Based on new guidelines provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), AU has recently been adapting its audio, video and written web content to become accessible for those who are hearing or vision-impaired.
“It has never been our intent for content to be out of reach for anyone. Each time we learn how to do better, we adjust to do so,” says Murray. “[Anderson.edu] will not need to be redesigned or recreated in order to meet these needs.”
As of July 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) website accessibility regulations under Titles II and III of the ADA is listed on the Unified Regulatory Agenda’s 2017 “inactive actions” list.
This is the first time that federal agencies have prioritized their rule-making agendas by dividing regulations into three categories: (1) the regulatory plan, which highlights regulatory priorities for the upcoming year; (2) long-term actions, which are regulatory actions not expected within 12 months; and (3) the inactive list, which includes regulations that have not been formally withdrawn.
According to the ADA, Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations (businesses that are generally open to the public and that fall into one of 12 categories listed in the ADA, such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools, daycare facilities, recreation facilities and doctors’ offices) and requires newly constructed or altered places of public accommodation—as well as commercial facilities (privately owned, nonresidential facilities such as factories, warehouses or office buildings)—to comply with the ADA Standards.
The DOJ has been working alongside the ADA for 27 years now; therefore, people with disabilities have been covered and accommodated for. On one hand, business owners may view the placement on the inactive list as a positive, while civilians with disabilities require the accommodation.
It is challenging and costly for businesses to redesign and keep updating their websites. However, most businesses with accommodating websites are not being sued by consumers. The only guidelines in place for businesses are covered under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federal agencies and federal contractors.
There are many elements that need to be considered in providing website accessibility requirements. AU has been in the process of adjusting to meet changes in accessibility requirements since late 2016.
“We are aware of the requirements and are utilizing services to analyze our ability to meet the needs of people with various visual and auditory acuities,” said Elizabeth Murray, web editor and content writer for the AU office of communication and marketing.
This is going to take place on the Anderson.edu domain and on each outward-facing web platform, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Vimeo.
Since AU’s website launch in January 2016, the site has included alternative text for every image. The staff has worked diligently and consistently to make sure that online forms are able to be interpreted by screen viewers. One of the bigger projects is making sure that YouTube, Vimeo and other platforms meet requirements.
“In order to make sure that our content is accurately reflected, we have been working with Covenant Productions to caption each of our videos that is already present on these platforms and all videos that are being made,” says Murray. “We are also working to make sure that all web buttons and graphics have adequate contrast for people with different levels of color perception or visual acuity who do not use screen reading software.”
AU is dedicated to making sure that all prospective and current students, alumni, donors and friends have equal access to information about what is happening on campus.
ITS has been working closely with Teresa Coplin, director of disability services for students. ITS has also contracted Sarah LaRose, an adjunct instructor and SOT doctoral student. LaRose is blind and has served as a resource for identifying which ITS-controlled web pages are inaccessible. Her job is to verify which modifications make the pages accessible.
“She has been a valuable resource in advancing our work in this area. Her input helps us both from an instructor’s perspective as well as from a student’s,” says Michael Tucker, director of ITS.
Kevin Lowe, assistant director of ITS, leads the team that develops some web pages for AccessAU-related resources. It is one of Lowe’s top priorities to ensure these pages are accessible. For example, the online directory was not accessible, but with LaRose’s input, Lowe was able to make the necessary changes so that it would accommodate screen viewers.
AU strives to embrace everyone in the community with the love of Christ. This is not simply a matter of legal requirements, but of Christian service to the community.
“It is missional to us not only to make this content available to everyone but to help students understand the importance of this work as they prepare for lives of faith and service,” said Murray.