It’s the right thing to do.
There are many people who believe providing equal access to websites is simply the right thing to do. The web is an important resource for many, many services. We get our books online. We take classes online. We do our shopping, pay our bills, and watch our favorite TV shows – all online. Providing equal access to a website means providing equal opportunity to use and enjoy everything it has to offer.
However, whether you share that conviction or not, we need to consider the core values of the University. Our time working at A&M should be a reflection of those core values, and providing equal access is certainly a part of that.
It’s the smart thing to do.
Here are some of the benefits of web accessibility, beyond equal access:
- Improved SEO. Some of the best practices for building an accessible site will also help your search rankings (e.g., captions; transcripts; descriptive headings, links, and page titles).
- Larger audience. About 1 in 5 people has a disability in the U.S, and that number is growing as our population ages. Not all disabilities will affect the way someone uses your website, but there are many that do.
- Better usability. In the process of implementing good accessibility practices, you’ll often find and correct issues that were causing problems for all your users. Poor color contrast is a great example of that.
- Marketable skills. Whether you intend on continuing your work in higher education, moving to the private sector, or starting your own company, there is going to be a demand for web professionals that understand accessibility standards. You’ll increase your value by having experience in this area.
It’s the law.
Even if all the other justifications don’t convince us, there’s still this: A&M is required to have accessible websites and web applications. Federal civil rights laws, namely the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Both of these laws require A&M to provide equal access, including fully accessible technology. The University, A&M System, and state of Texas all have similar regulations to align with the federal mandate.
The IT Accessibility website links to all the regulations, if you’d like to look at them in detail. Alternatively, the University of Washington has a great page that summarizes the resolution agreements and lawsuits in higher education. I find reading the resolution agreements to be far more instructive than trying to parse through the regulations themselves.
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