2004 Conference Proceedings

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WEB ACCESSIBILITY: PROMISING PRACTICES AT POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS

Presenter(s)
Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph. D.
Co-Director, AccessIT; Director, DO-IT
Box 355670
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195

John Slatin, Ph. D.
Director, Accessibility Institute
The University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station G9600
Austin, TX 78712
Email: jslatin@mail.utexas.edu

Kay Lewis, Ph.D.
Senior Research Associate, Accessibility Institute
University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station G9600
Austin, TX 78712
Email: Kay_lewis@austin.utexas.edu

Alice Anderson
Coordinator, Technology Accessibility Program (TAP)
Technology Accessibility Program (TAP)
Division of Information Technology (DoIT)
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1210 West Dayton Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53703

Erica Jones
Pacific ADA & IT Center DBTAC
555 12th Street, Suite 1030
Oakland, CA 94607-4046

Summary

Many postsecondary institutions have developed Web accessibility policies, but full access for the disabled remains limited. Issues and solutions regarding campus Web accessibility are presented.

Description
A growing number of institutions of higher education have developed Web accessibility policies, guidelines, and/or standards. Some have modeled their policies using well-recognized standards and guidelines, such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) or the federal Access Board in response to Section 508, while others have developed their own standards. Although increasing numbers of postsecondary campuses have developed accessible design statements and standards (including those listed at http://www.washington.edu/computing/accessible/resources.html), many still wrestle with which guidelines to use, how to test the accessibility of websites and how to develop practices that encourage webmasters in a distributed environment to make their websites accessible to students, faculty, staff and visitors with disabilities.

Many Web access problems faced by individuals with disabilities could be prevented, or at least minimized, if campus-wide proactive measures were established undertaken. These include effective strategic partnerships, institutional policy, and support and training. Stakeholders should consider the wide range of characteristics, including disabilities, that potential students, instructors, and staff might have as Web development decisions are made. When the wide range of characteristics of potential students, instructors, and visitors is considered in the design of Web pages, efforts can be made so that they are accessible to a broad audience; just as when architects consider a wide range of characteristics of potential visitors, they design buildings that can be used by everyone, including visitors who use wheelchairs and those who are blind. Designing inclusive environments that are accessible to those with and without disabilities minimizes the need for individual accommodations.

However, myriad issues must be addressed in order to move toward the goal of equal access to all campus Web pages. Strategic partnerships should be developed between those who make technology planning decisions and those who are responsible for accessibility (e.g., assistive technology specialists, disability service providers) on a campus. But, who else should be involved, how can they organize to implement change on their campus, and what goals and evaluation schemes should be in place to further this effort? How can standards be developed that are appropriate given the skill levels of campus web developers and those who maintain web pages?

This presentation will provide an overview of the Web access challenges in higher education, and will discuss how an institution can begin the process of developing policies, procedures, and guidelines/standards for assuring the development of accessible Web sites. Areas for consideration include:

This presentation will provide an overview of the Web access challenges in higher education. This presentation will explore issues surrounding the accessibility of Web pages on campus and share promising practices that include the development of strategic partnerships, institutional policy, implementation plans, penalties and rewards, support, training, and evaluation. Alternative approaches, challenges, promising practices, and useful resources will be provided. Experiences will be shared from institutions that have made progress in this arena. There will be time for the audience to discuss their experiences and perspectives as well.


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