In the rising age of technology, digital courseware materials are popular choices when it comes to learning at university. The interactive videos, simulations and built-in video assignments aim to enhance students’ learning – but not all experience this.

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Community College District lost a lawsuit issued by two blind students and the National Federation of the Blind. The court ruled a breach in Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act after students received insufficient learning tools.

Most notably, Pearson’s MyMathLab came under fire for its inaccessibility to blind students. The college was further criticised for its failure to provide swift alternatives from a textbook equivalent, leaving students to their own devices.

The court ordered the college to hire a faculty head of educational technology, improve their website’s accessibility and to ensure that no digital materials are purchased without the appropriate accessibility checks – an exemplary model for all institutions to follow by.

A woman with cloth wrapped around her eyes

Slipping through the Cracks

However, while many colleges are practising rigid accessibility checks for new software, digital courseware purchases often slip through the cracks, as the courseware is often requested by individual faculty members without consulting the IT accessibility staff.

The problems extend to educational publishers, such as Pearson, who take weeks to provide alternate content that is up to scratch with other materials being used in class. For college students, weeks of waiting is costly to their progress and learning – and for universities, a significant contributor to retention issues.

Elynsey Price, a spokesperson for Pearson, reiterated the company’s dedication to providing accessible course materials. “We stand behind our digital products, which are rigorously tested for compatibility with the most commonly used accessibility tools and devices,” she said. However, Pearson recognises that it has ‘many opportunities for improvement.’

Read more on this story at Inside Higher Ed.