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Why Make a Web Site Accessible?

  1. It is the Right Thing to Do
  2. It is The Law
  3. It is a University Policy and Standard
  4. It is Good Strategy
  5. It is A Good Way to Avoid Problems

Accessible web design is socially responsible and equitable web design. It shows that you are committed to providing equal access to web-based information to all people including users with disabilities. Improvements in making web sites accessible can help create a work and educational environment that supports all members of the university community and beyond. Accessible design demonstrates that you care about providing access to information for those who would otherwise be locked out and lose their opportunity to use the web.

2. It is The Law

As of June 21, 2001 rules were mandated by Section 508, 1194.22 of the Workforce Investment Act. 508 is an amendment to the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The law applies to all Web sites operated by federal government agencies. It requires Web pages to comply with accessibility standards. Under the law, Web sites are required to structure their design, content and underlying technologies to be accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 does not apply directly to University Web sites (unless funded by federal grant money). However, the federal effort provides a good example of what can be done. Typically courts measure accessibility by what the institution or orginization has set as their standard.

3. It is a University Policy and Standard

The University of Minnesota has an Accessibility of Information Technology Policy and Web Accessibility Standards. The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), level AA, serve as Web accessibility standards for the University of Minnesota.

4. It is Good Strategy

Accessible Design is Good Design for Everyone

The same methods that make your site accessible will make your site more usable for all who visit it. Besides the disabled, several populations may not use a graphical browser or may turn graphics off.

This may be due to hardware limitations such as:

  • Older computers or browser versions
  • Slow connections
  • High per-minute charges for Internet connection
  • Wireless Web connection

By creating accessible Web sites, you are reaching these groups as well, extending the range of communication. Good design is good design. Just as sidewalk curb cuts - originally intended for people using wheelchairs - also benefit parents wheeling strollers and individuals on roller blades, accessible web design benefits more than just people with disabilities.

Accessible Design Helps Search Engines Find Your Site

Search engines are effectively blind and this is how most users find information. Providing text equivalents (e.g., ALT attributes and captioning), good document structure, table summaries, and metadata improves search engine listings. A secret benefit of accessibility is higher search engine ranking. The more human-accessible a web site is the more machine-accessible it is. Google-bot will thank you. The cleaner, more semantically rich your content, the easier it is to index.

5. It is A Good Way to Avoid Problems

Inaccessible web sites are a liability and can lead to complaints, intervention by regulatory agencies, bad publicity, expensive site redesigns, and lawsuits.

Disability rights organizations have filed lawsuits against universities and colleges. Higher education is at the brink of a culture shift where accessibility is authentically considered when developing and implementing web sites and applications.

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