"The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."
— Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

Access to information and communications technologies, including the web, is defined as a basic human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As part of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, accessibility is required by law for institutions, including EVMS, that receive funding from federal agencies, including the Department of Education.

An accessible website is developed so that people with disabilities can use it, according to the World Wide Web Consortium. This means that people with diverse abilities must be able to understand, navigate and interact with the web.

All EVMS departments are responsible for the accessibility of EVMS' website. It is vital that our website be accessible to everyone in order to provide equal access to everyone.

What is accessibility?

"Web accessibility basically means that people with disabilities can use your website. Most specifically, web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web," according to the authors of "Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance."

What does the law say?

Section 508 is the portion of the law (part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) that covers web accessibility for federally funded programs and services. It encompasses electronic and information technology, including the internet, as stated by the United States Access Board.

The Department of Education, in its accessibility statement, defines Section 508 as "a federal law that requires agencies to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to electronic information and data comparable to those who do not have disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency."

According to the United States Access Board's information and communication technology standards, Section 508 standards are intended to "ensure accessibility and usability by individuals with disabilities. Compliance with these standards is mandatory for federal agencies." Any entity that is funded by a federal agency, such as the Department of Education, is subject to Section 508.

Why is accessibility important?

It's the law

Institutions that receive federal funds must meet Section 508 requirements, including WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements. This applies to institutions' websites, web applications, documents, videos and more.

It's the right thing to do

No one should be denied access to content based on their abilities. Accessible websites allow all users to navigate them.

Accessibility benefits everyone

Users without disabilities have probably seen some assistive technologies — tools to "increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities," according to the Assistive Technology Industry Association — in action.

If you've ever been in a very noisy or very quiet environment, you've likely watched a video, TV program or movie using closed captioning. Having accurate closed captioning helps users with hearing impairment, but it can also be helpful if you're trying to watch a lecture in a quiet library or a sporting event in a loud restaurant.

Descriptive alternative text lets users with screen readers know there is an image or graphic on the page and what that image means. But it also helps users who have a slow internet connection by putting this alt text in place of an image instead of loading that image fully.

Webpages that use clear, straightforward language help users with learning disabilities, but they also make it easier for nonexperts to learn about a subject or for people to find information quickly.

Assistive technologies

Individuals with disabilities frequently use assistive technologies to help them navigate the web. Assistive technologies can include, but are not limited to:

  • Closed captioning: Often helpful for users with hearing impairment or who are deaf
  • High-contrast display: Often helpful for people who are color blind or have visual impairments
  • Keyboard-only navigation: Often helpful for users with limited mobility, users with visual impairments or users who are blind
  • Screen magnification software: Often helpful for people with visual impairments or people with cognitive disorders to mitigate distractions
  • Screen reader (such as JAWS or NVDA): Often helpful for users with visual impairment or who are blind
  • Speech recognition and voice-to-text software: Often helpful for users with limited mobility, users who have visual impairments and more
  • Tablets/mobile devices: Often helpful for users with limited mobility, users who use speech-to-text, users who have visual impairments and more

Accessibility is not accommodation

Section 504 of the law allows individuals with disabilities to request reasonable accommodation, but according to Section 508, users do not have to request accommodation to use websites or web applications.

Websites and web applications that are maintained by entities that receive federal funding from agencies, such as the Department of Education, must follow Section 508 requirements.

Who is responsible?

The short answer: Every department at EVMS is responsible for web accessibility. Anyone preparing documents (pdfs), media (images/videos), content, etc., for any EVMS online entity, including websites, apps and social media sites, must take responsibility for ensuring anything associated with EVMS' online presence meets Section 508 accessibility standards.

Web content moderators

TerminalFour web content moderators will be among those leading the charge for greater accessibility on our campus.

Departments across campus are responsible for their webpages and web content, but EVMS Web Technologies is here to help.

Our guides to making webpages accessible and making PDFs accessible can help you.

Anyone responsible for a third-party web application

If your department maintains a web application, it must be accessible.

When engaging a vendor in a contract, it is recommended that the contract include language that states EVMS' expectations for Section 508 compliance.

Anyone responsible for an EVMS-affiliated social media account

Any social media accounts affiliated with the institution are subject to accessibility compliance. Social media services covered include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube.

Reminder: All program and departmental social media accounts must be approved by EVMS Marketing and Communications.

Marketing and Communications

Some components are the responsibility of EVMS Marketing and Communications, including but not limited to:

  1. Pre-recorded videos and closed captioning
  2. Web design elements (color contrast, text size)
    • Navigation/menus
    • Search functionality
    • Webpage content module styles
    • Maps
    • Tables
  3. Forms
  4. Footers