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San Diego State University - Interwork Institute
Collaborative for Distance Learning

The following distance education policy guidelines were adopted from a report titled Distance Education: Access guidelines for Students with Disabilities  distributed by the Chancellor’s Office, California Community Colleges, August 1999.

Based on that report, the San Diego State University Interwork Institute will address distance education access issues in the following two areas: Basic Requirements for Providing Access to Distance Education programs and, General Access Guidelines for Specific modes of Distance Education Instructional Delivery, specifically, print media, audio conferencing, video conferencing/video transmission (live), video transmission (pre-recorded), World Wide Web (WWW), instructional software, laser video disc, CD ROM, and DVD.


The general policy of the SDSU Interwork Institute regarding accessibility to distance education program emphasizes three main points.

First, the SDSU Interwork Institute maintains a proactive stance in its vision for providing effective access for all students in distance education programs such as those utilizing resources and materials including audio, video, and text components of courses or communication delivered via satellite, Instructional Television Fixed Services (ITFS), cable, compressed video, local and wide area networks, internet, telephone, and any other form of electronic transmission. Moreover, providing effective access also applies for all students using materials for such courses including audio materials, video, multimedia and text components of web sites, electronic chat rooms, e-mail, instructional software, CD-ROM, DVD, laser disc, video tape, audio tape, electronic text, and print materials.

Second, as the SDSU Interwork Institute develops distance education programs utilizing any of the above, it will proceed with the needs of all students in mind, including the unique needs of students with disabilities. Moreover, the SDSU Interwork Institute will take all necessary steps to unequivocally afford those individuals with disabilities an opportunity to participate in distance education programs where communication is as effective as that afforded to non-disabled students. In this context, effective communication means timeliness in delivering the course, accuracy of the material translated into a suitable context for learning, and providing a learning medium appropriate to the significance of the course and the abilities of the individual with the disability.

Third, the SDSU Interwork Institute acknowledges a shared responsibility among all university administrators, faculty, and staff who are involved in the use of distance education programs to ensure such programs, materials, and resources are accessible to students with disabilities.

 SDSU Interwork Institute General Policy Guidelines

A. Basic Requirements for Access to Distance Education programs

Concurring with the Distance Education Guidelines supported by the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges, the SDSU Interwork Institute advocates the following specifications for access of distance education programs for students with disabilities.

  1. Distance education resources will be designed to give disabled students maximum opportunity to access resources at any time and any place without the need for outside assistance, for example, sign language interpreters, aides, etc.

  2. Where possible, distance education resources will be designed to provide interface design and/or content layout that is accessible to assistive computer technology in common use by persons with disabilities, such as closed captioning, descriptive narration, use of alternative text, etc.

  3. Whenever possible, accommodation of information will be provided in the alternative format for example, Braille, sign language interpreter, closed captioning, etc. Consideration will be given as to the most effective means of accommodation for the task, realizing that methods which are adequate for short, simple or less important communications may not be equally effective or appropriate for longer, more complex, or more critical material.

  4. Any distance education courses, resources, or materials purchased from a third-party provider or created or substantially modified by the SDSU Interwork Institute must be accessible to students with disabilities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the instructional activity. In such cases, alternative instructional activities would be designed and implemented by the Institute.


B. General Access Guidelines for Delivering Distance Education Instructional Materials

Concurring with the Distance Education Guidelines supported by the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges, the SDSU Interwork Institute advocates the following specifications for delivering distance education instructional materials to students with disabilities.

  1. Print Media
    Provide print material in alternative formats preferred by the student including: Braille, large print, audiotape, digital sound files, and electronic text such word processing documents available in both Windows and  Macintosh environments.

  2. Audio Conferencing
    Provide a text telephones (TTY) link in the studio or classroom, a telephone relay service (TRS) link, a dedicated, electronic chat room and real-time transcription of conversations, provide on-site interpreter at the student’s location.

  3. Video Conferencing/Live Video Transmission (Satellite broadcast, cable TV, Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS) or compressed video (ISDN), etc.)
    Provide real-time closed or open captioning, an on-screen interpreter or interpreter at the student’s location. Provide a TTY link in the studio  classroom, a TRS service or dedicated electronic chat room for real-time conversation exchange to facilitate communication from the student.

  4. Pre recorded Video Transmission
    For deaf students, provide closed or open captioning, an on-screen interpreter or an interpreter at the student’s location. For blind or low vision students, provide all print materials in alternative formats, for example, Braille, large print, audio tape and/or electronic text. Provide real-time descriptive narration of significant visual elements.

  5. World Wide Web (WWW)
    A comprehensive set of guidelines for meeting the Web access needs of persons with disabilities have been developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) http://www.w3.org/WAI/ . The guidelines have been adopted by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and are supported by the SDSU Interwork Institute. The guidelines intend to foster the creation of Web sites that provide equal access to information when viewed using typical, industry standard assistive computer technologies in use today by students with disabilities. Where access to Web sites not controlled by the SDSU Interwork Institute is required to complete a course, the university will either take steps to provide accessibility or provide the same material by another means that is accessible. Complete text of the WAI accessibility guidelines as well as useful tutorials and extensive technical support can be found at the URL listed above.

  6. Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) software, video disc, CD ROM, DVD
    The SDSU Interwork Institute acknowledges and supports a comprehensive set of software guidelines developed by the Trace Research & Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The purpose of the guidelines is to describe what application developers can do in order to make their software accessible and usable by people with disabilities and older users. The complete text of these guidelines can be found at: http://www.trace.wisc.edu/docx/software_guidelines/toc.htm



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The Interwork Institute is administered through the
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3590 Camino del Rio North, San Diego 92108. Phone: 619-594-2462
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Copyright 2008