Check out Young Democrats of America Disability Issues Caucus Chair Seamus Campbell’s letter to the editor in the Albany Times Union about the legal need for accessible college websites and the recent changes to YDA rules requiring Section 508 compliance.
When reading the article “Lawsuits target colleges over access to websites,” Dec. 5, I was troubled to hear that the defendants find the case to be frivolous when, they, in fact, did not create their websites using proper web standards and are, in fact, violating federal law.
When the HTML format was created more than 20 years ago, the World Wide Web’s creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, wanted to ensure the web was accessible to everyone. For that reason, things like labels for form items and alternative text for images (which read out descriptions of different elements within a web page to those using assistive technologies like screen readers) are required in order to have valid HTML code, according to the standards set by the W3C – the governing body on web standards.
Furthermore, practically every college in the United States is required to have accessible websites because, under the Rehabilitation Act, any institution that receives any sort of federal funding must provide accommodations to students or prospective students with disabilities. Section 508 of that law is what sets those federal standards, and the website for it is a good resource for people to see what is required of them to create accessible digital content.
In the Young Democrats of America, because we believe our members should have access to the information we disseminate, regardless of disability, we recently passed rules changes to require all of our communications to follow Section 508 guidelines and it is my hope that other institutions will do the same.
New York City
Chair, Young Democrats of America Disability Issues Caucus