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Business and Policy Areas
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Higher Education Community Offers Comments on Web Accessibility Proposal

October 17, 2016

In a recent letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), NACUBO and 12 other higher education associations outlined concerns with the department’s proposal on web accessibility requirements that would affect public colleges and universities.

DOJ’s proposal for implementation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) aims to incorporate a recognized standard for web accessibility at state and local government entities, including higher education institutions. In the letter, the associations  expressed agreement with the goal but urge the department to consider that colleges and universities are uniquely situated when it comes to materials made publicly available online because of the “extraordinarily large and complicated web presences” created when students, professors, administrators, and others can all be continuously posting content associated with the institution. Additionally, both the level of control over posted content and the scope of mission of a college or university is significantly different than that of most state and local government entities.

The associations requested DOJ make alterations to the proposed regulations for higher education. The primary requested change would expand the department’s proposed two-year compliance window to a three-year timeline to allow colleges and universities to perform a full assessment of their current accessibility and would require a comprehensive plan for achieving full accessibility within five years. Small or very small institutions (as defined by the Carnegie classifications) would be given five years for accessibility assessments with a full accessibility plan required to be in place within seven years.

The other significant proposed exception for higher education would include a regulation carve-out for informational sites and apps offered to limited internal audiences as well as other web content that is not connected with centrally administered programs of instruction, (e.g., a professor’s personal website, or the webpage of a sorority, fraternity, or campus club.) 

In the letter, the associations also addressed accessibility issues relating to regulations for apps; non-compliant third-party content shared by an institution; copyrighted materials; captioning and descriptions for live audio content; allowances for conforming alternate versions; and an elimination of a proposal requirement that there be a written statement for every institutional determination that compliance would be an undue burden or result in a fundamental alteration.

The department accepted comments through October 7, and NACUBO will offer further guidance upon publication of a final rule. 

Contact

Megan Schneider
Assistant Director, Federal Affairs
202.861.2547
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