“Accessible Design” calls for design that includes the needs of people whose physical, mental, or environmental conditions limit their performance. “Universal Design” aims to extend standard design principles to include people of all ages and abilities, but remains at the level of generality, so it does not address all the specific needs of any particular disability.
But even for people who do not have any specific physical or mental characteristics that affect computer use, it has been found that adopting universal design principles can reduce fatigue, increase speed, decrease errors, and decrease learning time for all users. In many ways, universal design addresses the larger issues of usability by making things easier for everyone. from Usability First (opens in a new window).
The one accessibility issue that is thought to be more important than all others is that a text equivalent is needed for every non-text element (audio, video, images, scanned documents). Fortunately, this is something that can be done. Don’t hesitate to contact the instructional design team if you need help improving accessible design/universal design in your course.
Both audio and visual content, if used, are accompanied by a written, screen-reader compatible transcript and/or captioning in an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant format.
Images use alternative text to describe their content.
Scanned documents, if used, have been processed (with Optical Character Recognition (OCR), tools) to provide a screen-readable version.
Course links are self describing and meaningful.
Course ensures screen readability.
Neal Ewers demonstrates a screen reader – Produced by: Alice Anderson, Technology Accessibility Program, UW-Madison Division of Information Technology, and Neal Ewers, Trace Research & Development Center, UW-Madison, with help from Dick Geier and Jesse Winters at the Instructional Media Development Center.
“Screen Reader Demo from Blind Inspiration Cast” How do people who can’t see a computer screen navigate a website? Colleen Connor explains the basics of how she uses a screen reader and how to design for visually impaired users.
About 15 standards are excerpted from Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, §1194.22. WebAIM, a project of Utah State University, explains how these standards can be interpreted.
Section 508 is a federal law which mandates that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.
from the U.S. Department of Justice. This document is almost 300 pages long.
” Any accessibility testing must be viewed as a process that combines automated software tools with human judgment. There is no tool that you can run against your website (or web page, for that matter) in order to assert that it is accessible and/or complies with the Section 508 provisions or the WCAG – no matter how much you are willing to pay ” from Web Accessibility – Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance by Jim Thatcher
Since both software tools and human judgement are needed, here are some resources for help with testing:
Accessibility Checklist (opens in a new window) from U. of Washington