  • To protect the rights of children with disabilities.
  • To give parents a voice in their child’s education

Young persons who are not eligible for support under IDEA might still qualify for support under another law called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. A 504 plan can provide accommodations to help young people in school.

How IDEA protects young people and parents

This legislation does not impact us in higher education directly.  However, as we try to deliver dual credit coursework and our Occupational Endorsements in our local high schools, I wonder if we might have some unanticipated obligations. We have opened up our admissions saying that young people age 13 can take courses and that 16 and older can enroll in our endorsements. One facet of that business model is to deliver endorsements provided by others, that is not locally produced, and so I wonder about where the obligation arises and where the fix will come from? Very probably the burden will be on the local campus just from a practical standpoint.

The (Creative) Commons

So, I hit the Creative Commons website and followed the links to the “Choose a License” page. I read it through and then circled back to Chris’s assignment. He indicated that I needed to select something that I made for this course. I thought about the audio’s I had published on SoundCloud. Interestingly, SoundCloud plays only be standard copyright rules. So no option on their website for alternate licenses.  Previously, I noted that YouTube allows for Creative Commons, but the default is a standard copyright. Probably there is a mechanism to modify the terms of copyright after the fact. However, the two videos I’ve made were not for this course. So, once again, I satisfied with my YAWP post.  I selected a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. I am ok with the creative use of my work. I am not so ok with a big corporation using my stuff (like that is a problem I have) though I wonder on what definition that distinction turns. I imagined that my favorite YouTube content creators could use my stuff… but now I wonder. So, after having double checked, I should have selected ok to commercial use to allow other content creators whose sites are monetized access to my content.  So, based on that learning, I switched to a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Proper Use Scenario:

So, my Favorite Blogger loves my post “YAWP” and decides to do a remix on the content and ideas. Favorite reaches out to me and lets me know of her intention. She does her creative work and posts her remix with attribution and link to my original post. Her monetized site results in profits to her, and because she promoted my work, the remix results in traffic to my site. The traffic and comments encourage me to monetize and market my blog.

Improper use Scenario:

Evil Blogger rips off my post directly and posts it on his site, Chris Lott Googling my YAWP post comes across this copyright/Creative Commons violation and drops the dime on Evil Blogger. I email Evil and politely request he either take down the post or engage in the creative act of remixing and attribution. Because I am so persuasive, Evil Blogger experiences a transformation and is touched by rainbows and ponies. Now, Good Blogger attributes, links and even remixes a little, but because his site has little traffic since had a reputation as a Pirate, no traffic to my site results.

Improper use Scenario (version 2):

Evil Blogger rips off my post directly and posts it on his site, Chris Lott Googling my YAWP post comes across this copyright/Creative Commons violation and drops the dime on Evil Blogger. I email Evil and politely request he either take down the post or engage in the creative act of remixing and attribution. Evil Blogger blows me off. I send a takedown order to Evil, his site host and search engines linking to his site. Because Evil is a jerk, his site host shuts him down for a pattern of violations. Evil has hacker friends, and they break into my blog site and vandalize it.

Creative Commons doesn’t wrestle with the fundamental weirdness of Copyright law(particularly the length of protection) however; it allows creators to fine-tune and make public the terms of their sharing and does so in a consistent way. I guess I knew more than I remembered about Creative Commons from my library work, nonetheless, I suspect this could be a useful tool for the cohorts of content creators on line. Here I am thinking about clusters of YouTube creators. Like these:

They could select a CC-BY license and protect themselves and support each other at the same time. Right now they are all young and good friends but we have seen money change people so very possibly simply going with the default YouTube licence might be short sighted for this kind of creative collaborations.

Fair(ish) Use

My understanding of Fair Use comes from years and years of work as a Reserve Technician (job titles, who writes that noise) processing reserves for faculty at a small elite liberal-arts college in an academic library.  Fair Use was my life-blood. A lot of time was spent on educating faculty, and feeling annoyed when librarians would over-ride my use of the four criteria and give the house away. We were processing photocopies when I started and then moved to e-reserves, and then once an administrator I pushed the task back on faculty through their use of Moodle. I encouraged them to link to all the thousands of articles our subscriptions gave them access to linking directly.

As a support staff (read responsible but without power to resist tenured privileges), I relied heavily on the four factors:

  • the purpose and character of your use.
  • the nature of the copyrighted work.
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and.
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

I focused on the pedagogic aspects of Fair Use, and even when using film, music, data, I felt pretty good about using materials particularly if we could put it behind a password.  And being a residential campus, even the physical copies were usually withing 500 feet of the library so a different beast than some.

I find myself equally perplexed as the teachers in this video as regards student remix and mashup. 

Less so when what students produce is behind a password or displayed from a physical copy.

The Documentary Filmmaker’s Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use is a tremendous tool for getting to the production side of learning.  I particularly like this resource since our aim again is to get to making stuff not just presenting it.

Turning to the second part of this to think about my online production and my take on Fair Use, and this mainly focused on our Yawp post. My long running blog site Sisyphean Enterprises and my silly attempt at painting strike me as two possible topics for thinking about Fair Use.

The blog is an 8-year long collection of journal entries, some are workouts, some are rants, and some are archives of online resources. First, why on earth would a teacher or student need that support for pedagogy, but that aside. Fair Use, protects scholarly and pedagogic use, so have at it. The work itself is a journal freely accessible online, so, I have always related to it as if it were in the public domain. While my relation to that work remains the same, my thinking especially as discovering content creators making a living through their YouTube channels has changed. I very much understand their concerns, but as regards the substance of that blog I don’t share the concerns. Regarding the amount of the blog used… personally, if someone were to use 90% of that site for some purpose especially making money), and I discovered it I would laugh at their lack of effort and critical thinking, but I wouldn’t rent a lawyer. If I was monetized on that site, and I gave care that might be a different story, so for me, there is no effect on the potential market.

Regarding the painting, because it is a creative rather than factual artifact it would be harder to justify Fair Use. But because it is rubbish, I am way back at why would any right-minded student or instructor use it for anything (even a negative example). I suppose if some bit of it was cropped and selected for instructional purposes (I suspect a how not to do it) that would be better Fair Use. I gave the original away as a gift so if someone stole that image and attempted to make a profit off of it, again that is just laughable, I cannot even finish the statement.

What if I valued the content I created and was monetizing it to make a living? Then perhaps my tune would change regarding copyright and for-profit use of my content. However, we are talking about Fair Use, and for “factual” content I would be hard pressed to make a meaningful fuss. Moreover, if I discovered that a collection of student videos remixing and mashing my content, I would probably link to it and treat it as free promotion and in turn promote those creators. I might reach out to the teacher and as many of the students as possible and create content on their use of my content.

Perhaps, more complicated is my relationship with my final post in the Digital Storytelling class, Mashup/Remix. The heart of the work is Hemingway’s short story Indian Camp which is in the public domain, and that is why I started with it. I would have to appeal to the transformative use of some of the materials to justify their use and because this is a creative rather than documentary use of materials I don’t have recourse to that justification. My primary use of resources is the embedding of whole videos, on the one hand, a failure of the factors regarding amount used. On the contrary, some of these videos are monetized, and so views pay the creator, as well views count as traffic for the creator, so my use pays them if they are setup for that. I counted on the disruption to the flow of the narrative and the differences between the videos as a creative and storytelling element, so my ripping the videos and editing them into some single video would not have the effect for which I aimed. However, if I had done that I could then get into the niggling about amount, purpose, and nature of the copyrighted work.

I am pretty much rubbish for stuff found on the internet.

Collaborate (a Little)

Collaboration (A Little) Heather Marie, Kevin, and Bob

I reached out to these two on Slack to form this group.  We took Digital Storytelling together the last term. I am a bitter vet when it comes to group work in graduate classes so I am fully intentional in selecting collaborators.  Happily, this team gelled immediately and went to work.

I particularly like the document with our comment thread. The conversations were respectful but frank at times. One, in particular, about holding a participant accountable if they drop the ball, was insightful. I was focused on workplace project teams, Heather Marie, and Kevin were coming at it from the point of view of educators, so seeing the topic from another’s eyes was valuable.

I also enjoyed that some natural humor was shared on at least one of the points. Comments like texts can be pithy and unintentionally sharp or humorous so clarifying questions can be an important skill.

The document that contrasts the original and rephrased statements is interesting as well.  In the end, I think we offered a pretty useful set of guidelines.