Office of Communications and Marketing

ADA Compliance

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that technologically-presented information be accessible to employees and the public. Some of the design limitations in place in the CMS are to assist our site in being as accessible and ADA compliant as possible. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) is a stable, referenceable technical standard which helps explain and provide benchmarks for accessibility of online content. It has 12 guidelines that are organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are at three levels: A, AA, and AAA.

[Guidelines] | [Skidmore compliance] | [Additional references]


The 12 quick reference guidelines for web-based information from the WCAG 2.0 are:

  1. Text Alternatives: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
  2. Time-based Media: Provide alternatives for time-based media.
  3. Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  4. Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
  5. Keyboard Accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  6. Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  7. Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  8. Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  9. Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.
  10. Predictable: Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  11. Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  12. Compatible: Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

As a note on #4: Colors sometimes do not render well on various web browsers, provide difficulties with proper text/background contrast levels, or otherwise are unsuitable for web design. In addition, ADA Compliance requires that there be contrast between backgrounds and the text of a page, so what colors are available in which combinations is fairly limited. 

It should be noted that the General Web Design Standards do not recommend white text on a dark background.

To define those further, some points from the Section 508 website:

  1. A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content).
  2. Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
  3. Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.
  4. Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.
  5. Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.
  6. Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.
  7. Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.
  8. Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.
  9. Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.
  10. Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
  11. A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.
  12. When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.
  13. When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with §1194.21(a) through (l).
  14. When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
  15. A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
  16. When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.

Skidmore Compliance

You will see immediately that some of these apply to general websites, while some are harder to see the connection. Here is a bit of commentary some of the items, and ways in which they are applied in the Skidmore web systems:

If you have any questions about whether your pages comply with these guidelines, or if you want more information about ADA compliance and web standards, please contact the Web Development team of the Office of Communications and Marketing.

Additional References

Checks/Tests for Compliance

Before using these tools, please be aware that some are computer-automated systems - they can generate a report of findings, but it is up to each site owner/editor to use those reports thoughtfully to ensure that web content is ADA compliant.

For example: the report may say that there is alt text for all images - great! But then the site owner/editor must still visit each image and make sure that the alt text is relevant to image content.



This policy is adapted from the RIT policy on web design standards. This policy is subject to change as new standards are deemed necessary. This version is based on the 2009 edition of the Graphic Standards manual, but contains more up-to-date information and thus shall be considered the official statement regarding web design standards. If you have any questions, or wish to report an error, please contact the Web Development team of the Office of Communications and Marketing.