Legal Standards for Web Accessibility
As a public institution we are required to provide equal access to programs and services for our entire community. Admitted and prospective students, employees, applicants, and countless other visitors access Western Washington University's web site using a wide variety of technologies. Our visitors are diverse in their choice of web browsers, screen resolutions, and preferred font size; a growing number of visitors are using phones and tablets; and many of our visitors have disabilities. Some are blind and are using a text-to-speech screen reading application. Some are deaf and require captions on multimedia content. Some have mobility impairments that prevent their using a mouse, and are therefore navigating by keyboard, speech recognition, or any of a variety of other technologies. In order to assure that Western's web content is accessible to all members of our diverse audience, it must be developed in accordance with guidelines and standards for web accessibility.
Making our content accessibile to anyone is required - but it's also the right thing to do.
Legal Standards and Guidelines
W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
"The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) documents explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. Web "content" generally refers to the information in a Web page or Web application, including text, images, forms, sounds, and such. WCAG is part of a series of accessibility guidelines, including the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG)." see more from W3C on this topic
Federal Law: Section 508
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended in 1998, is a federal law that requires accessibility of federal electronic and information technology resources, including web sites. Its accompanying Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards was published in the Federal Register in December 2001, and provides the only legal definition of technology accessibility. It includes standards for a variety of technologies, including software applications and operating systems, video and multimedia products, and Web-based intranet and internet information and applications. The Access Board (the federal agency who developed the standards) has published a Guide to the Section 508 Standards which provides excellent examples of each of the standards, including source code.
Useful Compliance Tools
Compliance tools help us to test our code against continually improving standards.
- W3C HTML/XHTML Validator - basic evaluation of your website by the W3C committee
- Style Sheet Validator - validate your CSS to ensure cross-browser validity
- W3C HTML Validator - A free tool for testing your compliance with the HTML specification. Creating standards-compliant web pages is a significant part of accessibility.
- W3C CSS Validator - A free tool for testing your compliance with the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) specification.
- Web Accessibility Management Tool (WAMT) - This is a free tool from the University of Illinois. It's still in beta, but is already one of the best web accessibility evaluation tools available. Unlike other free web-based tools, it can spider a site and provide evaluations of several pages
- WAVE - Provides accessibility feedback with a visual interface
- Web Accessibility Toolbar - This free tool operates as a plug-in to Internet Explorer (Windows only).
- Color Blindness Simulation Tool - helps us see what pages look like to those with color blindness
- Color Contrast Checking Tool - an objective test for whether your foreground and background provide adequate contrast
- Firefox Web Developer Toolbar - adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools
- MAGpie - Free software for captioning multimedia