The central source for information on the Policy is the University’s Web Accessibility Website: ferris.edu/web-accessibility.
The website includes the full text of the Web Accessibility Policy and Technical Guidelines, and provides current information on consulting services, techniques and tutorials, and classes and workshops available to assist in implementing the Policy.
The volume and variety of websites at Ferris is enormous, and the task of making them accessible can seem daunting. What is the recommended approach to work toward increasingly complete compliance with the policy?
For websites, prioritize your improvement based on:
- Which simple and low cost changes maybe be done quickly to improve accessibility? Are there any changes to site templates and style sheets changes which can address several problems with a broad stroke?
- Which are the accessibility barriers which impact most users? Remove the absolute barriers, and improve the sections of your site that force workarounds for users.
- Start with your syllabus. Follow the guidelines for creating accessible documents, and address your method of handling a VISA request.
- Strategize from your learning objectives. The essential content students need to accomplish their objectives should be accessible. Provide different but equivalent learning content to satisfy those learning objectives, and all students would benefit from this multi-modal resource.
The Web Accessibility Initiative has collected various stories of web users accessing web pages, which include physical, cognitive and medical conditions.
Yes. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("Title II") and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Section 504") require that public universities provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, and activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of their programs, services, or activities or would impose an undue burden. As part of that obligation, public universities are required to provide equally effective communication to persons with disabilities, regardless of whether the university generally communicates through print media, audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet. Universities that use the Internet for communication regarding their programs, goods, and services must make that information accessible.
Why can't FSU offer accommodations on a case-by-case basis rather than requiring its websites to be accessible?
The United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") is responsible for enforcing Section 504 with respect to complaints filed against public institutions of higher education. The OCR has opined on several occasions that a public entity violates its obligations under the ADA when it simply responds to individual requests for accommodation on an ad-hoc basis. This is not considered “equally effective” given the advantage of real-time information. A public entity has an affirmative duty to establish a comprehensive policy in compliance with Title II in advance of any request for auxiliary aids or services.
On a practical level, accessibility experts have determined that it generally takes less time and is less costly to include accessibility as a design parameter from the start, rather than attempting to "retrofit" websites after a complaint has been filed.
Yes. There have been numerous successful legal challenges involving website and other technology-related accessibility at colleges or universities over the past few years. In particular, Penn State University settled a significant claim by the National Federation for the Blind and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. The settlement agreement required Penn State to conduct a full accessibility audit of its complete technology environment in relation to the visually impaired, establish an accessibility policy and statement, adopt WCAG 2.0 AA for all university websites and implement institution-wide training, instruction and support, among many other things, all within a relatively short timeframe. The agreement can be found at http://accessibility.psu.edu/nfbpsusettlement. Other colleges and universities have faced similar challenges, and made similar settlements. Finally, the U.S. Department of Justice has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which lets us know regulations will likely be in place soon requiring compliance with the WCAG 2.0 AA standards.
Doesn't the law allow a university to meet its obligations by providing an alternative accessible way for individuals with disabilities to access its programs or services rather than mandating website accessibility?
No. Title II and Section 504 require that public universities take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with persons with disabilities are "as effective" as communications with others. Thus, the issue is the extent to which the communication is actually "as effective" as that provided to others. OCR has repeatedly held that the term "communication" in this context means the transfer of information, including but not limited to, the verbal presentation of a lecture, the printed text of a book, and the resources of the Internet.
In assessing whether communication is effective, OCR has identified three basic components: timeliness of delivery, accuracy of the translation, and the abilities of the individual with the disability. With respect to the timeliness component, OCR has noted that a computer user with a disability may want to access the web during approximately the same number of hours with the same spontaneous flexibility that is enjoyed by nondisabled users. While an institution with an inaccessible website might attempt to meet its legal obligations by offering an alternative method of accessing the institution's programs or services (such as a staffed telephone line), such an opportunity may not be considered "as effective" by regulatory agencies as a web based service because it is not available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
No. This policy does not restrict what a faculty member teaches or how it is taught, but does require that all materials and content used in courses be made accessible. This Policy addresses the formatting of academic materials, as opposed to the choice of materials or content of materials. The Policy also permits exceptions for situations where compliance with the Policy would fundamentally alter the nature of an academic program or activity or would impose an undue burden.
Copyright and captioning are a major concern for educators. A poll of webinar participants revealed that, while only about a quarter of respondents encountered copyright issues with their captioned video, over half worried that they would run into trouble down the road.
It might, but not always. The Policy applies only to University Web pages used to conduct core University business or academic activities. Personal Web pages that are not used to conduct such activities are not covered by the Policy. The Policy defines core academic activities to include activities such as admissions, registration, advising, and academic course work. Therefore, if students must access content to fully participate in course activities, that content must be accessible.
This policy is not intended to limit the fields or topics of scholarship, instruction or service undertaken at FSU, and is not intended to adversely affect the quality of FSU instruction, scholarship or service.
If a technology, tool, resource or technique that cannot be made directly accessible is adopted for use, an equally effective accommodation must be provided to any person involved in the activity who needs an accessibility accommodation. Decisions regarding a reasonable accommodation for an individual or the need of one should be pursued by the individual through FSU’s Educational Counseling and Disabilities Services.
Choosing to use a technology, tool, resource or technique that cannot be made accessible must be legally defensible and not done in order to avoid the need to comply with the accessibility policy.