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Accessibility and the Law School’s Web Site

Date: 04.01.2011

photo of keyboard with Accessibility symbolThe Law School’s web site is the gateway for prospective students and is regularly visited by current students, alumni, faculty, staff, and other colleagues in the academic and legal fields.  People are connected to the Internet 24/7.  Whether it’s reading a news article, watching a video of a conference or filling out an application form, people are online many times during the day and night.  It is important that we make sure that the Law School’s web site is accessible to everyone.  Not only in terms of the servers being available all the time but more importantly, ensuring accessibility of the content of the Law School's web site for all visitors especially those who have disabilities.

Assistive technologies in accessing web sites are available to people with disabilities in many forms.  The goal of these assistive technologies is to reduce if not eliminate the barriers to equal access to content on web sites. 

Here are some common accessibility problems* and what content contributors can do to eliminate them.

  1. Problem: Images Without Text Equivalents

    Blind people, those with low vision, and people with other disabilities that affect their ability to read a computer display often use different technologies so they can access the information displayed on a web page. Two commonly used technologies are screen readers and refreshable Braille displays. A screen reader is a computer program that speaks the text that appears on the computer display, beginning in the top-left corner. A refreshable Braille display is an electronic device that translates text into Braille characters that can be read by touch. These assistive technologies read text. They cannot translate images into speech or Braille, even if words appear in the images. For example, these technologies cannot interpret a photograph of a stop sign, even if the word “stop” appears in the image.

    Because they only read text, screen readers and refreshable Braille displays cannot interpret photographs, charts, color-coded information, or other graphic elements on a web page. For this reason, a photograph of the Dean is inaccessible to people who use these assistive technologies, and a blind person visiting the Law School's web site would be unable to tell if the image is a photo, a logo, a map, a chart, artwork, a link to another page, or even a blank page.

    Solution: Add a Text Equivalent to Every Image

    Adding a line of simple HTML code to provide text for each image and graphic will enable a user with a vision disability to understand what it is. In RedDot CMS, a content contributor can easily add content such as an “alt” or “title” tag for brief amounts of text or a “longdesc” tag for large amounts, to each image and graphic.

    The words in the tag should be more than a description. They should provide a text equivalent of the image. In other words, the tag should include the same meaningful information that other users obtain by looking at the image. For example, adding an “alt” tag with the words “Photograph of Dean Michael M. Martin” provides a meaningful description.

    A quick way to determine if a page has this problem is to visit http://wave.webaim.org and type in the URL of the web page to test for accessibility.
  2. Problem: Documents Are Not Posted In an Accessible Format

    Departments and Centers will often post documents on their web sites using Portable Document Format (PDF). But PDF documents, or those in other image based formats, are often not accessible to blind people who use screen readers and people with low vision who use text enlargement programs or different color and font settings to read computer displays.

    Solution: Post Documents in a Text-Based Format

    Always provide documents in an alternative text-based format, such as HTML or RTF (Rich Text Format), in addition to PDF. Text-based formats are the most compatible with assistive technologies.
  3. Problem: Videos and Other Multimedia Lack Accessible Features

    Due to increasing bandwidth and connection speeds, videos and other multimedia are becoming more common on the Law School’s web site. These and other types of multimedia can present two distinct problems for people with different disabilities. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can generally see the information presented on web pages. But a deaf person or someone who is hard of hearing may not be able to hear the audio track of a video. On the other hand, persons who are blind or have low vision are frequently unable to see the video images but can hear the audio track.

    Solution: Include Audio Descriptions and Captions

    Videos need to incorporate features that make them accessible to everyone. Provide audio descriptions of images (including changes in setting, gestures, and other details) to make videos accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. Provide text captions synchronized with the video images to make videos and audio tracks accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

To learn more about using RedDot CMS to make web pages accessible to people with disabilities please contact cmsadmin@law.fordham.edu.

*Adapted from www.ada.gov.


Contact: Marianna Balquiedra, Web Administrator
Email: lawhelpdesk@law.fordham.edu