Columbia University is committed to supporting information technology that offers individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in University programs and services. The University’s commitment is based on principles of equity and inclusion and because website accessibility can enhance usability and academic experience for everyone. This Website Accessibility Policy (the Policy) sets forth the actions that the University must take to meet its commitment to accessibility.
This Policy applies to staff, faculty, and students who procure, design, develop, modify, and maintain University Websites used in the programs and activities of the University. All Site Owners must comply with the Policy. Faculty, staff, and students who manage non-University Websites are encouraged to comply with the Policy.
Accessibility: The degree to which individuals with disabilities have independent and timely access to and use of websites or web-based applications, in some instances with the help of assistive technologies
Accessibility Committee: A committee organized by the Office of the Provost that meets periodically to evaluate this Policy and others related to accessibility, digital and otherwise
Columbia.edu: The internet domain columbia.edu and any and all subdomains
Content: Information and sensory experience to be communicated to the user by means of a user agent, including code or markup that defines the content’s structure, presentation, and interactions; includes, but is not limited to, video, text, images, documents, and underlying code
Site Owner: Any staff, faculty, or student, or any vendor engaged by such individual, who maintains a University Website used in the programs or activities of the University
Substantial revision: The adoption of or migration to a new platform, modification of the majority of the content, or another change that substantially alters usability or design
University Website: Any website or web-based application within the Columbia University (columbia.edu) domain or hosted by the University used in the programs or activities of the University; University Websites do not include sites that are independent of the University (including sites that are linked to from the University Websites), do not provide University programs, services or activities, or are used solely by employees
Vendor: Any individual or entity engaged by University faculty, staff, or students to procure, design, develop, modify, or maintain a University Website
WCAG: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a series of guidelines intended to provide recommendations on how to make online content accessible to individuals with disabilities or those using assistive technology
For the purposes of this Policy, the University will use the WCAG 2.0 AA as adopted by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. Successor standards adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium will also meet the Accessibility Standard.
It is the policy of the University that University Websites be accessible, including:
- New or substantially revised content. All content that is created or undergoes substantial revision after the effective date of this Policy is required to conform to the Accessibility Standard. In addition, Site Owners who manage University Websites that are maintained, upgraded, or updated by vendors are required to ensure that the vendor-provided design, code, and content meet the Accessibility Standard when the contract is entered into or renewed.
- Existing content. Existing content that does not meet the Accessibility Standard must be brought into compliance over time through a process overseen by the Accessibility Committee. As part of this process, the Accessibility Committee will prioritize important institutional University Websites and those that are most highly trafficked. Site Owners must follow the requirements and deadlines of the Accessibility Committee regarding this process. If the University receives a request by or on behalf of a person with a disability for access to existing content that is not accessible, the University will provide such content in an accessible format unless an exception is approved by the Accessibility Committee (see below).
When meeting the Accessibility Standard is not technically feasible or may require extraordinary measures due to the nature of the information or the purpose of the University Website (i.e., it would create an undue burden by fundamentally altering the nature of the existing content), the Site Owner may, with the agreement of the responsible dean, vice president, department chair, or director (see below), request an exception from the Accessibility Committee. Insufficient funds of a particular unit will not be considered a valid reason for an exception except in extraordinary circumstances. Exception requests may only be approved by the Accessibility Committee.
University Websites must provide a clear link to the Office of Disability Services on all pages and must provide an accessible method for reporting problems accessing the website or any of its content.
Roles and Responsibilities
Deans, vice presidents, department chairs, and directors are responsible for ensuring that University Websites within their areas of responsibility meet the Accessibility Standard. This Policy establishes that the Accessibility Committee has the authority to require that University Websites that do not meet the Accessibility Standard be brought into compliance at the expense of the Site Owner.
The following offices and groups occupy key roles in the socialization and implementation of this Policy:
- The Accessibility Committee provides oversight of University accessibility efforts and initiatives, reviews the Policy on an ongoing basis, and is the final arbiter of whether a University Website meets the Accessibility Standard. The Accessibility Committee reviews exception requests.
- The Office of Disability Services facilitates equal access for students with disabilities by coordinating accommodations and support services.
- The Office of the Provost is the owner of the Policy and is the responsible office for University accessibility matters.
- Columbia University Information Technology provides the University with central computing and communications services and owns the columbia.edu network infrastructure.
- Columbia College Information Technology provides Columbia College with central computing and communications services and owns the college.columbia.edu network infrastructure.
- The Office of Procurement requires Site Owners seeking approval of a vendor to hold Vendor accountable for meeting the Accessibility Standard.
- Columbia University Libraries build and sustain vital research and teaching collections, many of which are available online to faculty, staff, students, and other scholars.
- The Center for Teaching and Learning partners with faculty, students, and colleagues across the University to support excellence and innovation in teaching and learning.
- The Office of Communications and Public Affairs maintains University branding, web, and identity guidelines and disseminates them to colleagues across the University.
- Site Owners ensure that University Websites for which they are responsible meet the Accessibility Standard.
- The Hostmaster Committee, which approves third-level domain names for all University Websites, requires Site Owners to affirm that outside vendors have been supplied with all development, branding, accessibility, and network guidelines and policies.
- The Network Operations Center, which manages and maintains the network infrastructure of columbia.edu, requires Site Owners to affirm that outside vendors have been supplied with all development, branding, accessibility, and network guidelines and policies.