Web Accessibility

Graphic visualizing accessibility on the web

We are committed to making our web presence accessible and inclusive. The university is required to provide websites that are accessible to comply with federal and state requirements for accessibility and uses WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) as its web accessibility standard.

Information on the web, when properly designed, is accessible to all students and other visitors, including those with disabilities.

Besides having a philosophical commitment to serving people with disabilities, the university also has a legal obligation not to discriminate against people on the basis of disability. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires the university to make all websites accessible to users with visual, hearing, mobility, and cognitive disabilities.

Please heed the following general recommendations for accessibility. If you come across an issue not clarified here, consult the WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) guidelines.

Impact of Inclusion

  • 1.3 BILLION people on the planet have a disability

  • 1 in 4 AMERICANS have a disability

    • 60 MILLION people with disabilities make it the largest minority group in the US

  • $2 TRILLION net worth

  • Friends and family represent 105 MILLION consumers who have an emotional connection to disability

Accessibility ROI

  • Business Case: Return on investment of 2.4:1. For every dollar you spend on accessibility, you get back more than double.

  • Market Reach: Market increase of 80%. Having accessible content allows you to reach a much wider market.

  • SEO: Increased natural search traffic by 7%. Because accessible content is usable content and that increases SEO.

Learn the Lingo

W3C World Wide Web Consortium

World Wide Web Consortium, an international community that works together to develop web standards

WCAGWeb Content Accessibility Guidelines

The international standard set by the W3C for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments.

ADAAmericans with Disability Act

The Americans with Disability Act prohibits discrimination based on disability.

Section 508Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies (including higher education insitutions that receive federal funding) to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

Section 504Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits federal agencies (including higher education insitutions that receive federal funding), programs, or activities from discriminating and requires reasonable accommodation for qualified individuals with disabilities.

VPATVoluntary Product Accessibility Template

A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template is a document which evaluates how accessible a particular product is according to the Section 508 standards.

A11Y – Accessibility

This abbreviation for accessibility uses the number 11 in reference to the number of letters omitted between the A and the Y.

AT – Assistive technology

Assistive technology is the products, equipment, and systems that enhance learning, working, and daily living for persons with disabilities.

UD – Universal Design

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability.

Forms of Disability

Disability should not be measured in absolutes. And understanding that goes a long way in understanding why accessibility matters.

Disability lies along a spectrum. This spectrum doesn't just include the severity of a permanent disability, but accounts for less permanent disabilities as well.

  • Situational: You are holding a child in one arm so you are limited to interacting with one hand until you put the child down, or you are in a loud environment at a restaurant and can't hear the sound from your phone so you need closed captioning to be able to understand the content of a video

  • Temporary: You have a broken arm so you are limited to interacting with one arm until the fracture heals or you have just had cataract surgery and can't view a screen clearly until you have fully recovered

  • Permanent: You are a person who is color blind or blind or you are a person who is hard of hearing or deaf

And just because you may not have a disability doesn't mean you don't benefit from accessibility.

Some words sound very similar when spoken aloud but can have the opposite meaning. If you are watching a video and someone says you can do something but you hear you can't do something (or vice versa) that can have serious implications on your conduct. In a case like that, having closed captioning helps clear up any misunderstanding regardless of disability.

By ensuring you meet accessibility guidelines for the most severe, permanent disabilities, you are also ensuring accessibility for everyone.

Examples of the Ranges of Disabilities


  • Cataracts
  • Sun glare
  • Color blind
  • Low vision
  • Blind


  • Noise
  • Ear infection
  • Hard of hearing
  • Deaf


  • Hands full
  • Broken arm
  • Spinal cord injury


  • Ambient noise
  • Sore throat
  • Speech impediment
  • Unable to speak


  • Sleepy or distracted
  • Migraine
  • Learning disabilities
  • Autism
  • Seizure


  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar
  • Anxiety

The Four Principles of Accessibility

There are four principles of accessibility that lay the foundation for anyone to access and use web content:


Users must be able to perceive the information being presented. It can't be invisible to all of their senses.

Techniques for Success


Users must be able to operate the interface and navigation. The interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform.

Techniques for Success


Users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface. The content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding.

Techniques for Success


Users must be able to access the content as technologies advance. As technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible.

Techniques for Success

Web Accessibility Guidelines

Images, Audio, and Video

  • Include clear and concise alternative "alt" text attributes for all relevant images and graphics appearing on your site. “Comment out” (for the screen reader) strictly decorative graphics with alt = “”. Use a testing tool to view images replaced with their alt text.

  • Provide an appropriate "longdesc" attribute or D link for informationally rich graphics, such as charts and graphs.

  • Caption all video. YouTube has very useful built in captioning tools.

  • Link to a text transcript for all audio files.

  • Ensure that your website do not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period because it can induce seizures


  • Use concise, descriptive text in links. You should be able to understand what content you will see when you click on the link by only reading the link itself, without reading any surrounding copy. Avoid using "Click Here" or "Read More.".

  • Use correct heading structure.

  • Use relative, not fixed, font sizes.

  • Indicate the primary language of your page with the lang attribute inside the <html> tag using the correct SO 639-1 Language Code.


  • Do not rely only on color to convey meaning. For example, saying the president’s comments are in red or having a graph that has a legend that only indicates the items by color.

    Colored Text on the Web Web Color Palette

  • Ensure you provide sufficient color contrast for text. WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) requires a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for regular text and 3:1 for large text (18pt or 24px) or bold, larger text (14pt or 18.5px).

  • Ensure you provide sufficient color contrast for graphics. WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) requires a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 for graphics.

The Colour Contrast Analyser is an easy way to determine the legibility of text and the contrast of visual elements, such as graphical controls and visual indicators.

You can download and use this tool to check your color combinations for accessibility.

Colour Contrast Analyser

  • Make sure visitors to your website can navigate and operate your pages with the keyboard alone.

  • Provide clear and uniform site navigation features and the ability to “skip” to main content.

  • Focus needs to be rendered for keyboard, as well as mouse.

Site Structure and Formatting

  • Use style sheets that control layout and presentation, but documents should be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.

  • Avoid frames, but if you use them, always clearly title each frame. Frames create printing problems and are not easily bookmarked, and search engines have trouble indexing sites with frames.

  • Any use of data tables requires appropriate header mark-up. Cells within nested or complex tables must convey all appropriate associated headers. They also require appropriate caption elements and the summary attributes.

  • For web forms, use appropriate mark up, such as label, legend, and field set.

  • Updated or refreshed areas of the page or screen must be announced and accessible to assistive technologies.

  • Page should maintain understandable structure if converted to one column or displayed without the associated style sheet.

  • Use label and field set attributes for forms. Submit via a button rather than an automatic script.
  • If using a CAPTCHA, ensure it is accessible via a screen reader.

  • Avoid time-limited interactions including “automatic” events. If that is not avoidable then provide warning and user control of the event.

  • Employ simply structured, consistent, and error-free code.

Resources and Background

One great benefit in adopting WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards is the tremendous amount of existing documentation. This documentation runs from the general to the highly specific.

Any web developer facing an unusual and complicated accessibility issue can usually find a solution after a quick web search. The standards are necessarily thorough and complex. Check the following sites for information on the WCAG 2.0 standards: