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UC Berkeley aims to improve higher ed online accessibility

Department of Justice makes ruling for websites, including college pages, that remain publicly available
University Business, May 2017

In a move that will ultimately bring its public online content in line with new federal accessibility standards, the University of California, Berkeley has begun removing older videos and other documents that don’t meet the mark.

Previously, the school had made more than 20,000 videos, audio recordings and documents publicly accessible through platforms including YouTube, iTunesU and its own webcast.berkeley.edu site.

The cleanup comes after a Department of Justice ruling in January that public online content should meet higher accessibility standards as outlined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as a condition of remaining publicly available.

Section 508 mandates that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained or used by federal agencies be accessible to people with disabilities. Although not required to, many higher ed institutions choose to comply with the act as well.

In March the school suspended access to iTunesU courses, and also began moving older, noncompliant classroom lectures and other content from its YouTube channel to a new login-required channel. Only materials that meet standards will be offered on the school’s public channels.

“Instead of focusing on legacy content that is three to 10 years old, much of which sees very limited use, we will work to create new public content that includes accessible features,” said Cathy Koshland, vice chancellor for undergraduate education, in a message to the campus community.

Since 2015, UC Berkeley’s Educational Technology Services department has employed its own Course Capture service, which meets accessibility standards such as closed captioning or audio narration when necessary. Recordings made since do not need to be changed.

“The older content, including lecture capture videos, is being migrated to an authentication protocol and will remain available to members of the Berkeley community,” says Roqua Montez, executive director of communications and media relations at the university.

Berkeley users will be able to access this older content by logging into YouTube with their bConnected/Google-supported identity, he says.

The transition should take about three months to complete.

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