Accessibility for Students

If a student needs to receive special accommodations due to an impairment, they must first request these accommodations through the Office of Disability Resources.

Office of Disability Resources:

Disability Resources (DR) is the official resource for students on the Danforth Campus who have disabilities or suspected disabilities. DR is dedicated to ensuring that every student with a disability will have equal access to our campus and academic programs, whether they are an undergraduate, graduate, professional or continuing education student.

Providing PowerPoints in advance of class will be helpful not only for students with impairments but also to all students.

If you have further questions about the DR accommodation process, please reach out to Erika Loudenslager, Assistant Director of Disability Resources.

Why Accessibility Is Important

Accessibility supports social inclusion for people with disabilities. It is important because if a learning environment is accessible, usable and convenient for everyone regardless of age or ability, it’s inclusive for all.

  • Accessibility means that a product works for everyone, right away, right off the shelf.
  • Accessibility is about access for people with any level of ability. Resources should be functional for people with vision, hearing, cognitive or physical impairments.

For additional information, visit the Higher Education Accessibility Online Resource Center, and download the full WCAG accessibility guide

If you have accessibility questions, William Emery and Chris Amelung in Public Affairs are the WashU WCAG 2.0 experts.

Universal Design

Universal Design provides a variety of strategies and resources to help meet diverse learning needs, improve accessibility to learning opportunities and increase student success.

The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed in 1997 by a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, led by the late Ronald Mace. 

For more information, download the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines.

Accessible Documents and Text

Creating Nonvisually Accessible Documents

This resource produced by the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute aims to answer questions and provide practical information about how to make HTML, PDF, Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents more accessible to blind users. The FAQ section provides some general background on the importance of creating accessible documents. 

To ensure all course documents are accessible, the National Center for Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) has created these one-page cheatsheets.

Accessible Images

Avoid using images to represent tables. 

  • Tables presented as images can’t be navigated by a screen reader, leaving users unable to access all content in a manageable way.

Use image descriptions for content‐rich images.

  • If the content isn’t described in the surrounding text, a complex image without a sufficiently descriptive caption is useless for a blind reader. An added bonus: A well-described image can add to the pedagogical richness of the experience and also be “discoverable” by search engines.

Tag decorative or redundant images so that they are ignored by a screen reader.

  • Decorative images convey no relevant information and should be tagged as decorative so that screen readers will ignore them rather than attempt to voice information about images that contain no relevant content. 
  • Redundant images are images that have already been described in either the caption or the surrounding text and therefore do not warrant additional description. 
Accessible Media

Closed Captioning

Creating and correcting video captions is a vital component to ensuring that accessibility requirements are met, as well as providing all students with Universally-Designed media. 

Benefits of Closed Captioning:

  • Accessibility: According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, more than 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss.
  • Legal Protection: Amazon, Netflix and FedEx have all been sued for lack of captioning.
  • Video SEO: Captions and transcripts provide a text version of your video so search engine bots can crawl and properly index your video.
  • Better focus, engagement and memory: “I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember.” ~ Chinese Proverb
  • Greater flexibility for viewing content: Captions are essential to make your video comprehensible without sound for mobile, on-the-go learning.
  • Easy to create derivative content: With captions, you also get a transcript of what is being said in the video. As a result, you can scan the content of the video to easily create derivative content from it.
  • Translations: Captions make it easier to create translations into other languages. Translating your content is a great way to expand your reach. 

Combat silent autoplay on social media videos: If there are no video captions, your audience will just scroll past them if they don’t have the sound on because they can’t understand it.

Accessibility Guidelines & Laws

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and is a set of best practices for making digital content accessible for all users, including those with disabilities.

The Versions of WCAG and Levels of Compliance

Versions of WCAG:

  • WCAG 1.0
  • WCAG 2.0
  • WCAG 2.1: Was released June 5, 2018.

WCAG Levels of Compliance: 

  • Level A: The highest priority and usually the easiest to achieve.
  • Level AA: Most comprehensive and often cited as the standard to meet.
  • Level AAA: The strictest, most comprehensive accessibility design standard, and therefore, the least common level to meet.

Most web accessibility laws require compliance with Level A and/or AA. The US and UK standard is WCAG 2.0 Level AA.

WCAG 2.0 Four Essential Principles to Meet
  • Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways that they can perceive.
  • Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
  • Understandable: Information and the operation of a user interface must be understandable.
  • Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. It must also be adaptable to advances in technology.
Accessibility Laws