According to the GovState Web Accessibility Policy (PDF), all content interfaces to be used by Governors State University faculty/staff, program participants, or other university constituencies are required to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended. This page provides elaboration and guidelines to help GSU developers and purchasing agents meet the Web Accessibility Policy.

To be compliant with the ADA and our Web Accessibility Policy and Standards, a person with a disability must be able to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability, and be able to do so in an equally effective manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. Information and services must be made available at the same time to a person with a disability as to a person without a disability.

Considerations for Functional Accessibility

To help satisfy the requirement to comply with the ADA and meet Web Accessibility Policy and Standards, your resource (page, site, media, or application) should be functionally accessible, rather than merely technically accessible. While technical accessibility determines whether a resource is coded to an accepted accessibility standard, to be functionally accessible means that any person can use the resource effectively to perform an available task. Coding to an accepted standard is often a means of approaching functional accessibility, but achieving functional accessibility means that your resource is easy to use and your content clear and unambiguous for all users, regardless of ability.

To be functionally accessible your web resource must consider:

  • use by people who may have severe or moderate visual impairment
  • use by people who may be colorblind
  • use by people who may be deaf or hard of hearing
  • use by people who may have motor disabilities
  • use by people who may have cognitive disabilities

Users with severe visual impairments typically use screen readers, programs that navigate the web browser's rendering of the code of a web page and read aloud the content. Screen readers identify not only text, but alternate text for images. They facilitate full interaction with web page content and objects. And they allow users to skip between chunks of content by link, heading, form element, and content block, among other means. Invalid or lax coding practices, minimal logical structure and semantics, and inappropriate or missing textual descriptions for images or links make navigation and understanding of web content difficult or impossible for screen reader reliant users. Some usages of JavaScript and plug-ins can be inaccessible to screen readers, as well.

The screen reader used most on campus is Freedom Scientific JAWS. We are also seeing significant use of VoiceOver, the screen reader on Mac and iOS devices. Because of the variety of screen readers in use on campus, we strongly recommend testing on more than one platform, including a mobile platform. NVDA is a free screen reader for Windows which tends to be in the vanguard in its handling of modern web page/application implementations. We recommend it for testing, along with VoiceOver on Mac and iOS.

Users with moderate to severe visual impairments ("low-vision") typically enlarge the screen fonts, either by using the browser's zoom or text scaling facilities or by using screen magnification programs. These users may also set their operating system to a "high-contrast" mode or use custom style sheets to increase the contrast between foreground and background.

The Minimum Web Accessibility Standards implementation guidelines have some recommendations for ensuring access for low-vision users, including testing with Windows high-contrast mode enabled. We also recommend testing with a screen magnification program. Many campus lab computers have ZoomText installed. ZoomText is a high-quality, widely used screen magnifier for Windows. It has modes of operation for documents and applications that simplify web pages and web applications. In certain cases, these modes may interact with web pages, forms, and applications in unexpected ways. So testing not only with screen magnification enabled but also with ZoomText in application and document reading modes is recommended.

Users with color blindness have problems distinguishing between certain colors. We recommend avoiding instances where functionality or meaning is conveyed solely by color differences and further recommend evaluating web resources with special programs that emulate various types of color-blindness. (See the implementation guidelines in the compliance table below for resources.)

Users who are deaf or hard of hearing may rely on transcripts of audio content, captioned video, and alternatives to auditory cuing.

According to best practices and our Minimum Web Accessibility Standards, all video content must have a synchronized text track (caption), providing transcription of spoken text, speaker identification, and text equivalents of non-verbal audio (a.k.a., sound effects), as appropriate. Audio podcasts and other spoken audio should be accompanied by a full text transcription. Web pages or applications that use audio cues also should provide a visual, preferably text-based, cue.

Users with various motor disabilities may have difficulty using the mouse as a pointing device, due to nerve conditions, disease, or injury. Limited motor acuity may affect response times and accuracy in selecting navigation or options within forms and other controls. Repetitive stress and other less severe motor disabilities may make over-reliance on the keyboard difficult — for example, excessive tabbing to move through controls. Users with limited upper-body mobility may use speech recognition for input or other input devices which mimic keyboard input, or they may rely solely on the keyboard for all input.

Developers should test to make sure all navigation, form, and other control elements in web pages are accessible and operable via the keyboard alone and look to see that if timed responses are necessary there is the ability to extend the time and that that functionality is easy to understand and locate in the page or application. Also try to judge the impact on usability afforded by the quantity and complexity of input required for navigation, form, or other input. (Note that providing a means for skipping over repetitive navigation is a requirement of our Minimum Web Accessibility Standards.) We also recommend testing the usability of web forms and applications with speech recognition software, such as Dragon or Windows 7 Speech Recognition.

Cognitive disability is the most broad and varied category of disability. Most users with disabilities registered through our Office for Disability Services have some form of cognitive disability. Thus, attention to usability problems that may be encountered by users with cognitive disability will have proportionally the greatest positive impact on visitors to your site. Cognitive disabilities include conditions affecting reading and verbal comprehension, learning disabilities, attention and distractibility disorders, conditions affecting memory and processing of large amounts of information, and problems comprehending information presented mathematically or graphically.

In general, try to assess the general usability and comprehensibility — clarity in presentation and logical and special organization — of web resources. Ensuring correct grammar and spelling and reducing verbal complexity will have a positive impact for users with certain cognitive disabilities, as well. There also exist services that can analyze the complexity of your text content, for example the Readability Test.