Skip to Content


February 4, 2003

WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media Publishes Updated and Expanded Guidelines for Making Software and Web Sites Accessible

Boston, MA. Publishers, educational programmers and Web site developers are increasingly aware that they must include students with disabilities in their audience to comply with a range of accessibility regulations. However, few developers understand why access is a critical need or how to provide it in their products. A newly updated and expanded publication from the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), "Making Educational Software and Web Sites Accessible: Design Guidelines Including Math and Science Solutions," addresses both these points in detail.

The original guidelines, published in 2000, represented an ambitious initiative to capture access challenges and solutions and present them in a format specifically designed to educate and assist software developers. The current set of guidelines builds on the original document, and offers further lessons learned from a four-year collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) called Access to PIVoT (Physics Interactive Video Tutor).

With funding from the National Science Foundation ( and the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF,, NCAM and MIT's staff added accessibility enhancements to PIVoT, a sophisticated and comprehensive on-line physics resource. Along the way, tools and strategies for making less-daunting subject matter accessible emerged, and are now available in the new publication.

"NCAM has just released these long-awaited guidelines, and they are well worth the wait. Curriculum developers and designers of on-line educational materials will greatly benefit from the information contained in these guidelines. While accessible software and Web sites help meet the needs of deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and visually impaired users, these guidelines effectively advance the theory that non-disabled users always gain from accessibility enhancements. While this information is crucial for students and faculty in higher education, they will benefit K-12 at one end and working professionals at the other end."

Norm Coombs, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Rochester Institute of Technology

In the guidelines, readers will find:

  • a basic understanding of the needs of users with different disabilities.
  • a summary of various approaches to serve users with different disabilities.
  • specific solutions for designing more accessible software.
  • guidelines with specific checkpoints and detailed techniques for implementation.
  • extensive information on making multimedia presentations accessible to students who are deaf or blind
  • examples of writing image descriptions for blind students
  • solutions for making forms and databases accessible
  • information on making electronic and on-line textbooks accessible.
"Making Educational Software and Web Sites Accessible: Design Guidelines Including Math and Science Solutions" is available free of charge in print and on the Web in a fully accessible version. Read the guidelines on line at:

About NCAM

NCAM and its fellow access departments at WGBH (The Caption Center and Descriptive Video ServiceĀ®) make up the Media Access Group at WGBH. WGBH, Boston's public broadcaster, pioneered captioning and video description on television, the Web and in movie theaters. NCAM is a founding member of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). NCAM works with standards bodies and industry to develop and implement open technical standards for multimedia, advanced television, and convergent media that ease implementation, foster growth and lay common groundwork for equal access to new technologies. For more information, visit the Media Access Group's Web site at

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer. More than one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion Web content as well as many public radio favorites are produced by WGBH. Its best-known productions include NOVA, Frontline, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre, This Old House, Arthur, and Zoom on PBS and The World and Sound & Spirit on public radio. WGBH also is a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies and services that make media accessible to people with disabilities. Since its establishment in 1951, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards-- even two Oscars. For more information visit


Mary Watkins, Media Access Group at WGBH
617.300.3700 voice/fax
617.300.2489 TTY