In this day and age, the Internet has quickly become the world standard for information access worldwide. At University of Alaska Fairbanks, we try to competitively provide quality information to our students, faculty, and the university as a whole. Since 1998, internet accessibility standards require institutions with electronic media and information technology be accessible to persons with disabilities in an equivalent manner to those without, as illustrated in the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, Section 508.
With this in mind, University web content must:
- Meet legislative requirements, such as Section 508.
- Benefit everyone, including individuals with disabilities.
- Be cost effective. Note that it is considerably less expensive to create an accessible website at the beginning than to redesign one that is noncompliant.
- Facilitate modification of materials for specific needs. If material is already accessible, the University does not need to make it accessible later, when it could impair students until resolved.
- Promote learning experience and independence. All UAF websites should promote ease of use, and not require assistance to browse.
When do I need to make my web content accessible?
Since 1998, Federal Law mandates web accessibility. Basically, if a student is required to experience content digitally, it is required that the University make it accessible to any student with a disability. Some examples include:
UAF's current version of Blackboard Learn has been certified by the National Federation of the Blind, stating that a Blind user can fully navigate Blackboard without issue. This does not mean, however, that Blackboard converts all content posted to it into an accessible format automatically. A few guidelines will remove most accessibility barriers relatively easily, like:
- Picture captions: A content designer should attempt to fully describe any pictures or illustration used in a caption below the picture. This allows software such as screen readers to describe any visual content that would otherwise not be experienced to students with disabilities, and reinforces the visual content for students without disabilities.
- Simplify: A content designer should try to make the Blackboard pages simple and easy to navigate. A simple, well organized class page benefits all users, and reduces the amount of work needed to make any modifications later on.
- Where possible, a content designer should use in-site content instead of external links: Some sites on the internet may not be accessible, and if an inaccessible external site is required for class work, that presents a barrier to education.
For more information, please visit Blackboard Learn accessibility.
Roxen Content Management System (CMS) does not automatically solve all accessibility barriers, either. Two major issues are common with most pages designed in Roxen, as explained below:
- No alternate text in images: Screen readers read the alternate text for an image instead
of the actual picture. Because of this, UAF staff and faculty need to provide alternate
text on all pictures posted to their websites. When applying alternate text to an
image, try to be as descriptive as possible, so that a user with a disability is not
hampered in any way from navigating and experiencing your web page. It is extremely
easy to add picture alternate text.
- In Roxen, when posting a picture, simply type the alternate text in the "Picture Alternate Text" field.
- In any other web designer using HTML code to include a picture, place alternate text in between the <img> and the </img> tags.
- Unexplained links: When designing a web link, try to make the description text explain
the destination of the link. For example, UAF Disability Services web accessibility is more accessible than a link like click here.
- In Roxen, simply type in a link description, select it, and then click the hyperlink button. Screen readers do not handle links such as https://uaf.edu/disability/ in a coherent manner.
- In any other web designer using HTML code to include a link, place description text between the <a> and the </a> tags.
Tools for testing web accessibility
- Complete list of web accessibility evaluation tools
- Evaluating web sites for accessibility: overview
- Functional accessibility evaluator
- WAVE - Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool