Skip to main content

Guidelines

Introduction

Iowa State University is committed to taking reasonable measures to support equal access to information, programs, and activities delivered through its official web and online resources.

Since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, Iowa State University has maintained an accommodation policy for students with registered disabilities through Student Accessibility Services for its more than 30,000 students. ISU has historically complied with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II to protect the rights of students with disabilities.

An increasing number of students take online courses, and many in-person classes are required to host an accompanying course with digital content. ISU has created a digital accessibility policy to help students with registered disabilities succeed within a digitalized campus.

Benefits of compliance

The digital accessibility policy provides uniform digital accessibility standards across ISU. This means students, faculty and staff have equal access to the resources needed to work and succeed. For students, this means digital coursework is available and designed with accessibility in mind. For faculty and staff, the policy requires forms, websites, emails, documentation, presentations and work processes to be optimally accessible for coworkers with and without disabilities. Each college, department, and campus office works to ensure no one is disadvantaged in the use and spread of information.

Policy Timeline

Effective January 3, 2022, departments began converting online materials to best support individuals on campus, to ensure equal access. The implementation timeline is spread over the course of several years to allow the university to grow into the changes and determine what methods work best for each college and department. The timeline is as follows:

January 3, 2022

  • Department staff initiate inventory of all digital resources
  • The Digital Accessibility Lab provides guidance

July 1, 2022

  • Department staff create plans to utilize existing university resources for education and professional development related to digital accessibility
  • The Digital Accessibility Lab provides a template and guidance

July 1, 2023

  • Department staff continue education efforts and work to create new digital content in compliance with this policy
  • Department staff identified by department leadership to become digital accessibility mentors and receive annual professional development funds

January 1, 2024

  • The university’s public-facing web page content must achieve a 90% or higher score using web evaluation software (Siteimprove) with automatic scoring and no serious errors
  • The Digital Accessibility Lab provides education and training to department mentors

August 1, 2024

  • All online courses must have a passing score of 80% or higher and no serious errors as scored by the university’s scoring tool
  • The Digital Accessibility Lab provides education and training to faculty and/or department mentors

August 1, 2025

  • The university’s public-facing web page content must achieve a 95% higher score using web evaluation software (Siteimprove) with automatic scoring and no serious errors
  • All online courses must have a passing score of 85% or higher and no serious errors as scored by the university’s scoring tool

July 1, 2026

  • Effective July 1, 2026, all new digital content produced and purchased must comply with this policy
  • The Digital Accessibility Lab conducts regular audits of all sites and works with departments

Enforcement

Policy oversight and enforcement is a cooperative effort between the digital accessibility lead, the vice president and chief information officer, and university counsel. Every two years, the policy will be updated according to current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and federal laws. To inform students, faculty and staff of the policy, a notice will be posted in the footer section of each university website and included in every online course syllabus.

Implementation

As the policy is implemented, existing resources must be assessed and remediated according to the following priorities:

  1. Required by reasonable accommodation determinations
     
  1. Determined by the department to be within the top 20% most active (utilized) non-compliant resources that are annually replaced or remediated annually
     
  2. Required for coursework or for essential job functions, if not among the top 20% most active

Exceptions

The Office of the Chief Information Officer may grant exceptions to these guidelines under the following circumstances:

  • Undue hardship, administratively and/or financially
  • Fundamental alteration of a course or program
  • Equally effective alternative means of access
  • Accessible version of the material does not reasonably exist
  • Another reasonable accommodation can provide appropriate access

Digital Accessibility Campus Resources 

The Iowa State Digital Accessibility Task Force is a sub-committee within the University Committee on Disabilities and is chosen from information technology leadership at the college or major business unit level, application developers nominated by the campus IT leaders, faculty, and others interested in digital accessibility. This committee examines the university’s digital aspects, including but not limited to public web pages, web-based tools and online course materials. The Iowa State Digital Accessibility Task Force takes on the following roles:

  • Advise on policy implementation
  • Advise on technical priorities and goals of digital accessibility compliance efforts
  • Assist in measuring and monitoring progress of digital accessibility compliance
  • Identify needs of the wider web community for support and training
  • Communicate strategy and goals of digital accessibility compliance to constituent groups
  • Assist with providing education and training regarding information technology accessibility for the campus community, including aiding in the creation of resources
  • Publish digital accessibility resources on the university’s digital accessibility website.

Policy Roles

Everyone at ISU has a role to play in making our digital campus accessible. Below you will find specific tasks for students, faculty and staff, as well as resources to learn more.

Students

Students are not directly responsible for implementing the digital accessibility policy, though they are affected by it. Class projects, materials generated as part of coursework, and personal media are exempt from the policy. However, materials and content created by student workers through work study funding must comply with the policy.

All students with disabilities have the right to request accommodations. These requests can be processed through Student Accessibility Services.

Faculty

All faculty with disabilities have the right to request accommodations. These requests can be submitted to University Human Resources

Faculty teaching courses are responsible for finding and implementing course accommodations, including but not limited to accessible textbooks, alternative instructional materials and recorded lectures. 

Many instructional tools, such as Canvas, TopHat and Microsoft Teams have been approved as accessible tools for classroom instruction. The full list of approved instructional tools can be found on the Center for Excellence in Learning website. If the tool you wish to use is not listed, follow the CELT guidelines for submitting and application for review.

Before August 1, 2025, all faculty and staff should be trained on digital accessibility best practices through classes and events hosted by CELT, the Digital Accessibility Lab, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. New faculty and staff will have an asynchronous digital accessibility course required as part of orientation and training.

Staff

University staff focus on digital materials not directly tied to student instruction.

All staff with disabilities have the right to request accommodations. These requests can be sent to University Human Resources.

Staff are responsible for finding and implementing accommodations for university functions within their department. This may include websites, online documents, forms and other digital materials.

Before August 1, 2025, all faculty and staff should be trained on digital accessibility best practices through classes and events hosted by CELT, the Digital Accessibility Lab, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. New faculty and staff will have an asynchronous digital accessibility course required as part of orientation and training.

Financing the Policy

As Iowa State progresses through the implementation timeline, each department will determine a budget and the funding necessary to comply with the digital accessibility policy. Policy financing comes from three sources: student fees, state grants and federal grants.

  • Student fees: a percentage of student fees collected by Information Technology Services to fund digital accessibility efforts
  • Web Accessibility and Compliance tool and Canvas Accessibility and Compliance tool will be centrally funded.
  • State grants: Iowa State continually applies for state grants
  • Federal grants: Student Accessibility Services receives grant funds through the Assistive Technology Act to provide assistive technology to students with disabilities. These funds pay for assistive technology for students to be able to successfully access online and in-person courses.

Implementation

Online Materials Affected by the Policy

The policy will be implemented over the span of several years, starting first with important and frequently used materials and eventually encompassing the majority of online materials. Once fully implemented, materials subject to policy requirements will include the following:

  • Websites for university business or academic activities
  • Web applications for university business or academic activities
  • Media delivered online for university business or academic activities
  • Web resources purchased or delivered by outside vendors
  • Web resources created by the university

Materials Not Affected by the Policy

While a large portion of university materials are being adjusted for accessibility, there are some materials which fall outside of the policy. The following materials do not require modification even after the July 1, 2026 full integration date:

  • Personal resources published by students, student organizations or employees
  • Resources for non-university organizations that are hosted on campus but are not used to conduct university business or academic activities
  • Personal websites and social media accounts
  • Self-service kiosks (e.g. food ordering)
  • ATMs

Please note: matters dealing with physical accessibility in compliance with the ADA should be taken up with the Office of Equal Opportunity.

Preparing to Implement the Policy

A digital toolkit has been developed for staff and faculty who interact with, evaluate and remediate digital content for accessibility. The tools that are adopted are as follows:

The Digital Accessibility Lab resources website, CELT and the ISU Service Portal contain more resources for creating, reviewing and modifying online materials to fit policy guidelines.

Contact

Comments, questions or concerns relating to the digital accessibility policy can be directed to the ISU Digital Accessibility Task Force at digitalaccess@iastate.edu.