Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is digital accessibility?
  2. What does digital accessibility compliance mean?
  3. Why should I strive for digital accessibility?
  4. What is the impact of making things accessible for users?
  5. What accessibility standards apply to a University website?
  6. Does the Digital Accessibility Policy apply to my site?
  7. 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”?
  8. Is the University providing resources to help with digital accessibility?
  9. Do digital accessibility principles apply to emails?
  10. Can you explain [in plain English] the industry guidelines for digital accessibility?
  11. Are there specific guidelines that I need my website vendor to follow to meet our accessibility requirements?
  12. If a website owner has multiple websites that need to be evaluated for accessibility, where do they start?
  13. If a website has a small audience, should the website owner be concerned about making the website accessible?
  14. My website includes videos, audio files, images, PDFs, and other file types. What should I do?
  15. Can you evaluate my site completely for accessibility? Can you help me fix it?
  16. If I encounter difficulty accessing a university website, what should I do?
  17. What should I do if I’m a University student, faculty, or staff member and need assistance accessing online content?
  18. 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 web accessibility guidelines ensures that our students, faculty, staff, and campus community 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 necessary for intellectual exchange in the life of the University.

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?

University websites provide an online environment where knowledge and ideas can be easily shared. This exchange is most meaningful when it promotes inclusion. Some common ways to improve online accessibility include:

  • Captioning a video to allow those with hearing loss to engage with your content.
  • Formatting a website so that it can be read by a screen reader allows it to be navigated by an individual who is blind, visually impaired, or using assistive technology.
  • Accessible websites allow individuals who have mobility impairments and use only a keyboard or alternate input devices to use a website effectively.

What accessibility standards apply to a University website?

All University Web Properties, including those used for teaching, regardless of domain name, must:

  1. Comply with the international standards of WCAG 2.1, Level AA;
  2. Have a link to “Accessibility” in their footer. The link shall direct users to the Access UChicago Now 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”.

Examples include:

  • 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.

Examples include:

  • 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 webhelp@uchicago.edu.

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:

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, properly structured data tables, and meaningful link text (instead of using “click here” or the URL). 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 will not be able to use the website, application, or document.

  1. Perceivable – Perceivability means the user can identify content and interface elements by means of the senses. For many users, this means perceiving a system primarily visually, while for others, perceivability may be a matter of sound or touch.
  2. Operable – Operability means that a user can successfully use controls, buttons, navigation, and other necessary interactive elements. For many users, this means identifying an interface control visually, and then clicking, tapping, or swiping. For other users, using a computer keyboard or voice commands may be the only means by which they can operate and control the interface.
  3. Understandable – Understandable technology is consistent in its presentation and format, predictable in its design and usage patterns, concise, multimodal, and appropriate to the audience in its voice and tone. Users should be able to comprehend the content, and learn and remember how to use the interface.
  4. Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. Robust information technology is standards-compliant and designed to function on all appropriate technologies. Users should be able to choose the technology they use to interact with websites, online documents, multimedia, and other information formats.

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 cheatsheets 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, CDA staff will not be able to conduct an extensive assessment of every UChicago site. CDA staff will be able to perform an initial, high-level assessment of your website, identify areas where you can quickly make high-impact improvements, and provide guidance on taking the next step, whether that be conducting your own comprehensive audit or engaging others to conduct an audit for you. CDA staff can help you understand the results of a web accessibility audit and plan your next web project with accessibility in mind.

If I encounter difficulty accessing a University website, what should I do?

Report a digital accessibility barrier to 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. Identify accessibility problems early, when it is easier to address them. The resources listed below can help you get started.