Accessibility Laws and Guidelines - What's With All the Acronyms?

Why do we have to make everything accessible? Who decides what we are required to do? 

A combination of state legislation, federal regulations, and guidance from the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees guide us in how we work to make our content accessible to anyone accessing our information. 

 

 

>> New Update to the Americans with Disabilities Act - March 18, 2022

The Department of Justice recently released guidance for web accessibility standards in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This guidance reconfirms that web accessibility is required for all public sector websites, along with businesses that are open to the public. 

Justice Department Issues Web Accessibility Guidance Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Guidance on Web Accessibility and the ADA

 

University of Arkansas Board of Trustees 

Information Technology Accessibility Policy - March 30, 2016

All branches of the University of Arkansas will make reasonable efforts to: 

  • Make all web based information accessible to all students, faculty, and members of the public, where appropriate;
  • Ensure their digital content conforms to the most recent WCAG standards and;
  • Supply recourse's to meet these digital accessibility goals.

Read the entire Board Policy for Information Technology Accessibility.

 

Laws

Arkansas State Accessibility Legislation - Act 1227 of 1999

All state funded sites and agencies must have all of their content accessible to the blind and visually impaired users that is to equivalent the access of sited users. 

Accessibility Information - Arkansas.gov

 

Section 504

Section 504, part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a civil rights law that protects students with disabilities from discrimination in the classroom. Because of Section 504, all educational institutions - public, private, and at any level - are required to give student with disabilities the same access to instructional materials as their non-disabled peers. These accommodations are mandatory, regardless of cost. Though Extension does not directly interact with students, as a branch of a public university, we are required to abide by Section 504. 

Protecting Students with Disabilities - U.S. Department of Education 

 

Section 508 

Section 508, which is also part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a regulatory guideline implemented by the US Federal government that ensures that all content, training materials, and public information is equally accessible to people with disabilities as it is accessible to people without disabilities. Though this mainly refers to federal websites and training resources, we are still required to abide by Section 508 because we, as Extension, receive federal grant money. 

Section508.gov

What is Section 508? - EPA

 

Guidelines

WCAG - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are set by the World Wide Web Consortium. The guidelines give the hard rules on what is allowed or not allowed in digital content to make it accessible.

Though there are many 'versions' of WCAG, we are currently operating under the 2.1 version. There may be an updated version published in the future. 

There are also three 'levels' of accessibility recognized. 

A - The lowest level of accessibility standards. Having an 'A' means that you are hitting the baseline marks for accessibility, but you could do better. 

AA - Having a AA level for accessibility means that your content is accessible to most people, in most circumstances. This is the level of accessible that we strive to reach. 

AAA - This is the highest level of accessiblity. This means that almost all people, in all circumstances, can access your content. 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines - 2.1 

How to Meet WCAG (Quick Reference)

 

Governing Body

W3C - World Wide Web Consortium 

The World Wide Web Consortium is the governing body of accessibility advocates, researchers, and industry professionals that set the standards for web accessibility. These are the movers and shakers of the web accessibility world. 

World Wide Web Consortium

 

How Do These All Fit Together? 

In Arkansas, we are required to follow Act 1227 of 1999, which ensures that all publicly available information from the state is accessible to the blind and visually impaired. 

Since we receive federal funding, we are also required to follow Section 508, which enforces federal digital accessibility standards. 

By following the WCAG 2.1 AA Accessibility Guidelines, we will be compliant with Arkansas Act 1227, Section 504, and Section 508. 

 

Additional Resources

Higher Ed Accessibility Lawsuits, Complaints, and Settlements - University of Minnesota at Duluth 

Accessibility Basics - Usability.gov 

Web Accessibility Legal Questions - Michigan State University 

 

Have Questions? 

Let us know! We are happy to help you make your content, documents, and webpages more accessible. 

Madison Ellis, Accessibility Specialist

mjellis@uada.edu

Amy Cole, Digital Media Program Manager

accole@uada.edu

 

Head back to the Division Accessibility page