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Web Accessibility Task Force: Groundwork

By Brian Egan on November 24, 2009 4:07 PM | Permalink

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 it’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 shouldn’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 we’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 don’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):

  1. Section 508 – 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.
  2. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 – 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 Set forth a number of best practices, but many are outdated by this point.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.
  3. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 – 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 I’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 won’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 I’m not taking something into consideration, please let me know!

What do you think?

I’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 I’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?


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I think the guidelines you have picked are the right ones. Kyle Felker, who was the webmaster here and also worked on accessibility guidelines, is my friend on Facebook, so I just sent him a message and asked if he remembered what guidelines we settled on then. Yes, I think the goal of the committee is good and that it is doable. Yes, I also think it is a commitment I can make with the caveat that at some point in the near future I will be out at least a week having surgery. I also think that even if we are following accessibility guidelines, we still need to do usability testing with students with disabilities.
Submitted by began on
@Kathy Thanks for the feedback! I think my post may have been a bit unclear about why I chose to figure out the guidelines before we start planning live or automated testing. The reason I wanted to select the guidelines before we start doing live testing is that the WCAG guidelines provide a number of best-practices to test for when running live tests. This will give our live tests a better structure by providing a standard we would like to achieve, and should also be very helpful in designing live tests by giving us a check-list of items to watch and test for. Thanks again for the comments! Brian
Submitted by clampert on
This topic was on the most recent WMC agenda and the committee didn't raise any concerns about adopting these standards and incorporating them into a revision of the style guide. I have asked the WMC folks to review the standards and leave comments here.
Submitted by Lessebrab (not verified) on
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