Introduction to the Development of Accessible Technology
Providing accessible technology, resources, and information is a priority for CU Boulder and benefits everyone, not just those with disabilities. Developing Accessible Technology became a priority at CU Boulder as a result of a Department of Justice investigation in 2014. Since that investigation, CU Boulder has taken major strides in being an accessible campus for all, which includes both physical and digital spaces. (See the Laws of the Regents for the University’s commitment to the needs of people with disabilities).
Benefits of Accessible Technology
- Financial—It is typically less expensive to build in accessibility from the beginning of website development than to have to redesign an entire site later. Accessibility can also increase searchability of a website, ease the production and provision of materials in an alternative format and decrease the need for technical support. In addition, there is often overlap in developing accessibility and mobile device adaptability, helping reduce the additional work and expense required to create a mobile version of a website.
- Practical—Often there is less need for additional cost and work in maintenance when a site is designed for device independence as it is often prepared to serve past and future assistive technologies. There is also frequently an overlap in design aspects for other technical standards with accessibility standards.
- Attracting End Users—In addition to users with disabilities, web accessibility assists individuals utilizing mobile devices, older users with hearing and vision impairments, low-bandwidth connections, environmental conditions such as high noise levels or varying lighting, and those using black and white displays. If people cannot easily access a webpage, they are far less likely to use it, no matter the content. While some users absolutely need content to be accessible, many people will go elsewhere to find similar content if what they are using is not easy to use.
- Justice and Inclusion—Technology gives access to information, services, and tasks people need to complete, but when these are not accessible, it limits participation. When a user has to find another person to complete tasks for them, they often feel like they are less a part of the community, it takes longer and/or is more costly, and they are less likely to do it. Being able to participate independently helps preserve dignity.
- Diversity—If a set of users is diverse, they will access technology with a variety of devices, will have different skill levels accessing technology, and will access materials in different ways. CU Boulder is dedicated to diversity, and people with disabilities increase diversity.
- Legal Responsibilities—There are legal protections for people with disabilities, mandating that they have access to digital information in the same ways others do. Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving financial assistance from the Federal Government. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by employers, public entities, and places of public accommodation. Both laws require the University to provide equal opportunity to individuals with disabilities to participate in educational programs which includes accommodation or modifications when necessary to ensure equal treatment. In addition, even the United Nations has recognized that Web accessibility as a basic human right in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).
Resources at CU
The Accessibility and Usability Lab at CU Boulder was created to recommend best practices for accessibility as well as test current programs. While primarily focusing on users with visual impairment because of the DOJ investigation, many of the best practices that make content accessible will benefit many other groups as well.
This site aims to provide resources to utilize when creating web-based content to make it accessible. We will highlight details of accessible technology, new platforms, updates to existing services and other topics relevant to the creation of accessible technology.
- WCAG Standards: This content is largely based on the Web Content Accessibility Group (WCAG) 2.0 standards. WCAG 2.0 is designed for web-based developers, evaluators, and others that need criteria for evaluating accessibility.
- Web Accessibility Initiative’s Overview page also provides a great resource for organizations working on improving accessibility