Getting Started with Accessibility

Getting Started with Accessibility

The University of Arkansas is required by law to provide programs and services that are accessible to all qualified participants, including those with disabilities.  But what does that mean for you? What do you need to know?

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, program, service, resource, or environment is available to a given user. If a building on campus has a wheelchair ramp leading to its main entrance, that entrance is accessible to wheelchair users. If a lecture includes sign language interpreters, that lecture is accessible to attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing and who understand sign language.

Where do I get help?

Students seeking academic or housing accommodations, contact the Center for Educational Access.

Employees, including student employees (GA/TA/RA) seeking workplace or housing accommodations, contact the Office of Accommodation and Accessibility Services

What is accessible technology?

Accessible technology is technology that has been designed so that it can be accessed by all users. This includes electronic documents, websites, software, hardware, video, audio, and other technologies. People who interact with technology are extremely diverse. They have a wide variety of characteristics, and we cannot assume that they’re all using a traditional monitor for output, or keyboard and mouse for input. Consider these users:

  • Most individuals who are blind use either audible output (products called screen readers that read web content using synthesized speech), or tactile output (a refreshable Braille device).
  • People with learning disabilities such as dyslexia may also use audible output. This is often referred to as Text-to-Speech (TTS).
  • Those with low vision may use screen magnification software that allows them to zoom in to a portion of the visual screen.
  • Many others with less-than-perfect eyesight may enlarge the font on websites using standard browser functions, such as Ctrl + in Windows or Command + in Mac OS X.
  • Individuals with fine motor impairments may be unable to use a mouse, and instead rely exclusively on keyboard commands or use assistive technologies such as speech recognition, head pointers, mouth sticks, or eye-gaze tracking systems.
  • Those who are deaf or hard of hearing are unable to access audio content, so video needs to be captioned and audio needs be transcribed.
  • Many people use mobile devices including phones, tablets, or other devices, which means they’re using a variety of screen sizes and gestures or other user interfaces for interacting with their devices and accessing content.

Accessible technology works for all of these users, and countless others not mentioned.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) summarizes web accessibility nicely in their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG). WCAG 2.0 is organized into the following four key concepts for web content:

  • It must be perceivable
  • It must be operable
  • It must be understandable
  • It must be robust

Although written specifically for web content, these principles apply to other technologies as well. There are many possible approaches to attaining accessibility as defined by these four concepts.

How do I make my content accessible?

This website provides a growing number of how-to pages with step-by-step guides for making particular types of content accessible: