WAVE Assists in Web Accessibility (UT UCEDD)

March 12, 2018

WebAIM is a project out of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. While WebAIM began in 1999 as a FIPSE-funded grant to assist those in higher education with the task of "Keeping Web Accessibilty In Mind", it has since grown to help almost every sector of society with their digital accessibility challenges.

No matter if you are trying to attain, or sustain, your accessible web presence, you will benefit from systematic monitoring of your center's site. For some UCEDD's, they have access to institutional tools that will do this for them. Yet for many, they do not have a way to perform accessibility monitoring over time. WebAIM's WAVE tool (See WAVE.WebAIM.org) is a tool that can help you in your efforts.

In the fall of 2016, and again in 2017, WebAIM staff performed an analysis of web accessibility, and included the UCEDD network. Taking the home page plus 13 pages that were randomly selected for 62 Centers nationwide (n=868 pages; some sites were unavailable when the sample was drawn), WebAIM ran a test of only 15 machine-discoverable accessibility and compliance errors using the WAVE tool. While the results cannot detect the presence of accessible pages, the presence of the detectable errors indicates inaccessibility. The results uncovered a vulnerability in a network that should be leaders on their campus in digital disability access. The 2016 data revealed that 73% of pages in the sample failed at least one of these machine-discoverable errors. The 2017 data, revealed 71% of the pages in the sample would fail what was tested. All but 5 Centers in the sample had web accessibility errors. The result was a disappointing one for the system of UCEDD's.

This research got us thinking about how we might help other centers in our network. It is clear that most need to add effort to ensure that the constituents they serve have access to digital materials produced by the UCEDD. We believe strongly that each Center must have a way to collect web accessibility evaluation data, and repeat this over time to look at trends in accessibility and help focus effort. UCEDD's could easily select a small, representative sample of their web pages and use the free WAVE tool to detect areas of inaccessibility, or areas where access could be strengthened. While the free version will only evaluate one page at a time, and automated testing is inherently limited, a well-run sample will give an excellent peek at web accessibility successes and any continuing challenges that may be present. Of course, while it would be wonderful to have someone who understands web accessibility perform the evaluation, a scaled down version can be run using those who are not as technical (See 4 things anyone can do at ncdae.org/resources/cheatsheets/accessibility.php).

While this process is a good starting point, some centers may prefer to initiate a broader evaluation, or rely on those with accessibility expertise. Additional WAVE products can be used to help. Over time, with data showing your progress and areas where work is still needed, web accessibility can be achieved. If staff awareness or training is needed, WebAIM is available on a cost-reimbursable basis. As University Centers of Excellence, we owe it to ALL of our constituents to attain, and sustain, web accessibility.