Ohio State University: A Promising Practice in Web Accessibility Support
A growing number of postsecondary institutions are developing policies and implementing support solutions for assuring that their web content is accessible to people with disabilities. One of these institutions is Ohio State University, whose Web Accessibility Policy and Minimum Web Accessibility Standards went into effect on June 30, 2004. Ohio State is particularly noteworthy in that they have a strong tradition of providing web accessibility support services to their faculty, staff, and teaching assistants. The hub of these support services is the OSU Web Accessibility Center (WAC).
The WAC is a collaboration among the Office for Disability Services, the College of Education, and the Technology Enhanced Learning and Research group. The WAC was created to assist faculty in developing accessible distance education courses, as well as online segments of other OSU courses. The WAC was initially created with funding provided by an OSU Partnership Grant, internal funding that is specifically designed to foster partnerships among OSU departments and other collaborators. The WAC is now funded mostly through renewable funds from the Division of Student Affairs.
The WAC provides a variety of trainings and workshops covering a broad array of web accessibility topics, including Portable Document Format (PDF) accessibility, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), validation tools, and accessible web design with Macromedia® Dreamweaver® and Macromedia® Flash®.
In addition to trainings and workshops, the WAC keeps campus web developers interested in accessibility by disseminating regularly updated web accessibility news and information via its website and through the WAC Listserv.
Perhaps most notably, the WAC offers a free web accessibility analysis for any OSU web developer who requests one. The service is initiated by the developer, who submits via online form the URL of the home page of the site that they want the WAC staff to examine. The WAC then reviews the site for accessibility and browser compatibility errors and produces a report of its findings. Accessibility is measured in accordance with the OSU Minimum Web Accessibility Standards, a set of nineteen checkpoints that combine elements of the Section 508 web accessibility standards and the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. (For more on these guideines and standards, see the AccessIT Knowledge Base article What is the difference between the W3C® Guidelines and the Section 508 standards for web accessibility?. Sites that meet the OSU Minimum Web Accessibility Standards are entitled to display a "WAC Approved" icon.