Digital Accessibility and the Disability Resource Center
The Disability Resource Center supports Digital Accessibility on the UIC campus. The DRC implemented and chairs the current Digital Accessibility Committee (DAC). Below is its mission and vision.
The DAC oversees the policy and procedures relating to the accessibility of digital information. This committee supports the campus in the process of advancing digital accessibility through:
- coordinating training and assistance with digital accessibility (including websites and other online information)
- providing accessibility assessment tools
- providing reports and recommendations on how campus webmasters can improve their sites to meet current best practices and established accessibility guidelines
- developing policies to make online information more accessible and usable
- assisting webmasters by providing clear guidelines on how to improve accessibility
- helping UIC prioritize efforts in creating new websites and modifying older websites
The DAC serves campus content providers and Web designers and developers, who in turn serve the campus’s content consumers: prospective and current students, prospective and current faculty, prospective and current staff, alumni, the community, and the public. To this end, the DAC provides advisory services on digital accessibility issues, and supplies an interactive Web accessibility requirement checklist. Currently, no other entity on campus fills these needs.
The DAC is strongly dedicated to the long-term effort of improving the accessibility of UIC’s websites, onne applications, and other digital information. But in order for accessibility compliance to be fully implemented, the Committee will need the active cooperation of the campus.
The University of Illinois at Chicago will have established a technologically inclusive learning environment whereby all multimedia, websites, and online applications are equally accessible to those with cognitive, visual, physical and/or hearing impairments, thus adequately reflecting the increasing diversity of the UIC community, underscoring its long-standing commitment to undeserved communities, and supporting UIC’s objectives to
- become the nation’s premier urban public research university and
- provide access to excellence and success
The Committee envisions a holistic approach to examining and governing UIC’s Web content, services, and technology, with the goal of achieving ubiquitous accessibility and usability of digital communications, appropriate use of resources, and compliance with Web accessibility standards and regulations. UIC needs a strong network of Web content providers, developers and designers from across campus to collaborate and cooperate in building and managing digital communications that advance the goals of the campus and our customers.
The committee’s visionary goals include the following components:
- All UIC digital communications will meet the current standards and mandates
- UIC will be recognized as a leader in digital accessibility
- User feedback and testing will validate that digital communications are accessible to all users across all devices
- Training to stay at the forefront of accessibility will be available to all content creators and Web developers and designers at UIC
- Best practices in accessibility and usability will be integrated into every stage of design and development
- Technology resources available on campus all facilitate the development of accessible content
- Accessibility development courses would be included in the ongoing HR training sessions
Mandates Affecting UIC
UIC is subject to the Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA) of 2008, which mandates that all websites published by the university are accessible to persons with disabilities. The act applies to all Web content intended for use by the public. Exceptions include:
- Web content intended for personal or private use by individuals or limited, well-defined groups of users, none of which need missing accessibility features
- and/or cases where a State entity can demonstrate that equivalent information technology that does comply with the IITAA standards can be readily provided as needed to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.
UIC is also subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (§504). These laws prohibit post-secondary institutions from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education has indicated through complaint resolution agreements and other documents that institutions covered by the ADA and §504 that use the Internet for communication regarding their programs, goods, or services, must make that information accessible. In an OCR settlement agreement, the federal agency stated that whether the communication is via media, print, or the Internet, post-secondary institutions must “effectively communicate” with individuals with disabilities including students, faculty, staff and the wider community.
The Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, in the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a document entitled Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities. In this document, DOJ states that state and local governments are required under the ADA and §504 to provide “equal access to their programs, services, or activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature” of these programs, services or activities or “would impose an undue burden.” This equal access obligation covers access to the information on governmental—that is, public post-secondary institutional—websites.
Failure to comply with the legal mandates through the IITAA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (§504) leaves UIC vulnerable to legal action such as the 2010 complaint by the National Federation for the Blind (NFB), with the U.S. Department of Education, against Penn State University. The complaint specifically cited the university’s websites, learning management systems and other technological services as inaccessible to blind students. Penn State and the NFB reached an agreement to resolve the complaint that sets deadlines and consequences, tangible goals in order to measure success, and a grievance procedure. Implementation of this strategic plan will move us closer toward safeguarding UIC from similar actions.
For more information about the Digital Accessibility Committee contact the current chair of the DAC, Kevin Price, at email@example.com.