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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 University Policy
  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 new 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. Higher education around the world is moving strongly toward accessible design of Web sites. Section 508 does not apply directly to the University, but the Federal effort provides a good example of what can be done.

3. It is University Policy

The University of Minnesota has an Accessibility of Information Technology Policy and Web Accessibility Standards.

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 Improves Maintainability and Efficiency of sites

  • It eases site maintenance - additions and updates are quicker, simpler, cheaper. It reduces site maintenance. By separating structure and presentation and using style sheets, the look of a site can easily be change by modifying only one file.
  • Accessible design demonstrates forward thinking. It improves repurposing potential - easier to reformat and adapt for new technologies. Accessibility is about backwards AND forwards compatibility, about writing one version of a web site (rather than several) that everyone, no matter how old or new their Internet device / operating system / computer hardware, will be able to access in some way or other. It is the future of the web, no less! Techniques like using style sheets, color independence, and avoiding deprecated elements makes Web content more readily available to changing (and expanding) customer/client base and to any new technologies.
  • It reduce server and bandwith loads - pages load faster. Accessibility solutions, such as cascading style sheets, can increase the speed of file transfer, thereby reducing server load.

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 doucument strucuture, 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.

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