The history of accessibility

Accessibility embraces all aspects of the university community. These include electronic and information technology accessibility, instructional materials, collaborative experiences and interactions, and the physical university environment. While Global Accessibility Awareness Day isn't until May 16, we thought we would kick off with an email explaining how accessibility has evolved over the years, including here at Wayne State University.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

An extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal programs and services, including colleges and universities that use federal funds (e.g., student financial aid).

Section 504

Section 504 prohibits disability-based discrimination by programs that receive federal funds.  This means that students, staff, faculty, and visitors with disabilities cannot be denied access to programs and services due to inaccessible technology. As recipients of federal funding, most higher ed institutions are subject to Section 504.

Section 508

The purpose of Section 508, which is part of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, is to eliminate barriers in information technology. This applies to all Federal Agencies that develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. 

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794d), as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-220) requires federal agencies to develop, procure, maintain and use information and communications technology (ICT) that is accessible to people with disabilities - regardless of whether or not they work for the federal government.

Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities and members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees and the public, who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.

Any company that sells to the U.S. Government must also provide products and services that comply with  section 508 (Section 1194.22 of the Rehabilitation Act.)

Originally, these guidelines were based on a subset of the WCAG 1.0 guidelines. Recently, the guidelines were updated to include WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA requirements for those obligated through Section 508. While Section 508 has been in effect since March 20, 2017, those affected by the regulation are required to comply with the updated regulation by January 18, 2018.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 before the advent of the Internet, but some of the act’s key provisions apply to public institutions.

Title II of the ADA requires that communications to people with disabilities be equally as effective as communications with non-disabled people in their timeliness, accuracy, and delivery method.  Title II applies to goods, services, and activities provided by state and local governments, including public education institutions.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of accommodation, the definition of which includes businesses, places of entertainment, the offices of service providers, and some private educational institutions.

As previously noted, the U.S. Department of Justice has stated that the ADA applies to technology in higher education, a position the DoJ has reinforced through numerous legal settlements.

Accessibility at WSU 

Wayne State University has an institutional commitment to provide equitable educational and employment opportunities for all members of the university community, and to making all programs and activities accessible. Inclusive education, services and facilities at Wayne State University promote an exceptional learning and work experience for all members of the university community and demonstrate our commitment to supporting and advancing the diverse communities that are part of our university culture. This policy was developed in 2018 for all new and redesigned University Web pages to be in compliance with the technical guidelines set forth in this policy, unless granted an exception. 

Campus resources

Accessible entrances

This printable campus map indicates the locations of accessible entrances  with and without automated doors  for buildings and parking facilities on main campus.

Wheelchair availability for special events

The university has a few wheelchairs available for guests to use during special events. Contact Special Events and Services at 313-577-4585 or Student Center administration at 313-577-0300 to reserve a wheelchair for you or your guest.

University Libraries

The Library System is committed to providing convenient access to our collections and resources to all users.

Accessible Technology Lab

The Library system offers users accessible technology tools and support, including an Accessible Technology Lab in the Undergraduate Library and Accessible Technology Workstations in several library locations that provide software. Hardware, such as headphones with microphone, Kensington Expert Mouse and modified keyboards are available for checkout. 

Other resources

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