On April 2, 2015, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and edX, a nonprofit provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs), entered into a settlement agreement to “remedy alleged violations” by edX of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). DOJ believes that edX’s platform for providing online courses was not accessible to people with disabilities, including those who are deaf, individuals who are blind or have low vision, and those who have physical disabilities affecting manual dexterity. According to DOJ, “the settlement requires edX to provide accurate captioning for the deaf, oral navigation signals for the blind, and programming changes so those with dexterity disabilities can navigate content without struggling with a hand-operated mouse.”
The settlement requires edX to make changes to its website, learning management system, and mobile applications as well as utilize the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. For individuals and organizations authoring content to be hosted by edX, edX will provide “guidance and authoring tools” to promote fully accessible online courses. It is important to note that those authoring the content remain responsible for the accessibility of the content. Additionally, edX will hire an accessibility consultant to review annually the accessibility of its website, learning management system, and mobile applications. There is a timeline for each of the many steps that edX must take under the agreement.
The actions required of edX by this settlement may become the de facto best practices for providing accessible online content in higher education. For more details and a link to the settlement agreement, see the April 2 DOJ news release about the settlement.