Sunday, August 23, 2009

Section 508 and the Use of Non-captioned Videos

The ADA compliance officer on my campus says that I am forbidden to provide a link to any of the wonderfully useful videos I find on YouTube or MathTV because of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The text of Section 508 can be found at, and FAQs can be found at The main idea of the statute was to require that information technology resources purchased with public funds be accessible to people with disabilities. And, from the FAQ page cited above, “In general, an information technology system is accessible to people with disabilities if it can be used in a variety of ways that do not depend on a single sense or ability.”

But the subsequent state adoption of the regulation has altered the thrust of the regulation. The popular interpretation is that the regulation forbids the use of any video that is not captioned.

I recognize that captioned videos can be beneficial to many students, not only those with disabilities. And I do plan to include captioning when I create videos. But it is ridiculous that I cannot recommend existing excellent math videos (which are useful even without sound) to my face-to-face classes, not even as an optional resource for which no credit is awarded.

My issue is not about the benefits of having captioned videos, it's about a wrong-headed policy that exceeds the actual statute requirements and forbids using valuable resources.

The mucky-mucks embrace the ban on all non-captioned videos because they want to minimize any chance of a lawsuit of any sort. But they do not consider that the easiest path for an instructor is to avoid making any use of the Web, and the result will be that the students will actually have their learning experience diminished.

I'm trying to find some credible person who can explain what adoption of the statute actually requires. But so far I've only found people who can tell me the policy that their school/district/system has adopted, not anyone who has familiarity with the actual statute.


susanmccourt said...

I agree with your interpretation Bruce. The strongest advocates for the correct inteprestation of the Federal Laws on my campus have been the professionals in our Office of Disability Services.

One possible owrk-around: Could you have a bulletin board where students recommend sites ?

Bruce Yoshiwara said...


Thanks, your suggestion is possibly the best that an instructor can follow when local policy forbids instructors from providing links to non-captioned videos.

But I am still believe that the mere existence of such a policy is wrong, and I'd like to find a way to get policymakers to take notice.

MathFaery said...

Keep us updated in your search for a policy more in line with the actual text of the law.