In order to provide a satisfying user experience for everyone, all official Penn websites should follow accessibility standards. Here are a few tips that can help you in the creation of your site to meet Web Content Accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0.)
Web Content Accessibility
The University of Pennsylvania websites are accessed and used by a diverse group of people within the USA and around the globe. Some of our users, including students, prospective students, and employees, have visual, hearing or cognitive impairments that create challenges in accessing websites and require the use of assistive technologies such as screen readers and text-only browsers. Further, other users of Penn websites may be using outmoded technology in another country, or have very slow connection speeds compared with current state-of-the art technology.
The University of Pennsylvania is committed to providing equal access to information, programs, and activities by making our web pages accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. 1
University websites must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA requirement
Questions about what the law requires in specific situations, including accessibility issues, should be addressed to the Office of General Counsel at 215-746-5200.
This page provides resources and guidance to schools, departments and individuals involved in developing and maintaining a University of Pennsylvania supported website.
Web accessibility refers to a goal of inclusive website development based on the concept that information on the Web should be available to all people, regardless of physical or developmental abilities or impairments.
Examples of accessible web practices include:
- Using a clean, consistent design with limited fonts and colors to benefit people with learning or cognitive disabilities
- Writing additional text for colorblind users when using color for emphasis, “e.g., Alert: School Closing”
- Designing a site to ensure it can be navigated with keyboard controls for people who cannot hold a mouse, including limiting the use of tables for data purposes only
- Using relevant images to support and boost page content
- Providing text equivalents for images by including “alt” or alternative text tags for people who use screen reader technology to access the site
- Using semantic page headings (h1, h2, h3, etc.) to establish hierarchy of content
- Using logical naming for navigation labels and web addresses (urls) for improving comprehension and reducing confusion, avoiding truncated words and acronyms
- Using punctuation, like periods at the end of phrases, to indicate stops for screen readers
- Creating links with helpful text to set expectations, e.g., use ”Go to” instead of "click here"
- Offering a cue at the end of a link to explain the type, e.g., “Download brochure (PDF)”
- Captioning videos and providing transcripts to benefit people who are deaf or hearing-impaired
A working group from the IT departments of each of Penn’s schools recommends the WAVE evaluation tool as the best way to assess a Website’s accessibility, and should be used for consistent evaluation and compliance by Penn schools. Go to WAVE.
More information on web accessibility and Section 508 compliance is available at:
- Cynthia Says: recommended program for assessing current accessibility
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)
- World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Additional information and guidance on Website accessibility is available for Penn departments at:
- Office of General Counsel (legal questions)
- Learning Resources Student Disabilities VPUL Technology Services
- Office of Student Disabilities Services
- Laws Governing Students with Disabilities (ADA)
- Butler Assistive Technology Room
- Butler Assistive Technology Resources
1 Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act states that "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance." This includes colleges and universities.
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against any qualified individual in areas such as employment, public services, public accommodations, telecommunications and others.
The ADA and Section 504 require colleges and universities to make their services accessible to individuals with disabilities. This means that services offered over the Web should, to the extent possible, be made accessible either through the website or in some alternate format. Making the website itself accessible is the most direct and efficient way to comply and is in keeping with the guidance provided by the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.