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Accessibility Resources

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. Accessibility Policy and the University System of Georgia
8. Powerpoint and pdf
9. Desire-2-Learn Accessibility Guidelines
10. AMAC USG Accessibility for All Solutions
11. AMAC Available Useful Software


Though estimates vary, most studies find that about one fifth (20%) of the population has some kind of disability. Not all of these people have disabilities that make it difficult for them to access the internet, but it is still a significant portion of the population. Businesses would be unwise to purposely exclude 20, 10, or even 5 percent of their potential customers from their web sites. For schools, universities, and government entities it would not only be unwise, but in many cases, it would also break the law.

What legislation requires me to make my web site accessible?

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.

What types of disabilities should I be concerned with?

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.

Basic guidelines

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 Internet Explorer or Safari. 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.

Is my Web site accessible?

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. But first, for an overview, ou may want to look at the webaim Planning Evaluation, Repair and Maintenance Guide Process for evaluating web sites.

The Web Accesibility Evaluation Tool is one of the easiest one to use evaluation tools. 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.

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."

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Accessibility Resources

Section 508 Accessibility Standards

"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.

Accessibility Policy at the University System of Georgia

See http://www.usg.edu/siteinfo/accessibility for USG policy. The overview statement is as follows.

"Accessibility is a high priority issue for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. By endorsing Web accessibility guidelines established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), USG enables full access to institutional information, programs and activities offered through the Web.

Since June 2001, every effort has been made to design and develop Web pages that comply with or exceed the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). In addition, USG has been actively revising Web pages created before June 2001 to meet W3C accessibility standards."


Powerpoint and pdf Accessibility Issues

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).

Desire2Learn and Accessibility

  • Accessibility Considerations for Desire2Learn 10.2 Courses download pdf


AMAC USG Accessibility for All Solutions

AMAC website

AMAC Accessibility was incubated out of the University System of Georgia in 2005 to help post-secondary disability services offices provide complete, timely, efficient accommodations to print-disabled students so they can be more independent and productive in their academic environments.

Today, as a research and service center of the Georgia Tech College of Architecture, AMAC's expertise, tools and technology empower not only college disability service providers, but also K-12 educators, corporations, non-profits, and government institutions throughout the United States, to provide equal access to education, work and life for individuals with disabilities of all kinds.

AMAC Availability of Useful Software 

See the AMAC Availability of useful software

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Page last updated: April 2, 2014