Although, web-based distance education programs address geographical and cost barriers, they usually ignore access barriers to students with special needs (i.e. those with sensory, motor or cognitive disabilities). Distance education programs should ensure that conduits, and not barriers, to information are created. When planning a web-based special education program the following concerns should be considered: how to increase Web access to persons with disabilities by addressing access issues on both the client and the service side; how to optimize the use of innovative web technologies to transmit interesting yet accessible learning materials; how to increase community amongst special education students and teachers.
As the new disability legislation becomes law in the UK, Academic websites will be coming under close scrutiny from Disability Rights Organisations. Long established tools that have been used to test websites could, if used in the wrong way, be more of a liability than a benefit. The use of websites as medium for academia is now well established, with a plethora of materials being distributed over Intranets and Extranets. Furthermore, the pervasive Virtual Learning Environment is lending itself to opportunities for interactivity hitherto only possible in face-to-face teaching. But, as more and more material is distributed in this way there is a need for guidelines to ensure access for all.