Tufts University is committed to providing a digital environment that is accessible to all, including individuals with disabilities. In 2019 the University adopted its Digital Accessibility Policy, articulating its commitment to ensuring equal access to digital environments for all people engaging with Tufts content.
The scope of the policy is broad, and includes digital content such as:
- web sites
- web-based applications
- audiovisual materials
Visit the Tufts Learning Center for instructor-led virtual training sessions on accessible documents, presentations, and websites. For questions or to schedule a consultation, email Accessibility Support.
As defined by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice, digital content is considered accessible when:
A person with a disability can:
- acquire the same information
- engage in the same interactions
- enjoy the same services
in an equally effective, equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use as a person without a disability.
Visual disabilities can take many forms, including blindness, limited or low-vision, and color-blindness. People with visual disabilities often use assistive technologies such as screen reading software, text-to-speech software, screen magnification, and high-contrast settings. Users of these types of assistive technology tools benefit from good heading structure, plain-language hyperlinks, alternative textual descriptions of graphical content, good color contrast, and properly coded interactive elements such as form fields and buttons.
Individuals with auditory disabilities, including the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing, often rely on closed captions for video content and transcripts for audio-only content. They may also require that live captions be available for in-person or virtual synchronous events like Zoom meetings or webinars.
People with physical or mobility-related disabilities may have limitations of muscular or fine-motor control or may experience pain that impedes movement. They may not use a traditional mouse, instead relying on keyboard-only access, alternative pointing devices such as mouth sticks or head wands, or voice control. Keyboard users and users of alternative input devices or voice control benefit from clear input focus, logical tab order, the ability to skip repeated navigation content, and properly coded interactive elements such as form fields and buttons.
Individuals with learning, reading, memory, or attention disorders often rely on the same assistive technologies used by those with visual or auditory disabilities. They may use a screen reader or text-to-speech software to aid in reading, attention, and retention of information, and they also often rely on captions or transcripts of audiovisual information as a learning aid. These learners benefit from a clear, consistent layout free from unnecessary distractions such as animations.
There are several U.S. laws that apply:
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Sections 504 and 508
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 a federal anti-discrimination law that implicates federal and federally-funded programs. It originally emphasized equal employment practices, reasonable accommodations, and federally subsidized programming for individuals with disabilities.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is widely considered to be the first statute to declare civil rights for individuals with disabilities. Under Section 504, an individual with a disability must have equal access to all programs, services, and activities receiving a federal subsidy. In the case of institutions of higher education, this applies to students, employees, and the public.
Section 508 mandates that federal agencies make electronic information accessible to members of the public with disabilities, as well as employees with disabilities. Section 508 applies to certain public colleges and universities that receive federal funding. It is also the part of the Rehabilitation Act that provides technical standards for accessibility.
American's with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Title III of the ADA applies to all private colleges (except those considered a “religious entity”) whether or not they receive federal funds. This title protects individuals’ full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international standards organization that provides a vendor-neutral approach to standards development.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), currently in version 2.1, were developed by the W3C with a goal of providing a shared standard for web content accessibility. The WCAG documents the requirements (“success criteria”) and associated techniques for ensuring that web content is accessible to people with disabilities. Tufts University has committed to meeting WCAG 2.1 A and AA success criteria.