Why Websites Must be Accessible
A few key reasons
- It's beneficial to everyone.By incorporating the principles of accessibility into your website design, your Web pages will be better structured, easier to navigate, and available to people using assistive and other technologies, including PDAs and cell phones, and to those with low-bandwidth connections. These benefits are universal. Publishing information on the Web using methods that maximize rather than limit availability supports UIC’s mission to provide the broadest access to intellectual excellence.Web accessibility does not mean sacrificing good design for a “text only” site. In fact, you should be able to keep an existing design or enhance it. The differences are in the underlying code that enables users to access the site with assistive and other technologies. Implementing Web accessibility techniques, such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), can help Web designers maintain scalability.
Developing accessible Web pages requires some planning in the design process. UIC is dedicated to providing the necessary training, tools, and technical support to help you incorporate accessibility into your design process.
- It's University policy.The University of Illinois has a stated commitment to make its electronic information accessible to people with disabilities in compliance with applicable state and federal laws. The commitment includes making steady improvement as a campus to ensure we are compliant with the legal requirements as well as satisfying the mandate of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The IBHE strongly supports and encourages Illinois public universities to continuously improve Worldwide Web access for students with disabilities. The complete IBHE resolution (in PDF format) is available online.
- It's the law.All public universities, including the University of Illinois at Chicago, are mandated by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States… shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The Office of Civil Rights is the watchdog of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and has indicated in its rulings that providing inaccessible Web sites is a form of discrimination.The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is Civil Rights legislation passed in 1990 which reinforced the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for public universities. Even though neither the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 nor the Americans with Disabilities Act specifically mention Web accessibility, inaccessible websites have been the target of lawsuits in recent years. Many believe the ADA’s requirement in Title II that communications with persons with disabilities must be “as effective as communications with others” would apply to the accessibility of websites.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act includes Web accessibility standards for the Federal government. Even though Section 508 does not directly impact our University, the standards developed show the importance of Web accessibility, and many other entities beyond the Federal government have accepted the 508 standards for Web accessibility.
Recently the state of Illinois has enacted the Information Technology Accessibility Act. This new legislation enacted August 20, 2007, applies to the University of Illinois at Chicago and requires our university to develop accessible Web pages. The Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act Implementation Guidelines for Web-Based Information and Applications 1.0 were released as the state standards for Web accessibility. For more information on this Act go to State of Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act.