Accessibility Is a Shared Responsibility of Faculty, Colleges, and the California Community College System

Imperial Valley College
ASCCC Area B Representative
Sacramento City College

Accessibility is everyone’s shared responsibility. Although the work of making a website or Canvas shell accessible can be complex, any accessibility specialist will say that faculty can learn without difficulty how to make their instructional environments fairly accessible.  

Multiple standards of accessibility exist, as do multiple imperfect ways of measuring that accessibility. Campus committees can easily become tangled up in defining perfect accessibility standards and then find that they have no way of measuring, achieving, or supporting them. For instance, the current widely accepted standard is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) [1].  These guidelines have different versions—2.0 or 2.1—much like computer operating systems have versions such as Windows 11 or Apple’s 12.3.1 [2].  Three levels of conformance also exist--A, AA, and AAA--as separate standards for each of the guidelines. [3] States or institutions determine which standard and level of conformance is acceptable for their constituents, and these become the goals that faculty and accessibility specialists must aim for when creating or cultivating digital materials.

The WCAG establish four principles for web accessibility standards. [4] Those principles set up the expectation that the content on a site will be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all users. Specifically, users of a site will find the information and interface perceivable through elements such as color contrast. The interface and navigation will be operable for all users, with consideration, for example, for users who rely only on keyboards. The information and interface will be understandable, meaning simple and not confusing, and the content will be robust with reliable, accurate, and consistent interpretation. Each of these principles has multiple criteria for the levels of compliance. For example, under the principle of perceivability, in order to meet the AA level of compliance for version 2.1, text—except for captions and images of text, “can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.”

Considering the number of criteria and the technical skills required for interpreting and measuring the criteria, attention to the minutia  e of these standards is beyond the faculty scope of work. Fortunately, faculty are not usually expected to know all of these details. However, they should know that the larger context of accessibility is fairly complex and that the role of faculty is to do the best they can with the tools they have available.

Because individual colleges are at various stages of support for these standards, providing one set of easy-to-follow guidelines for all faculty is not realistic. A college’s support resources will likely determine the extent to which faculty are able to easily provide materials that reach all students equally. The issue is simply the context of each college’s progress. For example, one college may have a fully supported accessibility support team and a peer online course review process that helps faculty make their instructional materials and Canvas shells accessible to the Chancellor’s Office website standard of WCAG 2.1, level AA. Another college may lack a support mechanism and have adopted the WCAG 2.1 level A standard, relying on a robust team of support staff in disability services to provide service where support is lacking because of small campus size.
One thing that the inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility , and anti-racism effort and Chancellor’s Office commitment to accessibility [5] has demonstrated, however, is that accessibility is not going away, and everyone shares responsibility for creating accessible and therefore inclusive materials. Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Resolution 13.02 S22 Faculty Responsibility for Equitable, Accessible Learning Environments [6] makes clear that faculty should retain purview of their materials and should do due diligence in "fulfilling their responsibility as educators in all modalities, and also develop other resources as appropriate" and should have support of the "Academic Senate for California Community Colleges work[ing] with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and other stakeholders to guide the development of the local infrastructure necessary to support faculty with professional learning, tools, and expert support in the creation of fully accessible learning environments."

Interested faculty may start with their campus colleagues who work to support distance education or disabled students on campus. Free workshops are facilitated by the CCC Accessibility Center, with information available at @ONE offers a self-paced course about accessibility available at Any of these resources can be a good place to begin one’s efforts to increase accessibility for students.

[1] The guidelines are available at
[2] Version 2.0 is available at  Version 2.1 is available at
[3] The levels of conformance can be found at
[4] The accessibility principles are available at
[5] The commitment can be accessed at
[6] The text of the resolution is available at