Many thanks to Cory for getting the Web Accessibility Task Force off the ground! This is a great step forward for the accessibility of our site, but itâ€™s just the beginning. We need to sustain the momentum and begin to plan our activities so the committee produces positive outcomes. I hope to lay the groundwork for that planning today by establishing the goal of the committee and discussing the guidelines our website should follow.
I want the goal and scope of this committee to be fairly limited. While we need to focus on accessibility, it shouldnâ€™t be an all-consuming time-beast. Therefore, the goal I envision for the committee is to:
Determine guidelines for accessibility and create a set of sustainable processes that help our website meet those guidelines.
In my view, before we begin testing, rewriting the style guide, or planning training, we should probably figure out what guidelines weâ€™re testing, writing, and planning for. Once we determine the guidelines, we can create processes which conform to them. From the web design perspective, there are three major guidelines we need to consider (you donâ€™t need to read all of this as these are mostly technical documents aimed at web developers, but it would be helpful to glance through these pages a bit to understand the basics):
- Section 508 â€“ These are the guidelines set forth by congress which apply to all Federal agencies. These generally do not apply to state universities, although the situation can become a bit trickier when federal grants/funds are involved.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 â€“ The original web content accessibility guidelines. Set forth a number of best practices, but many are outdated by this point. Still useful for review and perspective.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 â€“ The current best practices as set forth by the World Wide Web consortium (the body responsible for all web standards). These are by far the most up-to-date and best organized set of guidelines. This is a technical document, and may not be all that interesting to read. Check out the intro to WCAG 2.0 for a more human-friendly overview. WCAG can also be rated for conformance on a scale from A (lowest) to AAA (highest), depending on how well a website conforms to the guidelines.
Suggested Guidelines to follow
These are the most important documents I know of with regard to web accessibility guidelines. From my limited research, the State of Nevada and UNLV have no special requirements for web accessibility that we need to follow. However, if Iâ€™ve missed anything, or more documents need to be taken into consideration, please provide me with the information in the comments section!
My recommendation for guidelines is to simply follow Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 with AA conformance. While all projects wonâ€™t be bound to Section 508 laws, we might as well make our sites 508 compliant in case we land any federal grants or funding that could necessitate 508 compliance. WCAG 2.0 is simply the most up-to-date set of best practices, and the guidelines were written with live and automated testing in mind. Tools already exist to check for Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 compliance, and I think it would be impractical for us to create a set of guidelines and tools comparable in quality. That said, there may be additional, unique considerations we need to make. If Iâ€™m not taking something into consideration, please let me know!
What do you think?
Iâ€™ve put a fair amount out there, and I want to take some time to gather feedback. What do you think about the goal of the committee? For those that have joined, does that seem like a commitment you can make? Do you think the guidelines Iâ€™ve recommended are sufficient, or are there more guidelines we should incorporate? Are there any special considerations we have to make due to state or even local law that anyone knows about and which I missed?