1. What legislation governs web site accessibility?
2. What disabilities must I be concerned with?
3. Are there Basic Guidelines for designing accessible sites?
4. Is my site accessible?
5. Online resources
6. Section 508 standards
7. Is there an online course on accessibility design?
8. Powerpoint and pdf
The legislation that applies to GH College as a federally funded institution is Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA). It is intended to protect qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in the services, programs, or activities of all state and local governments.
The ADA states that a public institution of higher learning must take appropriate steps to ensure that communication with persons with disabilities is "as effective as communication with others".
Conditions of effectiveness include timeliness, accuracy, and provision in a manner and medium appropriate to the significance of the abilities of the disabled individual.
If you think that all Web Accessibility is about is making things accesssible to the blind you're only getting half the story. Disabilities that affect Web Accessibility include: Visual (blindness, low-vision, color-blindness); mobility (inability to use hands, slow muscular movement); hearing (deafness, hard-of-hearing); cognitive (mental retardation); and others (learning or reading disabilities, attention deficit disorder, etc..)
Sometimes people comment that in all the years they have been teaching, they have never had a student in their class with any of these disabilities. But how do they know?
Ordinary text is the most accessible form of information on a web site for persons with any disability. Simply providing text can go a long way to making a Web page accessible to blind people.
To better understand, you can watch a video, "Introduction to the Screen Reader" with Neal Ewers of the Trace Research Center, which shows how screen-reading equipment helps the blind navigate the web and access electronic pages by scanning text and turning it into synthesized speech.
However, the web has evolved to include graphics, animations, video, sound and other non-text displays, which has created a barrier to accessibility because even specially-adapted equipment like a screen-reader does not handle them well. The basic guidelines below give suggestions for overcoming these barriers.
Make Web pages more accessible to people with disabilities by providing alternate and equivalent means of communicating information on Web pages.
1. Provide text equivalents (descriptions) for non-text elements on the page, such as images, audio, video.
2. Avoid using clickable "image maps" for site navigation.
3. Provide summaries of graphs and charts; these are hard or impossible for screen-reading equipment to process.
4. Ensure that all information conveyed with color is also available in the absence of color.
5. Organize content logically and clearly; avoid using tables for layout. Use CSS instead.
6. Provide alternative content for special features (applets or plug-ins) that may not be supported.
Universal Design for the Web
Underlying the idea of making Web pages accessible is the concept of "Universal Design," or designing for the widest range of people's abilities.
As you build web pages, keep in mind that your audience is diverse. Not all web page visitors are using the standard graphical browsers like Explorer or Navigator.
They may be using adaptive technologies such as screen readers or text-based browsers, they may have their browser graphics turned off, or they may not be able to use, or have access to, a mouse or keyboard.
The tips listed above, and the expanded list of Accessibility Guidelines, apply this concept to web page design.
Following the guidelines will ensure that your Web pages are robust, standard, and accessible to the fullest possible range of users. (Adapted from the mit disabilities resource).
Eventually we may be using cell phones or audio devices from our cars to access the web. Universal Design not only ensures that your information will be accessible to people with various types of disabilities, but also to those using old, alternate, or emerging technologies.
The more extensive and detailed list of design principles, The Accessibility Guidelines will satisfy minimal accessibility standards for your Web pages. These principles have been developed by the standards-setting W3C (WorldWideWeb Consortium) body.
Making your Web site accessible is neither difficult nor time-consuming, and you can often do so merely by typing text descriptions of pictures so screen-readers can turn the text to speech.
The best way to tell is to observe someone with disabilities use your site. Any problems will soon become evident. In the absence on such a person, look at the Section 508 Checklist for an introductory overview of whether a page is lkely to pass or fail Section 508 Accessibility standards based on the page contents.
You can also use a free accessibility evaluation tool to automatically evaluate your Web pages.
The Web Accesibility Evaluation Tool is one of the easiest one to use. You type in the URL of a Web page, send it for evaluation, and the program returns a report highlighting the applicable Section 508 accessibility standards, and gives suggestions for resolving non-accessible features on the page.
A-Prompt (Accessibility Prompt) is a software tool designed to improve the usability of HTML documents by evaluating Web pages for accessibility barriers, and then providing developers with a fast and easy way to make the necessary repairs.
A-Prompt will ensure that client Web sites are accessible to the largest number of potential visitors, including those with disabilities. The tool's evaluation and repair checklist is based on accessibility guidelines created and maintained by the Web Access Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium.
If an accessibility problem is detected, A-Prompt displays the necessary dialogs and guides the user to fix the problem. Many repetitive tasks are automated, such as the addition of ALT-text.
Bobby is a commonly used (but less user-friendly) evaluation tool, which was created "to help Web page authors identify and repair significant barriers to access by individuals with disabilities".
The University of Wisconsin provides background information about Bobby, and helps you interpret Bobby's findings at Bobby: Introduction and General Information.
Wave from Temple University, is another easy-to-use Web Accessibility tool in which you enter the URL of a page, submit it, and an analysis is returned in a few seconds. Icons are placed on the page where Section 508 Guidelines are not adhered to.
Limitations of Tools
The W3C site contains this advice about the use of automatic verification tools:
"There is as yet no tool that can perform a completely automatic assessment on the checkpoints in the guidelines, and fully automatic testing may remain difficult or impossible. For instance, some checkpoints rely on an interpretation of what "important" information is, or whether the text equivalent for a non-text element is accurate."
"It is also possible for automated accessibility checkers to register "false negatives" or "false positives" due to the type of mark-up on a page."
webaim.org ("Web Accessibility in Mind")
Gives general information, summarizes regulations, and provides great tutorials, "how-to's", quick tips, and free, online training events. It is frequently updated, too.
Adaptive Technology for the Internet
ALA online edition, "Adaptive Technology for the Internet: Making Electronic Resources Available to All". In particular, see Ch 2 for designing accessible Web sites.
National Center for Accessible Media
Captioning and Audio Description on the Web.
The Art of ALT
Writing effective ALT tags.
Internet Resources for the Blind
Site designed by a visually impaired designer.
Authoring tool for making CD-ROMs & multimedia accessible to persons with disabilities.
"Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. 794d). Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency."
Specific standards within Section 508 have been developed for Web-Based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications. These standards are clearly explained in this document.
These provisions of the standards provide the requirements that must be followed by Federal agencies when producing web pages. These provisions apply unless doing so would impose an undue burden.
The Advanced Learning Unit of Academic Affairs and Fiscal Affairs of the University System of Georgia has developed an online tutorial on issues relating to accessibility design for higher education professionals. The Table of Contents is shown below.
WebAIM gives suggestions for making pdfs and PowerPoint presentations accessible(both of which convert text to images, which are not readable by a screen-reader).