Web Accessibility Fact Sheet

Introduction

Web accessibility is one of the most critical components of the University of Iowa's web presence.  At the same time, it is one of the most misunderstood.  Following are some common questions about web accessibility at Iowa.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility means designing and delivering websites and content that present no barriers to users with disabilities.  Accessible websites and content include design features that increase usability across a spectrum of abilities and technologies, including use by people with disabilities and users of assistive technology.

What is the University of Iowa's policy on web accessibility?

University of Iowa policy requires that all web content conform to accessibility standards described in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.0, level AA, as set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  Individual units are charged with developing and implementing a web accessibility strategy per the Implementation section of this policy.

The full policy is available at http://itsecurity.uiowa.edu/policy/webAccessibility.shtml.

Is accessibility required by law?

The University is subject to provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Iowa Civil Rights Act. 

  • Section 504 prohibits disability-based discrimination by programs that receive Federal funds.
  • Title II of the ADA requires that communications to people with disabilities be equally as effective as communications with non-disabled people in their timeliness, accuracy, and delivery method.
  • The Department of Justice has stated that Internet and web sites are covered under both Section 504 and the ADA.

The above is not intended as legal advice.  For legal advice on web accessibility, please contact University General Counsel or the ADA Coordinator.

I don't have any people with disabilities in my audience—do I need to provide accessible web technology?

Yes.  One tenet of accessible technology is that it is available to any qualified user.  A user with a disability may access your website at any time, and must be able to make use of your content.  Providing accessible technology from the beginning is the best way to ensure that all users can get the most from your site.

I hear about WCAG and the POUR Principles—what are these, and how do they relate to accessibility at Iowa?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) describe a set of principles, standards, and techniques intended to provide a framework for web accessibility.  WCAG version 2.0, Level AA is the content standard identified for compliance with the University web policy; all web content must conform to these guidelines.

POUR is an acronym for four high-level principles that describe functional accessibility.  Accessible web content must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. In addition to websites, most other information technology can be made accessible by applying the POUR principles.         

For more information on WCAG and POUR, visit http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/.

How do I know if my web content is accessible?

Like security, the accessibility of a website can change over time. Accessibility principles may be affected by changes in content, modification of templates, and other lifecycle factors.

There are a number of tools and techniques you can apply to your content to assess its accessibility.  Toolbars like the WAVE Toolbar, the Web Developer toolbar, and AInspector can also help you assess the accessibility of individual pages. View a collection of sample testing techniques on this site.

The Web Accessibility  Coordinator also provides sitewide automated assessments using HiSoftware's Compliance Sheriff, as well as other consulting and training services to help you understand the accessibility status of your website.

Other IT Accessibility Considerations

In addition to web assets, other IT resources and services may present accessibility barriers to some users, including users with disabilities.  While some IT resources and services may not be explicitly addressed in the University's Web Accessibility policy, they may be covered under federal law, including the ADA, new rules proposed by the Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights, or other legislation.