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Digital Accessibility Policy FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the University of Rochester Digital Accessibility Policy that goes into effect on January 1, 2024.

Policy overview

What is the purpose of the Digital Accessibility Policy?

At the University of Rochester, we are deeply committed to fostering an inclusive digital environment that aligns with our core values of equity, leadership, integrity, openness, respect, and accountability. Our Digital Accessibility Policy reinforces this commitment by setting clear expectations for all new websites and digital resources published after January 1, 2024, to adhere to established accessibility standards.

We recognize that achieving digital accessibility is a process that requires the collective effort of our entire University community. Our shared goal is to remove barriers and ensure equal access and usability for all individuals, regardless of their abilities, in our digital environment.

By upholding this Policy, we strive to create a welcoming and accessible online space that reflects our dedication to inclusivity and supports the diverse needs of our community.

What does digital accessibility mean?

Digital accessibility is the practice of removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing or interacting with websites, digital tools, and technologies. The goal of digital accessibility is to ensure everyone has full access to digital content.

Who benefits from accessible content?

Accessible content systematically removes barriers, and offers users choices on how to access content, which ultimately benefits everyone.

It significantly enhances the lives of people with disabilities and enables what would otherwise be impossible. This includes:

  • People with visual, auditory, cognitive, speech, and motor impairments.
  • People with learning, psychological, or psychiatric disabilities and those with seizure disorders.
  • People with temporary disabilities, such as fractured arms, temporary vision impairment, surgery recovery, or sprain or strain.

Accessible content can also benefit people encountering situational barriers, such as:

  • Low bandwidth internet connections
  • Noisy environments
  • Language barriers

By providing multiple ways to interact with digital content, accessibility empowers everyone, by offering greater control, comfort, and efficiency.

Can you explain website accessibility standards in simple terms?

Website accessibility standards (such as WCAG) help ensure websites are easy to use and accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. Here are some simple explanations:

  • Perceivable: Make sure people can perceive your content. Provide alternative text for images and captions for videos. Make it possible to present content in different ways.
  • Operable: Make your website easy to navigate and interact with. Allow users to access all features using a keyboard, provide sufficient time for reading and interacting with content, and avoid elements that may trigger seizures.
  • Understandable: Make your website easy to understand. Use clear headings, simple language, and provide easy-to-follow instructions. Ensure that your website behaves predictably.
  • Robust: To make sure your website works well with different technologies, it’s crucial to follow standard coding practices and avoid relying on specific devices or software. This way, everyone can access your website no matter what tools they’re using.
Who is responsible for ensuring digital content is accessible?

For each school or unit at the University of Rochester, the Organizational Leader (think deans, vice presidents, department chairs, or directors) is ultimately responsible for making sure that the new and redesigned websites and digital resources meet the Policy standards. However, individual site owners, authors, and contributors are accountable for monitoring and updating their web pages or digital resources to make sure they meet the Policy standards. So, if you’re managing, creating, editing, or publishing a University’s web page or digital resource, it’s your job to ensure that it’s accessible. By integrating accessibility into your regular work processes and decisions, you help create a digital environment that includes everyone.

Scope

Does the Policy apply only to new websites or also to existing ones?

The Policy requires that only websites created or significantly redesigned after January 1, 2024, need to follow the standard. However, we should make a reasonable effort to bring older web pages and digital resources in line with the Policy standards. Site owners have the flexibility to prioritize updates for legacy pages and other digital content based on analytics, strategic goals, or other criteria.

Are files, videos, and other media required to be accessible on my website?

Yes. The Policy covers all kinds of digital content, including text, images, audio, or video. If you create and host multimedia, like videos or podcasts, make sure to include captions as part of the production process. When posting digital images, add descriptive text in an “alt tag” assigned to an image. The Policy also applies to documents and other file types, such as PDFs.

Does the Policy apply to social media platforms?

Yes, the Policy also covers social media. Make sure your social media content, like posts, images, videos, and links, is accessible to everyone. It’s important that individuals with disabilities can perceive, understand, and interact with your content. Check out the University of Rochester’s guidance on best practices for accessible social media.

I haven't received any complaints about accessibility issues on my website or web service. Does this Policy still apply to me?

Yes, the accessibility policy still applies to you, even if you haven’t received any complaints about accessibility issues on your website. Accessibility isn’t just about user complaints. It’s about taking a proactive approach to ensure equal access and usability for everyone, including those with disabilities. By sticking to accessibility guidelines and standards, you create a digital space that’s inclusive and welcoming to all users, regardless of whether specific complaints have been made.

What if my target audience is small?

Regardless of your audience size, prioritizing accessibility is important. By ensuring that individuals with disabilities can effectively access and interact with your content, you demonstrate inclusivity and create a positive experience for all users. Moreover, accessibility carries legal and ethical implications and is considered a best practice in website and content development.

Compliance

How can I check if my website is accessible?

You should begin evaluating the accessibility of your digital resource by using automated testing tools. These tools can quickly give you an overview of any accessibility barriers present in your content. Continue your evaluation with manual testing which allows for a more comprehensive evaluation that considers context, user experience, and accessibility issues that automated tools may overlook. Additionally, it is important to involve users with disabilities in testing and gathering feedback on your website’s accessibility. Their insights are invaluable in identifying any barriers or challenges they may encounter.

Website owners and editors can request access to Siteimprove, a licensed tool provided by the University of Rochester. Siteimprove scans public websites and generates reports that highlight accessibility issues.

The Digital Accessibility team also offers guidance on evaluating website content for accessibility. We provide resources, including a list of automated tools and a guide to manual evaluation methods.

How can I ensure accessibility when working with external vendors?

Those buying third-party web applications and digital services need to make sure that these purchases meet the requirements of the Digital Accessibility Policy and that contracts hold vendors responsible for meeting the specified accessibility standards. Find out more about buying accessible technology and working with vendors.

Where can I find further guidance on making my content compliant with the Policy? What are the initial steps to achieve compliance?

We’re developing the Implementation Procedures in collaboration with the Web Governance Council. Once they’re available, you’ll find them posted on this website.

The University has provides resources to assist individuals in implementing WCAG 2.2 Level AA standards.

Can I use an accessibility plugin or overlay to make my website accessible?

No. Accessibility plugins and overlays do not address underlying issues or ensure compliance with the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). In fact, rather than enhancing web accessibility, overlays often hinder the user experience for individuals with disabilities. Assistive technology users already have their devices, browsers, and settings configured to meet their specific needs. However, overlays and similar products frequently override these settings, leading to a more frustrating browsing experience.

Is there an exception process for meeting the Policy requirements?

The Policy allows exceptions in limited cases through an exception request process.

Getting help

What should I do if I discover that my website does not meet WCAG guidelines, but I lack technical expertise?

Start with basics and ask for help. Starting January 1, 2024, the Policy will cover new and significantly redesigned websites and applications going forward. If you are working on a new website or a major redesign with plans to launch on or after January 1, 2024, please don’t hesitate to contact the Digital Accessibility team for advice and assistance.

However, suppose you do not plan to launch a new or significantly redesigned website on or after January 1. In that case, you are not obligated to immediately bring your website’s platform, infrastructure, and underlying code into compliance with WCAG. Nevertheless, if you anticipate posting content on or after January 1, you must make an effort to ensure it conforms to WCAG standards.

What support, training, and resources are available to assist me?

The Digital Accessibility team is here to help. We offer:

  • Guidance and resources on accessibility for content creators, designers, developers, managers, or purchasers.
  • Information on tools and techniques that can be used to enhance digital accessibility.
  • Instructor-led training and a series of self-paced training courses that provide quick overviews of popular accessibility topics.
Who supports the implementation of the Policy?

The University Communications Digital Accessibility team provides training, guidance, and support services to promote and champion digital accessibility across the University of Rochester.

As part of a University-wide initiative, the Web Governance Council raises awareness of this Policy, reviews and approves implementation plans, reports on accessibility efforts outlined in this Policy to the leadership, and designates appropriate authorities to assess and decide on requests for Policy exceptions.

Where can I send questions, comments, or feedback?

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to contact the Digital Accessibility team at digitalaccessibility@rochester.edu. We are here to assist you and appreciate your input.

How do I report an accessibility issue on a website?

All University of Rochester websites include an “Accessibility” link, typically located in the footer. This link directs users to the current “Accessibility” page. From there, to report any concerns regarding web accessibility, users can submit the “Report a Digital Accessibility Barrier” form. The Digital Accessibility team will then review and forward the requests to the appropriate site owners for further action.

Staying up to date

How can I stay updated on accessibility matters?

Stay informed by regularly checking out this website for important updates on the Policy implementation process, news about WCAG standards, guidelines, training opportunities, and new accessibility resources.

Follow social media groups dedicated to digital accessibility and advocacy. This way, you can connect and keep up with the latest news, standards, and get insights into the real experiences of people with disabilities.

Also, consider subscribing to newsletters, blogs, or podcasts focusing on accessibility.

And don’t forget about attending conferences like HighEdWeb Accessibility Summit or axe-con and other events about accessibility. They are a fantastic way to stay informed and network with professionals in the industry.

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