Frequently Asked Questions

General Accessibility

What is an Electronic and Information Resource (EIR)?

According to Texas Government Code 2054.451, Electronic and Information Resources (EIR) are information resources and any equipment or interconnected system of equipment that is used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of information resources. The term includes, but is not limited to, telephones and other telecommunications products, information kiosks, transaction machines, Internet websites, multimedia resources, and office equipment, including copy machines and fax machines.

(Information resources, in this instance, means the procedures, computer equipment, computing facilities, software, and data which are purchased, designed, built, operated and maintained to collect, record, process, store, retrieve, display, report and transmit information.)

Other terms such as, but not limited to, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Electronic Information Technology (EIT), etc. can be considered interchangeable terms with EIR for purposes of applicability or compliance with state and federal laws.

Why should I create, utilize, distribute, and procure accessible EIR?

  1. It's the right thing to do. Making EIR work for everyone can make a huge difference to users with disabilities. By not doing so, a potential customer, prospective student, faculty member, etc. might not be able to access the information you are trying to share.
  2. It's the smart thing to do. You can increase visibility and usability of University resources, making information, research findings, business services, and much more, available to the widest possible audience. 
  3. It's the law. EIR Accessibility is something to take seriously. Organizations, including large companies and educational institutions, have faced legal action for not complying with the accessibility requirements of the law; so, the consequences (financially and otherwise) of not making accessibility a priority are potentially severe for the University.

What is an EIR owner?

An EIR owner is a person responsible for a business function at Texas A&M who determines controls for, and oversees the development, acquisition, and/or use of, EIR supporting that business function.

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Web Accessibility

Is my website required to be accessible?

Yes. Federal and state laws require institutions of higher learning to provide accessible web pages and web applications.

What is the cost of developing accessible sites?

The cost associated with making websites accessible is a concern to all departments on campus. However, the cost is generally minimal if accessibility principles are incorporated during the initial site design and development phases. Retrofitting, on the other hand, is far more expensive and time consuming.

What is the key to making a site accessible?

The most important thing to understand is that people use the web in very different ways. A site should therefore present information in a way that people can access it regardless of what kind of hardware or software they are using, and regardless of how they navigate through a site. Web designers cannot assume that everyone uses the same kinds of devices the same way.

What are common accessibility mistakes?

While certainly not an exhaustive list, the following is representative of many common accessibility mistakes. Note that many, if not most, of these can be found and fixed by writing your web pages in HTML and running them through an HTML validator.

  1. Images without alternative text
  2. Audio or video without captions or transcripts
  3. Lack of alternative information for users who can't access frames or scripts
  4. Tables that are difficult to decipher when linearized
  5. Sites where color is the only way to distinguish elements, or with poor color contrast
  6. Fonts that are fixed-sized; fonts should be relatively sized in a CSS
  7. Form fields that are not properly labeled
  8. Pages without a "Skip-Navigation" link

How many people are actually affected?

The percentage of people with disabilities in the United States is approximately 18.7%, according to a 2010 Census Data. Not all disabilities affect access to information technologies such as the web, but many do. Something else to keep in mind... for people with disabilities, online access is sometimes even more critical than for the general population, who may have an easier time accessing traditional sources of information.

Do I have to sacrifice aesthetics of my website in order to make it accessible?

No. Making a website accessible is more about including good design elements than removing them. Nearly all sophisticated and visually-attractive web technologies can be rendered in an accessible manner, if designed with accessibility in mind. Creative web designers are able to keep the website visually pleasing and, at the same time, make it accessible for more people to access the site.

Must we make websites accessible if instead we can accommodate a person with a disability in a non-technical manner?

In a business environment where the creation and maintenance of accessible websites is readily achievable, the use of an "ad hoc" approach to accommodating a person with a disability does not offer equal or comparable access. There may be times in very specific instances where creating an accessible resource would require extraordinary effort and/or expense. In these special cases, providing an accommodation will be required, however this approach should supplement, rather than take the place of, providing an accessible technology infrastructure.

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Specific Accessibility Issues

How do people who are blind use the web?

While there are many ways for the blind to access the web, they all revolve around providing alternative methods to access information. WebAIM offers several key concepts to keep in mind while developing your site.

What is a screen reader and where can I get one?

A screen reader is a software application that interprets what is on the computer screen and conveys the information to the user through a different context, often through sound. Several screen readers are available, both commercially and for free download: Web Accessibility Testing Tools – Screen Readers.

How does a screen reader read a web page, form, or a table?

In most cases, screen readers speak all page elements in the same order as they appear in the document's source code, left to right and top to bottom. Screen reader users will also use a number of shortcuts (that rely on good HTML markup) to navigate through content more quickly and skip to the information they're looking for. It's a good idea to try to navigate your pages with a screen reader yourself to see what potential obstacles users could face: Web Accessibility Testing Tools – Screen Readers.

What about color blindness?

Color blindness is not a true form of blindness, but rather a problem in the way color is processed. People with this vision problem have difficulty distinguishing certain colors, such as red and green or blue and yellow. About 10% of the male population has some form of color blindness, less than 1% of females. True color blindness (shades of gray only) is extremely rare. Color blindness can be compensated for through the selection of colors used, and strong, contrasting colors. Check your contrast levels with a color contrast checker (available with many web accessibility browser extensions)

Are there other types of disabilities to consider with web accessibility?

Yes! There are a whole range of potential disabilities, almost all of which can be mitigated to some extent by keeping accessibility in mind. Those with hearing impairments, for example, might not be able to listen to a podcast or audiocast, but if you provide transcripts and/or captioning they will still be able to follow along. Motor impairment can make the use of a computer mouse difficult or impossible, so make sure someone can navigate your site using only a keyboard. Vision impairment might not mean complete blindness, so creating text elements that can be enlarged will help your low-vision users.

Does this mean I need to create a text-only version of my site?

No! In almost all cases text-only sites are not only unnecessary but highly discouraged. Proper use of CSS and appropriate tagging of non-text elements should in most cases make the site accessible to anyone.

If we don't have any employees with disabilities, do we still have to make our intranet accessible?

Yes. State and federal law specifically exclude this as a rationale for not making sites accessible. All workplace infrastructure, including IT, must be accessible in preparation for future employees with disabilities so that they can be productive from the moment they begin their employment.

What about the documents that I post on the site? Do they need to be accessible too?

Yes, an accessible website includes the accessibility of all its contents, including documents, forms, and other digital objects (multimedia, graphics, etc.). A process for ensuring the accessibility of the content is critical to a web accessibility policy. For more information about how to create documents, you can explore WebAIM's PDF Accessibility, Word Accessibility, and PowerPoint Accessibility articles.

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Policy & Law

Which laws or regulations pertain to web accessibility?

There are several federal, state, and University regulations which pertain to web accessibility. See the IT Accessibility Regulations page for more information.

What is Section 508 and how does it apply to me?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was re-authorized in 1998 and included web accessibility requirements that were later developed into a set of §508 Accessibility Guidelines. While these guidelines explicitly refer to pages used in instruction, state and university guidelines use §508 as the foundation upon which they were built, so in effect, §508 applies to all university websites.

What is TAC 206 and how does it apply to me?

Texas Administrative Code (TAC) 206, specifically Title 1, Part 10, Chapter 206, is a compilation of compliance requirements or rules for Texas agency and institution of higher education websites. It covers  five distinct areas: Accessibility, Translation,  Privacy, Linking, and Indexing.

Does Texas A&M have an IT Accessibility Rule?

Yes. View Standard Administrative Procedure (SAP) 29.01.04.M0.02 - Accessibility of Electronic and Information Resources (pdf)

Does Texas A&M have a standard administrative procedure for web accessibility?

Yes. View Standard Administrative Procedure (SAP) 29.01.04.M1.01 - Web Accessibility Procedures (including Linking and Indexing) (pdf)

Is my site considered a Key Public Entry Point (KPEP)?

Maybe. See Texas A&M’s KPEP list for more information.

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Training & Education

Does Texas A&M have any resources to help me?

Yes. If you’re new to web accessibility, the Introduction to Web Accessibility is a great place to start. You can also take free web accessibility training taught by IT Risk Management and hosted by Employee & Organizational Development.

Where else can I go for help?

There are hundreds of useful articles, tutorial, and resources on the Internet to help with web accessibility. Browse the Help section of this website for suggestions. If you’re looking for help with a specific issue, please contact the IT Accessibility Team. We’ll be happy to assist you.

Are there any tools I can use to test my site?

Yes. Refer to the Web Accessibility Testing Tools.

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