Accessibility of www.RIC.org
By making the RIC Web site accessible we hope that people with disabilities will be able to participate as equals in all aspects of the on-line community and services of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). If you have difficulty accessing this Web site or if you know of someone who has had difficulty, please contact us.
Specific Access Accommodations
We have employed all the important access accommodations on the pages of RIC.org. All images have useful and informative alt-text and all forms are labeled so that visitors using a screen reader can be confident when entering their personal information into a form on the site.
The RIC.org pages have a simple and uniform structure which is reflected in the semantic markup on each page. There is always a main heading (level one heading) at the top of the main content of the page and there may be sub-headings under that within the main content. In addition, there are hidden headings for the main navigation area and the page tools (e-mailing and printing the page) which will be spoken by screen readers. These areas are visually evident, but not evident when the page is spoken. This structure is consistent through most of the site.
Web Accessibility Guidelines
There are two major sets of guidelines for Web accessibility. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which became a formal recommendation of the W3C in May of 1999. Largely based on those high priority checkpoints of those guidelines, the U.S. Access Board drafted the Section 508 Web Accessibility Standards, which must be followed by all Federal Agency Web sites.
In the eight years since WCAG was drafted there have been significant changes in Web technology and the assistive technology available for people with disabilities to access the Web. Equally important is the fact that Web designers, developers and accessibility experts have learned a lot about which accommodations work for people with disabilities and those that do not. As a result, the W3C is drafting Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the Access Board has empanelled an Advisory Committee to redraw the Section 508 Standards for Accessible Electronic and Information Technology including the Web Accessibility Standards.
Although not a formal W3C recommendation, RIC has decided to follow the new WCAG, Version 2 (Editors draft), because these guidelines represent the current understanding of both Web technology and assistive technology. WCAG is divided into 14 guidelines, each of which are associated with a number of success criteria that are used to define conformance. Each success criterion has a defined level. Available here is the WCAG explanation of what the levels mean.
- In general, Level 1 success criteria achieve accessibility by supporting assistive technology while putting the fewest possible limits on presentation. Thus, people with a wide range of disabilities using a wide range of assistive technologies, from voice input and eye-tracking devices, to screen readers and screen magnifiers are able to access content in different ways. In other words, Level 1 success criteria support the ability of both mainstream and specialized user agents to adapt content to formats that meet their users' needs.
- The success criteria in Level 2 provide additional support for assistive technology. At the same time, these also support direct access to content by the many people who use conventional user agents without assistive technology. In general, Level 2 success criteria place more limits on visual presentation and other aspects of content than the success criteria in Level 1.
- Level 3 success criteria increase both direct access and access through assistive technology. These place tighter limits on both presentation and content.
The way the guidelines work within this hierarchy is exemplified by the success criteria that deal with contrast under Guideline 1.4, “Make it easy to distinguish foreground information from its background.” There are no success criteria relating to contrast at Level 1 because requiring specific contrast levels would place limits on visual presentation. There is a moderate contrast requirement at Level 2 (Success Criterion 1.4.2, luminosity contrast ratio of 5:1 for body text) and a strong contrast requirement at Level 3 (Success Criterion 1.4.4, luminosity contrast ratio of 10:1 for body text). Many sites do not pass the Level 3 contrast requirement while the Level 2 requirement is easier to meet. The level 3 contrast requirement is met by the RIC Web site.
In general, it is the RIC intention to conform to all Level 1 and Level 2 Success Criteria of WCAG 2.0 and where consistent with other design goals, to meet Level 3 Success Criteria as well.