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Accessibility : Terminology

Accessibility Terminology

a11y is an abbreviation for "accessibility" (since there are eleven letters removed from the middle) that is used often on social media and has the benefit of being more compact. The A11y Project is a website with resources and checklists to help make digital projects more accessible and inclusive.

Alt text (or alternative text) is descriptive text that describes the content of images, graphs and other media on a website. This text is read by screen readers, making the content and function of the media available to individuals with visual or cognitive disabilities. Although some websites like Facebook generate alt text using artificial intelligence, alt text should be entered manually to provide the most effective alternative for screen readers. 

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 declares civil rights for individuals with disabilities, and grants protection from exclusion and discrimination based on ability. It requires all federal agencies to provide individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate fully in programs and services. Agencies must provide auxiliary aids when necessary in order to ensure equal opportunities. 

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which requires all federal agencies to develop, procure, maintain and use information technology that is accessible to all people, regardless of whether they work for the federal government or not. The law was added to the Rehabilitation Act in 1998 and was revised in 2017. The current revision is commonly referred to as the Revised 508 Standards. Section 508 provides definitions and requirements for ensuring information technology is accessible. In addition to all federal organizations, the law applies to any organization doing business with the federal government as well as any organization that accepts federal funds. This includes libraries and education institutions. 

VPAT or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template is a template which allows software, hardware or electronic content vendors to disclose how they support accessibility guidelines. The VPAT™ outlines the Revised Section 508 Standards for accessibility, and allows vendors to indicate their conformance with each standard. While VPATs™ can help identify vendors that support accessibility initiatives, they do not guarantee that the vendor's service is Section 508 or ADA compliant. If your institution requires vendors submit a VPAT™ as part of contract negotiation, make sure to review the document to see how compliant the vendor is. 

W3C or World Wide Web Consortium is an international community that develops web standards. These standards govern how the web works, and ensures consistent, shared web experiences for all users regardless of web browser or device. The W3C, specifically WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative), creates and maintains web accessibility standards and resources. 

WAI-ARIA or Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications is a technical specification used by web developers to make website content and applications more accessible to people with disabilities. It is a supplement to standard HTML, and helps make interactions with complex websites and dynamic content available to individuals using assistive technology like screen readers. While ARIA provides a robust set of attributes to enhance HTML, some of its features are now part of HTML5. Where a native HTML solution exists, that should be favored over an ARIA solution in order to reduce complexity. ARIA overview and specifications

WCAG or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (wee-kag) are guidelines and criteria produced by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) to ensure that websites and electronic content are accessible to all. They provide quantitative means of evaluating websites for accessibility, and should be used by both developers and content creators. There are currently two standards in use: WCAG 2.0, published in 2008, and WCAG 2.1, published in 2018. WCAG 2.1 adds additional criteria to the 2.0 guidelines. These criteria address accessibility for mobile devices, people with low vision, and people with cognitive disabilities.

Adapted from the Library Accessibility Toolkit  by the Library Accessibility Alliance (LAA)

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