Frequently Asked Questions
- What is digital accessibility?
- What does digital accessibility compliance mean?
- Why should I strive for digital accessibility?
- What is the impact of making things accessible for users?
- What accessibility standards apply to a University website?
- Does the Digital Accessibility Policy apply to my site?
- Under the Digital Accessibility Policy, what should I focus my best efforts on remediating if my existing website won’t “undergo substantial revisions, redesign, or make use of new digital content for the foreseeable future”?
- Is the University providing resources to help with digital accessibility?
- Do digital accessibility principles apply to emails?
- Can you explain [in plain English] the industry guidelines for digital accessibility?
- Are there specific guidelines that I need my website vendor to follow to meet our accessibility requirements?
- If a website owner has multiple websites that need to be evaluated for accessibility, where do they start?
- If a website has a small audience, should the website owner be concerned about making the website accessible?
- My website includes videos, audio files, images, PDFs, and other file types. What should I do?
- Can you evaluate my site completely for accessibility? Can you help me fix it?
- If I encounter difficulty accessing a university website, what should I do?
- What should I do if I’m a University student, faculty, or staff member and need assistance accessing online content?
- How do I evaluate my website for accessibility?
What is digital accessibility?
Digital accessibility is the ability of a website, mobile application or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities.
What does digital accessibility compliance mean?
‘Accessible’ means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability.
Websites can be measured against a set of technical standards, specifically the WCAG 2.1 Level AA guidelines. However, digital accessibility is not merely a matter of conforming to technical standards, but rather it’s about designing websites, documents, and applications so that people with disabilities can use them effectively.
Why should I strive for digital accessibility?
It’s the right thing to do. Adhering to our digital accessibility guidelines ensures that our campus community and the public can access University content online in a way that is equitable regardless of a person’s differing abilities. It embodies the University’s commitment to diversity, which is necessary for intellectual exchange and rigorous inquiry.
It’s a legal obligation. The expectation that online content be accessible is not new; the University as a place of public accommodation as well as a recipient of federal funding (under Section 504 Rehabilitation Act/ADA) has an obligation to make its programs, course content, events, etc., accessible, which includes online content.
What is the impact of making things accessible for users?
Maintaining accessible digital assets enables users of all backgrounds and abilities to have a better user experience. Some examples of how accessible content impacts users include:
- Properly captioning a video will allow those with hearing loss to engage with your multimedia content.
- Formatting web content so that it can be properly read by a screen reader provides people who are blind or visually impaired the ability to fully understand and consume the information on a website
- Ensuring your website can be navigated using only a keyboard enables people who have mobility impairments and use alternate input devices to use the website effectively.
What accessibility standards apply to a University website?
The University’s digital accessibility standards can be found at the UChicago Web Resource Center website.
Does the Digital Accessibility Policy apply to my site?
The University’s digital accessibility policy applies to any University Web Property, defined as any website or web application “owned or controlled by the University or operated by or on behalf of the University”.
- A website using a University domain name, or a website redirected from a University domain name.
- A website without a University domain name (and is not redirected from a University domain name) but:
- is used for University business. University business includes, but is not exclusive to teaching, publishing research, marketing university events, university groups, research labs.
- uses University branding and logos.
The policy may not apply to some web properties, even if they reference the University.
- A website without a University domain name that does no University business or bears University logos (e.g., professorswebsite.wix.com site with no branding, only CVs, photos, blog).
- If a web property is not subject to the University policies, site owners should still ensure that the property is accessible, secure, and maintained. These practices benefit the owners and reduce risk to reputation and security.
If you have questions about the policy, please contact email@example.com.
Under the Digital Accessibility Policy, what should I focus my best efforts on remediating if my existing website won’t “undergo substantial revisions, redesign, or make use of new digital content for the foreseeable future”?
Remove all critical access barriers as soon as possible. Continue to work toward greater accessibility over time. Critical access barriers include issues with high user-impact, such as:
- Components that can’t be navigated by keyboard only
- Lack of visible focus indicators
- Insufficient color contrast
- Inaccurate or missing alternative text for images
- Inaccurate or missing video captions
- Improper use of semantic markup, especially missing headings and malformed lists and data tables
- Content loss when the page is zoomed 200%
- Inaccessible documents
Is the University providing resources to help with digital accessibility?
The University has created the Center for Digital Accessibility and procured an enterprise tool (Siteimprove) to support the campus community in meeting accessibility guidelines. You are encouraged to discuss budgetary concerns regarding compliance with the Digital Accessibility Policy with your unit budget manager.
Do digital accessibility principles apply to emails?
Yes, emails should follow content creator guidelines. Make sure to include things like alt-text for images (including logos, images of text, and images used as headers or footers), sufficient color contrast, and meaningful link text (instead of using “click here” or the URL). Ensure all content is visible when increased to 200%; responsive design is best for accessibility. Use tables for data, not layout. Include a header row. If using tables for layout, mark role = “presentation”. These best practices enhance the accessibility of any html email message, but are especially important for widely distributed mass messages. Please reach out to the CDA team if you need help with accessibility guidelines.
Can you explain [in plain English] the industry guidelines for digital accessibility?
Web accessibility guidelines are organized according to four high-level principles. If any of these are not true, users with disabilities may have difficulty or be prevented from using the website, application, or document.
Are there specific guidelines that I need my website vendor to follow to meet our accessibility requirements?
Yes. It is recommended that site owners require website vendors to conform to WCAG 2.1 Level AA guidelines, which include high-level guidance on functional requirements, as well as specific success criteria and techniques.
If you are working with a vendor to build your website, visit the UChicago Website Resource Center for assistance.
If a website owner has multiple websites that need to be evaluated for accessibility, where do they start?
When many websites are involved, prioritization is important. As a general guideline, websites that contain any content required for student courses should be prioritized first, followed by websites that have a large public audience (e.g., school, division, or center) or contain essential information or critical transactions. Consider sunsetting any websites or content you no longer need.
If a website has a small audience, should the website owner be concerned about making the website accessible?
Although a website may have a small audience, it is difficult to know the needs of every member of the audience now and in the future. A website that is not fully accessible hinders members of the campus community from accessing information and
resources, in addition to opening the University to potential liability.
My website includes videos, audio files, images, PDFs, and other file types. What should I do?
The same high-level accessibility principles apply to other digital materials, although the specific techniques will vary by application. In general:
- Anyone creating and hosting multimedia (for example, videos or podcasts) on a University website should include captioning of the video and description of the audio as part of the production process.
- If you are posting digital images on a University website, you should provide appropriate descriptive text in an “alt tag” assigned to each image.
- When you are creating new documents or materials, take advantage of any built-in accessibility validation features of your applications. Refer to the National Center on Disability and Access to Education cheat sheets for tips on creating accessible documents of various types.
Can you evaluate my site completely for accessibility? Can you help me fix it?
Because of the large volume of UChicago web properties, the CDA is not able to conduct an extensive assessment of every UChicago site. Upon request, CDA staff can perform an initial, high-level evaluation of your website and advise on where you can make high-impact improvements.. In addition we can add your site to Siteimprove, the University’s enterprise accessibility scanning tool which provides ongoing automatic accessibility checks.
If I encounter difficulty accessing a University website, what should I do?
Report a digital accessibility barrier to The University of Chicago.
What should I do if I’m a University student, faculty, or staff member and need assistance accessing online content?
The University is committed to making sure its programs are accessible to students, faculty, other academic appointees, staff, postdoctoral researchers, and visitors with disabilities. For information about requesting an accommodation, visit Access UChicago Now.
How do I evaluate my website for accessibility?
When developing or redesigning a website, evaluate accessibility throughout the development process and strive to identify accessibility problems early, when they are easier to address.