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FLO Accessibility Toolkit

Legal Frameworks

This represents the basic legal structure requiring accessibility of both digital and in-person library services.  These frameworks are only getting more stringent through legislation and judicial decisions.    These are the starting points and requirements will tighten over time.

  • Section 504 - Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency - including the Department of Education.
  • WC3 - The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the recognized authority on digital accessibility standards.  It consists of an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards.
  • ADA - The American with Disabilities Act was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The ADA is the equal opportunity law for people with disabilities.

State Requirements

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Enterprise Information Technology Accessibility Policy .  State Agencies, including community colleges and state colleges/universities,  are responsible for ensuring that all IT solutions and content are in full compliance with accessibility standards, whether developed in-house or acquired from a third-party.

WCAG: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG (Pronounced Weh-khag)

  • WCAG Introduction and Overview - This introduces WCAG standards,  accepted as the universal backbone of web based accessibility.  
  • WCAG 2.0 is broken down to four separate principles using the POUR acronym.
    • Perceivable - The web page – including menus – must be presented in a way that users of the page with varying abilities are aware of it, i.e., it is perceivable
    • Operable - Users must be able to operate the navigation of a website and complete the task they came to do regardless of the method they are using to interact with the website
    • Understandable - The website must be easily understood by your users, the website must be readable and the site must operate in predictable ways
    • Robust - The website be usable by multiple technologies like screen reading software and different types of browsers. 
  • These principles serve as headings to organize the 12 individual guidelines for website accessibility.  The POUR principles each have one or more guidelines. The guidelines are goals that should be achieved in order to make web content accessible to users with various abilities.   WCAG Checklists - This resource lists the four principles and the 12 guidelines in a customizable format.  
  • WCAG standards are updated to meet the evolving developments in technology and are enumerated by version.    WCAG 2.0 was released as smart phone technology was launching in 2008/2009..    WCAG 2.1 was released in 2018.    A new WCAG 2.2 is being released in early 2023.  See version documents below.   
  • The Guidelines are subdivided into 61 Success Criteria the core of WCAG 2.0. They are the actual required standards and are much more detailed and specific than the more generic Guidelines above. 

  • The Success Criteria are meant to be tests you can apply to see if the associated Guideline has been met. They are broken down into three levels.

    • Level A – the lowest, basic level of conformance. Level A success criteria address the widest, most overlapping range of requirements for various common disabilities.

    • Level AA - the medium level, includes all Level A requirements and introduces some criteria that more narrowly address single types of disabilities.

    • Level AAA – the highest level, includes all Level A & AA requirements as well as other, stricter rules targeted at some of the less common disabilities.

  • The documents and educational materials below will define the terms, techniques and criteria based on WCAG version. 

WCAG 2.0  released 2008/2009

WCAG 2.1  released 2018

Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)

"Voluntary Product Accessibility Template" (VPAT®) came out of Section 508 Federal Accessibility Regulations and is a checklist produced by vendors indicating if a product like a database complies with accessibility standards.. If a vendor elects to do so, they can fill out a VPAT indicating how closely their product complies or doesn't comply with accessibility standards.

The VPAT asks the vendor to evaluate how their product meets the regulations in Section 508. They choose from the following options to describe the conformance of their product:

  • Supports: The product must have at least one method that meets the criteria.

  • Supports with Exceptions: Though parts of the product meet the criteria, the product does not fully conform.

  • Does Not Support: The majority of the product does not meet the criteria.

  • Not Applicable: The specific criteria does not apply to the product.

  • Not Evaluated: Can only be used as a response when evaluating WCAG 2.0 AAA success criteria. 

Although having a VPAT for a product demonstrates that the vendor has at least given a passing nod to accessibility, occasionally it also shows a distinct lack of knowledge or confusion around the regulations. Nonetheless, the VPAT is a good place to start.