Accessibility vs. Accommodation | Butler Community College

Accessibility vs. Accommodation

Accessibility v. Accommodation - The facts!

The excerpt below from Disability Thinking Blogspot explains the difference between accessibility and accommodation.

  • is what we should expect to be ready for us without asking or planning ahead. It can be provided by following an easy to implement set of standards and practices that may make "adaptation" unnecessary. We can benefit from accessibility without announcing or explaining our disabilities.
  • is for adaptations that can't be anticipated or standardized. They are different for each individual. Although we should expect there to be a general willingness to accommodate us wherever we go, we can't expect actual, specific accommodations unless and until we ask for them. We do have to announce and may have to explain our disabilities a bit in order to get accommodations. Accommodations are requested through the Office of Disability Services.

Accessibility is the baseline of equal service, and accommodation is the second step to take when accessibility alone isn't enough.


Works Cited: Apulrang. "Accessibility vs. Accommodation." Disability Thinking. N.p., 17 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Aug. 2017, from

Examples of Accessibility:

  • Creating course content (PDFs, Word or Excel Documents, etc.) that can be read with a screen reader.
  • Ensuring the admissions application functions are based on keyboard commands and not reliant on mouse clicks.
  • All videos shown in the f2f classroom or housed in the LMS have accurate closed captioning provided.

Examples of Accommodations:  

  • Moving classes to an alternate space to accommodate for an inaccessible building structure.
  • Providing alternate formats of text.
  • Providing sign language interpreters for academic and non-academic functions.
  • Utilizing auxiliary aids, such as recording of lectures, notetakers, extended time on tests, and non-disruptive test environments

Why is the accessible model becoming the fastest growing focus of most institutions?

Aside from the fact that it is the law, 60-80% of undergraduate students are not disclosing their disability. The accessible model is the proactive approach to serving the most students possible. As educators it is our responsibility to remove as many barriers as we can for our students to enable the learning process to occur.


Works Cited: “Accessibility in Education.” Blackboard Help,


How is accessibility different in the face-to-face environment compared to online?

The Canvas and web environments need to follow WCAG 2.0 AA standards but the face-to-face environment may raise a few additional questions.

Example: Do I have to turn on the closed captioning when showing a video in my face-to-face classroom?

The answer can quickly turn into a “muddiest point”. Closed captioning should (by default) be on, however, if you have students indicating this is causing a distraction, perhaps the best approach is an anonymous survey to identify if students need them on or off.

Captions are not just for hearing impaired students.  They are also for ELL/ESOL students and students with other learning disabilities.  In the online environment, students have the choice to turn them on or off.

What happens if I have one student indicate they need them and one student indicating they are a distraction?

If you have, even one student, needing the captions you will need to turn them on. We understand that you are educators and want to meet the needs of all students, so here are a few things to consider in this case;

  • Does the video need to be shown? Is it essential to the outcomes of the course?
  • Are you able to have the video available to students in the Canvas shell? In this environment, students can watch the video and either turn the captions on or off, depending on their individual needs.

If you have questions about video captioning, reach out to EdTech. Chances are, if you have questions - your colleagues do as well. Don’t be afraid to reach out. As EdTech receives questions, a repository of FAQs is developed and added to the course accessibility training.

Example Two:  Do I have to read out loud what is on the overhead (or have an electronic reader available) in the classroom? I usually just paraphrase.  Does this mean there must be a sign language interpreter in my class every day?

No.  Faculty do not have to read an overhead word for word.  We follow WCAG 2.0 AA.  Perhaps a good practice, would to make all notes or power points available in your Canvas shell. Students would be able to utilize any assistive technology during the lecture. It is also helpful to some students to be able to preview information prior to class.  A sign language interpreter would be an accommodation as needed.  Self-identification is necessary to receive an accommodation.

Reminder: Making your course materials accessible for students with disabilities also provides a better experience for students without disabilities. Remember that 60 – 80% of undergraduate students choose not to disclose their disability.

What exactly is WCAG 2.0 AA and why do we follow it?  

According to, "The proposed new standard for Section 508 is expected to require conformance to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA" (WCAG 2.0). The WCAG documents provide guidelines on making web content accessible for individuals with disabilities. Review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview.

While Section 508 applies only to governmental agencies, it gives us the only governmental guidance on accessible technology. It is important to remember, that Butler Community College must adhere to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA amendments act of 2008. Each piece of legislation requires that all goods and services must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

The move to an accessible model at Butler:

The entire campus is working towards an accessible learning environment for students. The accessibility task force is chaired by Teressa Eastman and Connie Belden under the leadership of the VP of Academics, Lori Winningham. Below is a short list of offices working towards the accessibility model;

  • Administration/Accessibility Task Force – Responsible for creating policy and procedure to support the accessibility model.
  • Disability Services – Responsible for student accommodations and in compliance with Section 504, ADA and ADA Amendments Act.
  • EdTech – Responsible for faculty training on course accessibility, course development and the master course process.
  • Information Services – Responsible for the procurement process and testing new software and hardware.
  • Web Services-web content for accessibility.
  • Student Services – Responsible for the accessibility of the student service functions.

Can things ever be 100% accessible?

Of course not. We do our best to make our campus (including our courses) as accessible as we can for the highest number of students possible. There will always be a need for accommodation above and beyond the requirements stated in WCAG 2.0 AA.

Why are faculty required to make their content accessible? Why is this not the responsibility of EdTech?

Butler Community College values the academic freedom of our faculty and the diversity of our students, while maintaining compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA amendments act of 2008. This means the faculty have full editing rights in their courses. With editing rights, there comes responsibility to ensure materials you are altering, adding, or using are accessible and meet the standards set forth in WCAG 2.0 AA. If EdTech were responsible for the accessibility of the courses at Butler, a closed model would have to be implemented which would restrict editing rights for faculty. Again, Butler values the academic freedom of faculty and prefers a model where faculty can exercise their right to add/edit/or remove content when needed.

EdTech does, however, work with faculty to create master courses which do meet accessibility standards. These courses are available for faculty to use and alter as they see fit. The master course serves as a starter course for faculty. In this case, faculty can add or edit as needed and only need to focus on making those additions or edits accessible as the master course was made accessible during development. EdTech also provides training for faculty on how to create and/or transition materials into accessible versions.

Articles regarding Accessibility and Accommodations

Is this “Accessibility” or “Accommodation”? Article by Dr. Carolyn Speer available on

What’s the difference between accessibility and accommodations? Article by John Jones available on

Harvard has a new Web Accessibility Policy Article by John Jones available on

Accessibility in the Online Classroom Article by Roberta Sheahan & Brian Dye available on Colleague to Colleague Digital Magazine

Faculty Training

Self-enroll for course accessibility training here or contact EdTech to get enrolled:

EdTech, 316-218-6000,

Still have questions? Here are some resources to assist:

Have a question about policy? Contact the Accessibility Task Force representatives:

Teressa Eastman, 316-322-3321,

Connie Belden, 316-218-6218,

Have a question about accessibility in your Canvas course? Contact EdTech:

EdTech, 316-218-6000,

Have a question about an accommodation? Contact Disability Services:

Teressa Eastman, 316-322-3321,

Have a question as to software, websites, or hardware accessibility? Contact Information Services via a Service Now. Service ticket.