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Understanding Disability & Accessibility

KSU is committed to creating an inclusive univeristy for the benefit of all - especially those with disabilities. What does that mean for you? What do faculty and professional staff need to know?

  • “The term persons with disabilities is used to apply to all persons with disabilities including those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various attitudinal and environmental barriers, hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others."

  • “The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.”

  • In general, accessibility refers to an individual's ability to use, belong to, engage with, and participate in the world around us. If a 12-story building has elevators large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, rooms on the upper floors are accessible. If an instructional video includes closed captioning, that video is accessible to learners who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Audiences & Needs

In a university setting, people may experience varying degrees of auditory, visual, cognitive, neurological, and physical impairments. These disabilities may be the result of birth, an illness, disease, accident, or an age-related impairment. Some individuals may not consider themselves "disabled" even if they experience limitations. However, it is important to understand these disabilities and some barriers faced by people who live with the impairments. Knowing the barriers helps us understand how to use technology to overcome them.

The following lists are not comprehensive. There are many other disabilities and barriers. This is simply a sampling to help faculty understand some of the students they may encounter.

    • Hard of hearing - mild or moderate hearing impairments in one or both ears
    • Deafness - substantial, uncorrectable impairment of hearing in both ears
    • Deaf-blindness - substantial, uncorrectable hearing and visual impairments

    Example Barriers & Accessibility Strategies

    • Audio content without transcripts or captions (Provide text alternative for non-text content)
    • Multimedia / video without captioning (Provide captioning and other alterantives for multimedia) 
    • Color blindness - includes trouble seeing colors and the brightness of colors in the usual way and an inability to tell the difference between shades of the same or similar colors
    • Low vision - includes poor acuity (vision that is not sharp), tunnel vision (seeing only the middle of the visual field), central field loss (seeing only the edges of the visual field), and clouded vision
    • Blindness - substantial, uncorrectable loss of vision in both eyes
    • Deaf-blindness - substantial, uncorrectable visual and hearing impairments

    Example Barriers & Accessibility Strategies

    • Images with no equivalent text alternatives (Provide alternative text and long descriptions, when needed)
    • Multimedia that does not have text or audio alternatives, or an audio-description track (Provide screen readable text or audio alternative for image only multimedia)
    • Complex and/or inconsistent page navigation (Provide simple, consistent navigation throughout web pages and sites)
    • Text and images with insufficient contrast between foreground and background color combinations (Provide sufficient color contrast)
    • Websites or web tools that do not provide full keyboard support (Provide equivalent alternatives that do provide full keyboard support)
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able control behavior, or a combination of these
    • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns
    • Intellectual disabilities - impairments of intelligence, including difficulty understanding complex concepts
    • Learning disabilities - difficulty processing auditory, tactile, visual, or other sensory information
    • Mental health disabilities - includes anxiety, delirium, depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, and many other disorders. These conditions may cause difficulty focusing on information, processing information, or understanding it.
    • Seizure disorders - includes different types of epilepsy and migraines, which may be in reaction to visual flickering or audio signals at certain frequencies or patterns

    Example Barriers & Accessibility Strategies

    • Complex navigation and/or layouts that are difficult to use (Provide logical and consistent organization)
    • Blinking, moving, or flickering content and/or background audio that can't be turned off (Provide on/off mechanism for any purely aesthetic element)
    • Amputation and/or deformity - missing digits or limbs
    • Arthritis - swelling, damage, and/or degeneration of the joints
    • Muscular dystrophy - the progressive weakness and degeneration of muscles
    • Repetitive stress injury - involves injuries to the bones, joints, tendons, and connective tissues from repetitive task damage
    • Quadriplegia - partial or total paralysis to all four limbs and the torso

    Example Barriers & Accessibility Strategies

    • Software  & websites that do not allow full keyboard support (Select software that allows for keyboard shortcuts)
    • Images and links that do not have text alternatives (Provide alternate text and create descriptive links)
    • Complex navigation and/or layouts that are difficult to use (Provide logical and consistent organization)

Addressing Needs

To address any of the above audiences' needs, professional staff and faculty developing academic materials for use online must understand the Four Principles of Accessibility. Remember, users (students and others in the university community) must come into content that is:

  • All information and content should be perceivable (it cannot be invisible to all of the senses).

  • The interface components and navigation must be operable (it cannot require interaction that certain users cannot perform).

  • The information and operations must be understandable (content and/or operation cannot be beyond understanding).

  • Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of users (including screen readers and other assistive technologies).

There are a variet of resources to help you make sure your content is meeting POUR (the Four Principles of Accessibility). At Kennesaw State University, we ask online developers to practice the Faculty Four of Accessible Development

Acknowledgements

UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative

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