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Texas State University

Importance of Accessibility

Introduction

"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." — Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web


Digital technology creates an environment where information can be stored and displayed in ways that make information more available to everyone. However, when web sites, applications, technologies, or tools are designed without considering accessibility, they can create barriers that exclude people from using these electronic resources.

Accessibility is essential for organizations that want to create high quality electronic resources that do not exclude people from learning more about our university.

What is Accessibility?

Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that all people can use them. More specifically, people can:

  • Perceive, operate and understand digital content
  • Contribute to the Web
  • Use a variety of tools to experience your content

Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including:

  • Auditory
  • Cognitive
  • Neurological
  • Physical
  • Speech
  • Visual

Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities, for example:

  • People that use mobile devices with small screens
  • Aging people with changing abilities to view or listen to content
  • People with “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm or lost glasses
  • Rural communities with slow internet connections that cannot view pages with heavy image content

Why Accessibility is Important

"Access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, is defined as a basic human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD)." — Shawn Lawton Henry

Electronic resources are a common method for communication in our daily lives. Accessible design practices help ensure that people who need accessible technology can participate equally in class, when previewing university course offerings or while they are working.

Important resources like the web are a focal point in many daily tasks that touch various institutions such as government, corporate business, colleges, universities and more. Accessible electronic resources are critical to the daily success for these types of institutions.

Most importantly, digital resources offer the best way to overcome barriers faced by those who require adaptive technology.

Electronic Accessibility is Required by Law

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is the organization which protects against discrimination in programs or activities that occur in federally assisted education programs. As defined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, these programs are legally obligated to ensure that no discrimination exists based on race, color, nationality, gender, age and sex.

The Office for Civil Rights is also charged with investigating claims of electronic accessibility violations. Online courses, learning management systems, websites and their associated digital assets such as videos and text documents are all required to be accessible to individuals with or without disabilities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits agencies that receive federal or state funding from discriminating against persons with disabilities. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 defines the requirements for digital accessibility. If an accessible option cannot be provided, these organizations are required to provide a reasonable accommodation for the person(s) requesting assistance.

Please visit our frequently asked questions page to read more about our legal responsibilities to make content accessible.


Citations

Henry, S.L., McGee, L. (n.d.). Accessibility. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility

Henry, S.L. (2018, February 7). Introduction to Web Accessibility. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/accessibility.php

Technology Accessibility. (2016, October 31). Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/frontpage/pro-students/issues/dis-issue06.html