Digital Accessibility is a set of guidelines and best practices designed to ensure that digital information technology can be used by all — not just some people using particular technologies, but by all people using the range of technologies they need, prefer, or have at their disposal.
Digital Accessibility is part of equitable access for people with disabilities, a value we hold as a library, as a university, and as a public institution.
Because the category of “people with disabilities” is extremely diverse — including folks with a range of sensory and physical capacities, using a range of different technologies and devices — digital accessibility principles focus on the “universal design” of digital information. This means designing digital information to be perceivable, operable, and understandable across all these differences.
As such, accessibility principles promote design that works better
Digital content created without accessibility principles may result in barriers and inequities that are at odds with our values and obligations, including:
Digital accessibility is defined and codified in Standards. The most important standard for digital accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
WCAG 2.1 (version 2.1 was adopted in 2018) defines broad principles for accessibility and provides individual, testable criteria for 3 levels of accessibility conformance (Level A, AA, and AAA). This standard is:
Digital content that is designed to meet accessibility standards will, for the most part, be equitably usable across many differences. The WCAG Standard puts specific criteria to the broad commitment to digital accessibility, forms the basis of this Guide, and is referenced in legal requirements for accessibility.
Accessibility is a legally mandated by several laws:
For the University of Michigan, a public institution of higher education, digital accessibility should be implemented wherever we produce, procure, or distribute digital information technology, especially where that digital information technology is instrumental to our core mission activities—including teaching, scholarship, and engagement with our communities.
While this may seem a massive undertaking, digital accessibility is really just a set of practices that, once learned, can be easily incorporated into everything from writing an email to doing course prep, from marketing & communications to publishing.
Accessible practices translate to higher quality digital content, better digital design, and less exclusionary effects of unintentionally inaccessible design in the digital realm. By incorporating digital accessibility into our various areas of work, we all contribute to a Library and a University that are more inclusive and equitable.