Discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, including universities, is prohibited by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title II mandates that no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. Therefore, NOVA must afford individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in or benefit from any aid, benefit, or service provided to others.
Furthermore, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. In Virginia, all state executive branch agencies and institutions of higher education are required to comply with the regulations that implement the electronic and information technology accessibility standards of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and any regulations as may be prescribed by Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA).
Any material posted on the NOVA website must meet a certain standard of accessibility. Failure to comply with accessibility requirements can result in significant legal consequences for the College. To assist the College in maintaining an accessible website for employees and members of the public with disabilities, please consider the checklist below before submission of material to be posted on the website.
Principles of Accessible Design
Below you will find a list of some key principles of accessible design. Most accessibility principles can be implemented very easily and will not impact the overall "look and feel" of your web site.
- Provide appropriate alternative text
- Alternative text provides a textual alternative to non-text content in web pages. It is especially helpful for people who are blind and rely on a screen reader to have the content of the website read to them.
- Provide appropriate document structure
- Headings, lists, and other structural elements provide meaning and structure to web pages. They can also facilitate keyboard navigation within the page.
- Provide headers for data tables
- Tables are used online for layout and to organize data. Tables that are used to organize tabular data should have appropriate table headers (the
<th> element). Data cells should be associated with their appropriate headers, making it easier for screen reader users to navigate and understand the data table.
- Ensure users can complete and submit all forms
- Ensure that every form element (text field, checkbox, dropdown list, etc.) has a label and make sure that label is associated to the correct form element using the
<label>element. Also make sure the user can submit the form and recover from any errors, such as the failure to fill in all required fields.
- Ensure links make sense out of context
- Every link should make sense if the link text is read by itself. Screen reader users may choose to read only the links on a web page. Certain phrases like "click here" and "more" must be avoided.
- Caption and/or provide transcripts for media
- Videos and live audio must have captions and a transcript. With archived audio, a transcription may be sufficient.
- Ensure accessibility of non-HTML content, including PDF files, Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Adobe Flash content.
- In addition to all of the other principles listed here, PDF documents and other non-HTML content must be as accessible as possible. If you cannot make it accessible, consider using HTML instead or, at the very least, provide an accessible alternative. PDF documents should also include a series of tags to make it more accessible. A tagged PDF file looks the same, but it is almost always more accessible to a person using a screen reader.
- Allow users to skip repetitive elements on the page
- You should provide a method that allows users to skip navigation or other elements that repeat on every page. This is usually accomplished by providing a "Skip to Main Content," or "Skip Navigation" link at the top of the page which jumps to the main content of the page.
- Do not rely on color alone to convey meaning
- The use of color can enhance comprehension, but do not use color alone to convey information. That information may not be available to a person who is colorblind and will be unavailable to screen reader users.
- Make sure content is clearly written and easy to read
- There are many ways to make your content easier to understand. Write clearly, use clear fonts, and use headings and lists appropriately.
- Design to standards
- HTML compliant and accessible pages are more robust and provide better search engine optimization. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allow you to separate content from presentation. This provides more flexibility and accessibility of your content.
This list does not present all accessibility issues, but by addressing these basic principles, you will ensure greater accessibility of your web content to everyone. You can learn more about accessibility by browsing WebAIM's articles and resources.
For more information about accessibilty accomodation and resources at NOVA, please visit the Disability Support Services website.