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Letter from the EIR Accessibility Officer

 
Impact of Accessibility Laws on Universities

Over the years, numerous federal and state laws have sought to mandate telecommunications accessibility. The proliferation of web multimedia has outpaced accessibility initiatives, however, leaving many disabled students more disadvantaged than ever before. Many higher education institutions have been reactive, not proactive, in their response to these developments and thus we may find ourselves at a disadvantage as accessibility laws tighten.
As we work towards coordinating accessibility within our university it can be time consuming, laborious, and sometimes overwhelming. Furthermore, the spectrum of disabilities makes it difficult to create educational content that is universally accessible. However, we have no choice but to tackle this challenge head on.  After all, in the age of online education, proper accessibility accommodations are what make the difference between a student’s success and failure.
The Web Accessibility webpages is my commitment to provide accessibility information and solutions that helps our staff and faculty work towards being inclusive to making online courses, videos, websites, and documents usable by people and our students of all abilities and disabilities.
A&M International University welcomes questions, concerns or comments on how to improve website access for users.  If you use assisstive technology (AT) or find the format on our websites interferes with your ability to access any information, please contact the Office of Information Accessibility Team at accessibility@tamiu.edu.  We'll be happy to help you.
Lydia Harkey
EIR Accessibility Officer
accessibility@tamiu.edu
956.326.2792

Introduction to Web Accessibility

What is accessibility?

An accessible website will be navigated and understood by everyone, regardless of disability, location, experience, or technology.

Who is affected?

An estimated 20 percent of the population in the United States (40.8 million individuals) have a disability and 10 percent (27.3 million individuals) have a severe disability. Users with disabilities can include cognitive learning, auditory, visual (including blind, low vision, and color blind), motor/physical, and speech. There are other technology-type disabilities that you may have to design for, such as a slow Internet connection, old browser, missing plug-ins, no speakers, and a small display (mobile phone).

Who else? Search engines! In many respects search engine spiders are the largest "Accessibility Needs" users on the Internet — crawlers don't use a mouse; crawlers can't see graphics; crawlers don't store cookies; crawlers don't use JavaScript; crawlers don't use Flash. Crawlers can't properly index your site if it isn't accessible.

What is usability?

Usability means that your website is easy to use, no matter who is trying to use it. Thus, Web designers will pay attention to things like color and placement in order to draw attention, easy-to-understand navigation, scanability, and more. Read more about the difference between accessibility, usability, and Web standards.

How do people with disabilities use the Web?

There are lots of ways that people with disabilities use the Web, since there are many different disabilities to consider. The deaf need captions, but they is also useful for people without speakers on their computer. The blind will use screen readers, such as JAWS. People whose vision has been compromised may use add-on tools to increase font size. Those with cognitive disabilities may take longer to process the information on a single Web page, so clearly-organized content helps greatly.

How do I get started?

Now that you are beginning to understand the wide range of people that are affected by usability, we have put together some standards and tips to help you get started. There is also a list of answers to frequently asked questions that we hope will ease the process and help you understand some more about accessibility in Web design.