Reaching Accessibility Goals for Higher Education

Accessible Information TechnologyA new article in Inside Higher Ed magazine Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals details the fact that many institutions of higher education fail to have “coherent policies around accessibility. ” And, they note that there has been “…a recent uptick in high-profile lawsuits alleging failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act…”

While the reasons for this situation are many, the article suggests “time constraints” make be a factor. Quoting Cynthia Curry from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM)“Part of the problem is that people don’t have the time to do something systemic around accessibility within their institutions…” Curry said. “Most institutions, of course, aren’t looking proactively at accessibility. They’re looking at it more as a retrofit, or they’re being reactive if something litigious comes up.”

Maine CITE’s own resident digital accessibility resource person is John Brandt. Brandt’s own 25-year experience in web development and accessibility suggest that the perceived high cost to make web content accessible is probably the largest single factor in the equation. “Most organizations look at accessibility as expensive because they are approaching it from a mitigation perspective. They often fail to look at the costs associated with NOT having accessible content – lost student admissions, lack of student retention, etc.”

While most web accessibility experts will talk about the importance of “adding accessibility in at the beginning” of a web design process, colleges and universities are often not able to do this since they were among the first organizations to have websites in the 1990s – they have accumulated lots of content.

But even if an institution is committed to improving accessibility, they often don’t know where to start. To that end, the Inside Higher Education article promotes a new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials developed by NC-AEM designed to “help institutions ensure, at scale, that all students have the same learning opportunities in face-to-face classrooms and digital learning environments.” The article focuses on the NC-AEM’s recently published  “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies” which promote seven quality indicators (QI), each containing specific criteria needed to achieve each QI.

For colleges and universities just starting out with the process, these quality indicators can provide a blueprint and structure of the thinking process that need to be considered. Tom Tobin, one of the people interviewed in the article, encourages “institutions (to) focus accessibility efforts on the potential impact on student access and learning outcomes, rather than merely on ‘legal-compliance arguments.’”

“While the description of the quality indicators alludes to the broad access benefits for all learners when accessible materials, tools and interface are adopted, the actual indicators and critical components are focused squarely on meeting the needs of learners with disabilities — only a part of the access conversation,” Tobin states in the article.

Read “Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals”

Read/view the NC-AEM – “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies”

Open Q&A Session on the Revised 508 Standards

From the US Access Board…

Description

US Access Board logoThe next webinar in the Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series will take place January 29 from 1:00 to 2:30 (ET) and provide an opportunity for attendees to pose questions to the Access Board on the revised Section 508 Standards. The 508 Standards apply to information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector such as computers, telecommunications equipment, printers, software, websites, information kiosks and transaction machines, and electronic documents. Questions are welcome on all sections of the standards, including application and scoping, functional performance criteria, hardware and software requirements, support documentation and services, and referenced standards. Access Board ICT Specialists will also address questions about companion guidelines for telecommunications equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act and any other topics related to the Board’s activities on accessible ICT.

Participants are encouraged to submit their questions in advance of the session through the registration portal. They can also pose questions during the live webinar. This session will be helpful to anyone involved in complying with the 508 Standards or interested in ICT accessibility.

The Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series provides helpful information and best practices for federal agencies in meeting their obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which ensures access to electronic and information technology in the federal sector. This webinar series is made available by the Accessibility Community of Practice of the CIO Council in partnership with the U.S. Access Board.

Presenters

  • Bruce Bailey, ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board
  • Timothy Creagan, Senior ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board
  • Katherine Eng, ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board

Registration:

Use this link for more details or to register for this free webinar…

Note: Registration closes 24 hours before the start of the session. Instructions for accessing the webinar on the day of the session will be sent via email to registered individuals in advance of the session. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) and Video Sign Language Interpreters are available for each session and will be broadcast via the webinar platform. A telephone option (not toll-free) for receiving audio is also available.

 

Group formed to test and document assistive technologies

ARIA W3C logoThe W3C – World Wide Web Consortia – has created a community group to systematically test and document  assistive technologies use of ARIA and HTML5 accessibility features in web applications. W3C membership is NOT needed to participate in the community group.

How WAI-ARIA is supported by assistive technologies, such as screen readers, is highly variable. This variation in WAI-ARIA rendering adds unnecessary complexity to the development of high-quality web experiences for users of assistive technologies and places significant limitations on the types of web widgets that can be made widely accessible.

This community group is dedicated to:

  1. Helping assistive technology developers converge on a set of clear norms for baseline support of WAI-ARIA.
  2. Helping web developers understand the current state of support for WAI-ARIA by assistive technologies.

WAI-ARIA is as important to assistive technology presentation as CSS is to visual presentation. Join us to help make WAI-ARIA as reliable as CSS.

In order to join the group, you will need a W3C account. Please note, however, that W3C Membership is not required to join a Community Group. Complete details may be found at this link…

This is a community initiative. This group was originally proposed on 2018-11-30 by Matthew King. The following people supported its creation: Matthew King, Laura Fathauer, Shadi Abou-Zahra, David Sexton, Mark McCarthy, Aaron Leventhal. W3C’s hosting of this group does not imply endorsement of the activities.

 

“Captioning Video” resources revised and expanded

Closed Captioning logoFor many years, we have provided a resource about captioning video content. The information was very popular and bookmarked by many. As the accessibility guidelines have expanded in recent times, we have expanded the “captioning video” resource as well and have updated information about resources where you can find software and services to help you make your content accessible.

Audio DescriptionWhere we initially discussed only the need to caption video, we have expanded the Captioning Video page to also include information about “description,” an accessibility requirement that makes video content accessible to people with blindness or low vision. We have also added information about how to create accessible audio-only content (e.g., “podcasts”).

Visit the newly revised Captioning Video (and more) resource…

 

Legal references regarding web accessibility

US Capitol DomeThe following are on-line resources that have listed and documented historic information about legal issues related to web accessibility. Resources include references to legal cases and rule interpretations. Thanks to several members of the ITACCESS listserv from Educause for assistance in compiling this list.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – Web Accessibility Laws and Policies – lists United States and international governmental policies related to web accessibility, although it is not a comprehensive or definitive listing.

Law Office of Lainey Feingold – Legal Updates – The articles listed on this page are about legal developments related to web, mobile (digital), technology and information accessibility in the United States. These articles include advocacy initiatives by the Law Office of Lainey Feingold and her co-counsel and clients, and also by other lawyers, organizations, and government agencies.

Resources primarily focused on institutions of higher education

ATHEN – Legal news – Focused on Office for Civil Rights (OCR) complaints and resolutions in that have occurred in higher education.

Karl Groves – List of Web Accessibility-Related Litigation and Settlements – last updated 2015.

University of Washington – Legal Cases by Issue – Recent legal actions against higher education institutions related to the inaccessibility of information technology (IT).

University of Minnesota – Higher Ed Accessibility Lawsuits, Complaints, and Settlements – List of higher educational institutions face liability for inaccessible web content and technologies.

 

ARIA – What should we know?

ARIA W3C logoAccording to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “…ARIA, the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite, defines a way to make Web content and Web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. It especially helps with dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with Ajax, HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies. Currently certain functionality used in Web sites is not available to some users with disabilities, especially people who rely on screen readers and people who cannot use a mouse. ARIA addresses these accessibility challenges, for example, by defining new ways for functionality to be provided to assistive technology. With ARIA, developers can make advanced Web applications accessible and usable to people with disabilities.”

But some critics have said that ARIA has “tried to be too many things to too many people” and has resulted in more problems that solutions. This recent blog article by WebAIM summarizes the controversies and gets into some of the nitty-gritty on ARIA. Be aware that this is rather technical stuff; something directed mostly to web developers.