UCI | DISABILITY SERVICES CENTER >universal design and web accessibility
Disability Services Center University of California, Irvine


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Universal Design and Web Accessibility

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Why Universal Design and Web Accessibility?
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Web page access has gained national attention with implementation of the Federal Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in June of 2001 that requires, in part, that all federal agencies immediately make web pages accessible for anyone accessing agency web sites. The regulation applies only to federal agencies, not directly to public or private universities, although many campuses around the country have moved quickly to use Section 508 as one guideline. There is general consensus that federal agencies such as the US Dept of Education and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will use Section 508 as a guideline when investigating complaints of disability discrimination. OCR, particularly in several California cases of community colleges and California State University (CSU), has been very active in investigating electronic/Internet/computing access issues. For higher education, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are the two key federal legislative and civil rights law requiring electronic access under the sections that address "timely and effective communication" and access to all "activities and programs." "Effective communication" has been clearly interpreted to apply to all print and electronic communication. Presently the guidelines that are used most widely by campuses around the country are the Web Acccess Initiative Guidelines. If you click on this site and go to "Frequently Asked Questions" you will find a good summary of information.

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The Importance of Web Accessibility
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UCI students and employees with disabilities may need web accessibility features. Additionally, many individuals (prospective and new students, parents, outside organizations/agencies, and individuals from anywhere in the US and abroad may use UCI web pages) will have disabilities. Web page access needs to be provided to all individuals, whether or not they are UCI students or employees.

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UC Irvine and Web Page Accessibility
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UC Irvine is committed to providing equal access to web-based information in accordance to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This ensures that UC Irvine web pages will be readable by users with disabilities. All web pages associated with administration, services, courses of instruction, departmental programs, and institution-sponsored activities must conform to the web accessibility principles listed below.

Several campus offices (Analytical Studies and Information Management, NACS, Instructional Technology Center, Disability Services) are collaborating to develop useful web page access guidelines that can be proposed to the Campus Web Publishing Advisory Committee). Until the campus-wide guidelines are approved, this web page is designed to assist any campus department including faculty to build or rebuild web pages for accessibility.

Special note: Campus departments and faculty are encouraged to make any web page as fully accessible as possible within the W3C or comparable guidelines (see Reference section). At a minimum, "Priority 1" in the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) should be achieved, however it is recommended that departments consider achieving "Priority 2" and "Priority 3" accessiblity for full access for all users. Widely used campus web pages such as the UCI Home Page, academic schools, Admissions, Registrars, Financial Aid, Housing and Administrative Services or Student Center are strongly encouraged to have web pages that are fully accessible.

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Universal Design for the Web
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The intent and scope of universal design is to make the world wide web (WWW) accessible for a wide range of people with disabilities. By following the guidlines listed below your website will be robust, standard and accessible to the widest range of users. When developing your website(s) keep in mind that your audience is diverse. Not all users of the WWW use standard graphical browsers. They may be using adaptive technolies such as screen readers or text-based browsers. Some users may have their graphics turned off or may not be able to use to an input device (mouse, keyboard, etc.). Other users may even have physical or cognitive disabilities that impact their viewing of web pages.

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Web Accessibility Principles
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The links listed below will take you to the W3C's Web Accessibility Content Guidelines (WCAG), the primary resource for web accessibility issues and other information.

The most important points to remember in creating or making your web pages "Priority 1 Accessible" are:

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Displaying Web Page Accessibility Validators
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Several web page access validation devices are available to designate that your web page is accessible or the level of accessibility (refer to the WCAG or comparable guidelines). Departments and faculty are strongly encouraged to visibly display the validation logo on your main page. Listed below are some sample Web Page Accessibility Validators.

  • A-Prompt - Free, downloadable web accessibility validator provided through the University of Toronto
  • WAVE - Web Accessibility Validator provided through WebAIM
  • WebXact - Web Accessibility validator provided throug Watchfire.

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What if Full Access Cannot Be Achieved?<
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In this case the department is encouraged to continue efforts to build or rebuild the web page so it is fully accessible. It is advisable in the meantime to include the following statement on the web page: "Individuals with disabilities who may need alternate format to use this web page should contact the office web master."

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Other Useful Resources
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  • Designing Accessible Web Sites - provided by the University of California Office of the President (UCO) as a standard for UC schools.
  • Webcredible - "The usability and accessibility specialists" - page has 10 basic key practices to assist with web accessibilty.

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If you need more information regarding UC Irvine's Web Accessibility Project, you may contact the following people:

Robert Espero - Technology Coordinator, Disability Services Center,