While many universities in the United States are still struggling to develop accessibility policies for websites and distance learning courses, the University of Minnesota took a broader view by developing an Accessibility of Information Technology policy that includes hardware and software in addition to websites. The policy was developed as part of efforts to promote equal access to information, technologies, and services offered by the university to students, staff and visitors.
The policy went into effect in March of 2002. It states that following the standards will help the university sustain and improve access and services to students, staff, faculty, and visitors with disabilities and make all campus web pages, information, and services accessible to the widest possible audience, including users of old, adaptive, alternate, or emerging technologies.
The policy encompasses four main areas:
- Web-based information and services, including those associated with courses of instruction, departmental programs, university-sponsored activities, employment, administration, and university services.
- Hardware and software to be developed, purchased, or acquired by the University of Minnesota.
- Environments specific to information technology, including classroom and general use computer facilities, online instruction, distance learning, places of employment, libraries, and resource centers.
- Exemptions—extreme difficulty or expense (undue burden), hardware and software tools specific to a research or development process in which no member of the research or development team requires accessibility accommodations, and hardware or software for which no equivalent accessible option is available (nonavailability).
For further information about this policy, consult the University of Minnesota's Accessible U website.