UCOP Seeking Comment on Proposed New Electronic Accessibility Policy

Guidelines would help ensure electronic information is accessible to all

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu)  — Ensuring that the University of California maintains accessible electronic programs and services, including web sites and other web-based content, for all is the purpose of a proposed systemwide information technology (IT) accessibility policy that is now open for comment through July 22, 2013.

“The University of California has always had a policy of inclusion, and as we put more and more content online, we need to ensure that we are not excluding some individuals due to disability,” said Robert Bottomley, UCR’s representative on the systemwide Electronic Accessibility Leadership Team and the web architect in the Office of Strategic Communications. “Not everyone is the same, not everyone has perfect vision, hearing or motor skills.”

“Plus, it’s the right thing to do,” Bottomley added.

According to the policy information page on the UC Office of the President website, “The proposed systemwide UC Information Technology Accessibility Policy promotes and supports an accessible IT environment within the university. By supporting IT accessibility, the University helps ensure that as broad a population as possible is able to access, benefit from, and contribute to its electronic programs and services.”

The comment period will allow individuals inside and outside the UC system to review the document and submit their observations via email. The comment period closes on July 22, 2013. Following the comment period, the document will go to the systemwide Faculty Senate for approval before moving on to the UC Regents for final approval.

Outgoing UC President Mark G. Yudof  has been a driving force behind the effort. In a July 21, 2010 letter to all UC chancellors, he wrote: “This initiative offers an exciting new opportunity to think systematically and creatively about how we serve the growing number of people who, with or without formally disclosing a disability, increasingly depend on a fully accessible electronic environment.”

As part of the proposal, the university will adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards. In addition, campuses and labs will be expected to  “Develop, purchase and-or acquire, to the extent feasible, hardware and software products that are accessible to people with disabilities,” and “Promote awareness of the policy to all members of the university community, particularly those in roles that are responsible for creating, selecting or maintaining electronic content and applications.”

Bottomley cited U.S. Census data that shows that approximately 20% of the population between 18 and 65 have a disability, and about 8.5% have some disability that affects computer usage. These include visual impairments such as blindness, color blindness, or low vision, impaired motor skills, including the inability to use a mouse, slow response time or limited fine motor control, and cognitive, the largest group, which includes individuals with ADHD, dyslexia or Asperger’s syndrome.

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