Website Discrimination: How Most Colleges and Universities Are Falling Short

Article excerpt

SINCE THE PASSAGE OF THE AMERICANS with Disabilities Act in 1990, colleges and universities have come a long way in campus accessibility. But recent assessments show they're lagging in one important arena--the web. In March, using HiSoftware's Compliance Sheriff software, Systems Alliance, a technology services firm, ran accessibility scans on the websites of all institutions on the U.S. News & World Report top 25 list and found that none were fully compliant with government standards.

"The technologies used to render websites and make them interactive present ever new challenges to making them accessible," says Mary Ziegler, manager for accessibility and usability services in the Information Services and Technology department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Commonly used technologies include Flash, Ajax, and JavaScript--all of which require special coding for the content to be legible to screen readers used by the blind. At institutions where multiple departments are building websites, she says, it's difficult to have all the developers on the same page and familiar with the standards.

But institutions that aren't taking measures to ensure access for the disabled are violating Section 508 the law governing web accessibility. It's an issue the National Federation for the Blind views as a priority.

"The NFB considers web accessibility to be a very big issue because the internet has come to dominate all aspects of life, including education," says Christopher S. Danielson, director of public relations. …