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Interim policy formalizes web accessibility standards

On Oct. 12, an interim Cornell web accessibility policy was announced by David Lifka, vice president for information technologies and chief information officer.

University Policy 5.12, Web Accessibility Standards requires new or redesigned Cornell webpages be made accessible to people with disabilities by following nationally recognized design and practice standards as prescribed in the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA. These guidelines help ensure web content can be easily accessed and navigated by people with a diverse range of hearing, mobility, sight and cognitive abilities, regardless of device, language, culture or location.

The policy was developed in response to recent resolutions by the university assemblies and the Web Accessibility Working Group established by President Martha E. Pollack. It applies to all new or redesigned Cornell web content, webpages, web functionality, websites and web applications. The policy furthers the university’s long-standing commitment to provide equal opportunities for all Cornell community members and the university’s programs, activities and services.

“We have been committed to web accessibility for a number of years, with many colleges and units incorporating some web-accessible elements in their websites because they recognized that this was the right thing to do,” said Angela Winfield, associate vice president for inclusion and workforce diversity. “We also strive to comply with federal and state laws and regulations requiring accessibility and equal access for individuals with disabilities.”

Some accessibility practices already are widely followed on Cornell’s websites: using alt tags, or text, to describe photos and graphics, for instance, and running Siteimprove to test a website for accessibility.

Lifka said Cornell Information Technologies is leading the campuswide effort to improve accessibility across web platforms in new site development and in live site remediation. The division hired an electronic information technology accessibility coordinator last summer to guide college and unit transitions to web accessibility, and received support to fund four additional staff for two-year terms to help with website design and development.

Anyone who oversees, creates, edits or places content on a Cornell University website or web application – or purchases web products and web services – should become familiar with the university’s policy and WCAG. The Cornell policy can be waived only when a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program or activity – or an undue financial and administrative burden – would arise, in which case an alternative means of access must be provided.

Media Contact

Lindsey Hadlock