Frequently Asked Questions

If we don't have any employees or students with disabilities, do we still have to make our website accessible?

Yes. Federal law specifically excludes this as a rationale for not making sites accessible. All workplace infrastructure, including IT, must be accessible in preparation for future employees with disabilities so that they can be productive from the moment they begin their employment. In addition, websites and digital content put out by educational institutions must be accessible for all potential users. This includes staff, faculty, students, alumni, donors, prospective students and anyone else who happens upon your site.

What about the documents that I post on the site? Do they need to be accessible too?

Yes, a website is not considered fully accessible unless all of its content is also accessible. This includes documents, PowerPoints, forms, videos, audio, and images. A PowerPoint presentation that has audio should be treated like a video. It requires closed captions or an interactive transcript (time-synchronized with the slides). Sign up for web accessibility training and see our how-to guides to learn more.

What is WCAG?

At Brandeis, we strive to meet the standards of web accessibility known as WCAG 2.0 AA. WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is a set of web accessibility guidelines published by the W3C, which is the main standards organization for the World Wide Web. WCAG is the most widely adopted standard for creating accessible web content.

Who are the audiences for accessibility?

There are a whole range of potential disabilities, almost all of which can be mitigated to some extent by keeping accessibility in mind. Those with hearing impairments, for example, might not be able to listen to a podcast or audiocast, but if you provide transcripts and/or captioning they will still be able to follow along. Motor impairment can make the use of a computer mouse difficult or impossible, so make sure someone can navigate your site using only a keyboard. Vision impairment might not mean complete blindness, so creating text elements that can be enlarged will help your low-vision users.

There are several audiences needing accessibility considerations, with different requirements. However, many of the things we do to help with these considerations actually serve more than just the intended audience. Accessible websites have been found to be more searchable, which is great for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) meaning your site is more likely to be found. Alternative modes of input also help learning. Students can watch videos and read along with the captions. Transcripts also make great study guides for finals! Accessibility can benefit everyone.

What is a screen reader?

Users with severe visual impairment may rely on a screen reader to access websites. A screen reader is a software program that takes the on-screen text and reads it out loud to the user. Visual cues, such as photographs, graphics, or table headers, may be unperceivable to this audience unless additional information is added (text alternatives for images “alt text” and other visual content and the specification of key landmarks, e.g. headings and lists, within a document). Voiceover for Apple is the screen reader primarily used on this campus.

What is it like to use a screen reader?

In most cases, screen readers speak all page elements in the same order as they appear on the page, left to right and top to bottom. Screen readers also have a number of shortcuts available to help the user navigate through content more quickly and skip to the information the user is looking for. This is possible thanks to information about the page including links, menus, headings and image descriptions provided by programmers and content authors. You can try to navigate your pages with a screen reader yourself to see what potential obstacles users could face. If you have a MAC, you can turn your built-it screen reader VoiceOver on or off by pressing command+F5. Try out a screen reader simulator.

What do you mean by "low vision"?

Low vision refers to individuals who have sufficient sight to use a visual browser, but who may need to enlarge text or use special high-contrast font and color settings in order to access online information. This includes those who have cataracts or who experience colorblindness.

Are disabilities rare?

Visitors could be accessing your website from anywhere in the world. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people worldwide have some form of disability.  It is also important to note that online access is sometimes even more critical for people with disabilities than for members of the general population, who may have an easier time accessing conventional sources of information.

What is the cost of developing accessible sites?

The cost associated with making websites accessible is a concern to all departments on campus. All you have to worry about is making your own content accessible, because we are redesigning the Brandeis templates to be accessible from the ground up. If accessibility principles are incorporated during the initial site design and development phases the cost increase is generally minimal. Fixing accessibility issues after the fact, on the other hand, is far more expensive and time consuming.

Over a period of time, a well designed, accessible website is more cost effective, because it takes less time to maintain and update. It is more adaptable to emerging technologies and attracts a larger audience. As more web developers are trained to create accessible sites, the costs should decrease.