IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

University of Rochester Creates New Digital Accessibility Policy

The university has put a new Digital Accessibility Policy in place to make digital resources more accessible to students with visual, auditory, cognitive and motor-control disabilities.

A student sitting under a tree using a laptop.
A student uses a laptop under a tree in Hajim Quad Aug. 29, 2019.
J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester
The University of Rochester recently established a new Digital Accessibility Policy that aims to ensure university websites and other types of digital information are accessible to students with disabilities, a recent announcement said.

According to a news release from the university, the new policy, which took effect on Jan. 1, says that university websites and digital resources that are developed or undergoing revisions or designs are expected to meet the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The announcement said the new policy comes shortly after students, faculty and other university stakeholders provided input about accessibility policies and needs to university leaders.

The new policy comes as higher-ed institutions adopt new technologies and digital services for online learning, and as universities across the country grapple with making sure their websites and digital learning platforms meet accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to a recent report from the risk management firm AAAtraq, 97 percent of U.S. colleges and universities do not have accessibility-compliant websites. The publication notes that this could cost schools millions of dollars in litigation fees and payouts.

The university's new release said the new policy looks to ensure equal access to “all digital content and resources, including websites, documents, multimedia, online forms and web applications.” It noted that the university has also established a new digital accessibility team, led by Ewa Zennermann, director of digital accessibility, who previously led the University of West Georgia’s digital inclusivity efforts as director of web services. She will be joined by Rachel Cherry, a digital accessibility developer with more than 16 years of experience as a digital accessibility specialist in higher ed and on the enterprise level.

“Creating an environment that embraces diversity and ensures equal representation for all voices in the digital space is the goal,” Zennermann said in the news release. “By promoting accessibility, we aim to break down barriers, foster collaboration, and unleash the full potential of our vibrant digital community.”

The announcement said the new digital accessibility team will help develop accessible digital experiences for students and faculty and will work to promote digital accessibility awareness. Zennermann said in the news release that the group will also provide digital training, tools and resources to assist in those efforts.

Moving forward, the university noted that the digital accessibility team will develop a “comprehensive, long-term accessibility road map,” based off input and collaboration with leaders across the university.

“We aim to track our progress and ensure we accomplish impactful goals. We will be implementing metrics and benchmarks to gauge our progress, with a constant feedback loop to keep us in sync with the needs of our community,” Zennermann said.