Electronic Accessibility

SUNY Oneonta is committed to providing equal access to university information by ensuring our digital content is accessible by everyone regardless of physical, sensory or cognitive ability. This conforms to standards for technology accessibility necessary to meet this goal and comply with state and federal laws.

Areas of focus for accessibility

SUNY Oneonta’s Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility plan identifies five major areas of focus:

  • Web Accessibility;
  • Digital Content Accessibility;
  • Classroom Accessibility;
  • Library Accessibility; and
  • Procurement Accessibility.

SUNY Electronic & Information Technology (EIT) Accessibility

What is accessible content and assistive technology?

Accessible electronic and information technology are websites, documents, and digital materials that can be utilized by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. When materials have been developed to incorporate the principles of universal design, all users are able to interact with the technology in the ways that work best for them. Accessible content may be usable without assistive technology or may be compatible with standard assistive technology. Braille displays, audio interfaces, screen readers, and mobile phones are all examples of assistive technology. When documents are formatted according to existing accessibility standards assistive technology can manipulate and display the materials for the user.

Basic Principles of Accessibility

In a structured document, authors often create visual clues that organize the materials and give readers hints and context. Skilled readers use strategies like skimming, browsing lists of headings, and looking for bullet points or lists. When creating accessible documents, creation programs like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Website Builders can mark content so that assistive technology can also identify those landmarks or types of content. Learning to mark headers, paragraphs, bulleted lists and numbers is an important first step in creating accessible content.

  • Use Headings. Headings aren’t just large text or text that has been centered on a line. Accessibility standards identify six levels of headings, starting with Heading 1 and going down to Heading 6. Marking headings in your document allows a user of assistive technology to find their place on a page.
  • Use Lists. Bulleted and numbered lists are a tool for readability for both sighted users and users of assistive technology. Using the built-in formats of the program you are using to create your content will communicate to the reader additional information. For example, when a screen reader gets to a bulleted list, it would announce, “List with six items, item 1… item 2…”
  • Use real columns. If you are creating content with columns, make sure that you use the columns tool in your creation program. Two common mistakes are using the Tab key to create columns or using a table to create the look of columns. Each of these mistakes would create a page of text that is read out of order for a user of assistive technology. By using the column tool, content will be read in the order that the creator intended.

Non-text elements in your content should have the same information communicated in a text format. Examples of this include images, videos, audio, and figures. Text equivalents can be provided only to the assistive technology in the form called Alternative (or sometimes abbreviated Alt) text. The guiding principle is to make sure that people that can’t see or hear get the same takeaways from your content.

The content creator is the best person to determine the purpose of an image, visual or non-text element and write the appropriate alt text. There also is a process for marking a visual without purpose as a purely decorative element (although consider whether you should remove a non-text element without meaning.)

  • Write alternative (or alt) text for images. This includes photos, charts, and other figures. Avoid the temptation to simply describe the image. The purpose of Alt text is to convey the same takeaway meaning to a user of assistive technology as everyone else.
  • Provide captions for video and multimedia. Captions provide synchronous text for all auditory content, including sounds that are not words, like laughter and sound effects. Captions help people who are deaf or hard of hearing, non-native English speakers, and people who may be in a noisy environment. Captions are usually auto generated by platforms such as YouTube or Microsoft Stream, but should be manually edited for correct wording, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.
  • Provide transcripts for audio content. Transcripts should be provided for all audio content. Transcripts are text equivalents to what is said, seen, heard, etc. They include descriptions of things like laughter or music. Transcripts primarily help people who are deaf or hard of hearing but may also be used by screen-reader users or people who just want to skim the content. An additional benefit of transcripts is that they make multimedia content searchable. Transcripts are generally documents that are separate from the audio or media file.

Aging eyes, poor lighting conditions, or bright light that may cause a glare on the screen are all factors that may impact how someone perceives color. People with low vision or color blindness may have difficulty distinguishing between colors.

  • Don’t rely on color alone to communicate information. A second indicator should also be used. An outline, highlight, shape association, pattern, page placement, bold, and italics are examples of a second indicator.
  • Use high color contrast. Color contrast refers to the contrast ratio between the text (or foreground) color and the page (or background) color. The best solution is dark text on a light background or light text on a dark background. Avoid vibrant and intense colors for the body text.

Like headings, hyperlinks are another key way individuals skim documents looking for relevant sections or content. Those who are blind or visually impaired can browse hyperlinks using a screen reader. This means that links are provided without the surrounding text.

  • Provide context of the link in the link itself. It is important to note that when a URL is written out, assistive technology will read it in its entirety. Therefore, URLs should be embedded within the text. Be sure the linked text is short and concisely describes where the link goes. Avoid using full sentences and vague phrases such as “click here,” “learn more,” etc. Assistive technology users should be able to easily determine where the link goes.

Using plain, clear language means communicating so that your audience will understand things the first time they see or hear them. Keeping content clear and concise helps readers save time by making sure they are in the correct place and know what the expectations are. Plain language helps people with cognitive disabilities, people with a high cognitive load, individuals whose primary language is not English, etc.

This is not to suggest that we don’t ask our students to read and analyze complex texts. Content that is disciplinary (like a course reading, rather than the instructions for an assignment) can and should be written at a higher level.

  • Limit jargon, specialized terminology, and idioms. When providing general communications like emails, instructions on a test, or summary content on a webpage it is best to avoid hard to interpret language—this will help ensure that everyone gets the same information. Save industry terminology for documents where experts or experts-in-training are the target audience.
  • Be clear and concise. When safety, grades or other mission-critical situations arise, write clearly and concisely. Limit complex sentence structures and eliminate any erroneous information.

Next Steps: Applying the Principles

Once you understand the basics, the next step is to apply those principles to your materials. Many of the principles outlined above can be incorporated fairly easily. Content creators are encouraged to review the written or video tutorials and make these principles everyday practices.

PDF Documents

The following courses are available on Deque:

  • Basic PDF Accessibility
  • Fast Track to Accessibility for PDF Creators

Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.)

Courses for each program are also available on Deque

HTML (Webpages)

Multimedia (Video, Audio, etc.)


​​​​Deque courses for developers, designers and QA testers

  • Designing an Accessible User Experience
  • Web Accessibility Testing:
    • Basic Methods and Tools
    • Screen Readers
    • WCAG Conformance Testing, Detailed Methodology
  • Multimedia, Animations, and Motion
  • Semantic Structure and Navigation
  • Images, SVG, and Canvas
  • Visual Design and Colors
  • Responsive Design and Zoom
  • Device-Independent User Input Methods
  • Form Labels, Instructions, and Validation
  • Dynamic Updates, AJAX, Single Page Apps
  • Custom JavaScript/ARIA Widgets
  • iOS Mobile App Accessibility
  • Android Mobile App Accessibility

Microsoft Accessibility Video Trainings

Microsoft offers a number of short videos that explain why using tools built-into Office documents can improve the experience for everyone, and how-to lessons for common applications.

Accessibility Challenge - Spring 2022

Faculty and staff were invited to participate in the Spring 2022 Accessibility Challenge coordinated by the Electronic Information Technology Accessibility Committee. Participants learned about Electronic Accessibility of documents by engaging in weekly activities (typically 5 to 10 minutes) that teach techniques such as accessible headings, tables, links, and slides.

Although the challenge has concluded, you are encouraged to go back through and complete any challenges you missed, or if you need a refresher.

Contact Raphael Web with questions.

Document Accessibility Training Recordings

Recordings of the recent training sessions conducted by the ITS Training Program are now available on Stream (login with a SUNY Oneonta username and password is required). Sessions were customized to the needs of SUNY Oneonta faculty and staff.

Checklists referenced in trainings

On-demand training sessions and tutorials are also available through Deque University, and many companies such as Microsoft and Adobe provide accessibility resources for their specific products. Any faculty/staff/student within SUNY can access a Deque University account at no cost. Enroll today

The ITS Technology Training Program offers support that fits the varied learning styles of today's students, faculty and staff.

General Deque Courses

  • Accessibility Fundamentals: Disabilities, Guidelines, and Laws
  • Basic Web and Document Accessibility for Content Contributors
  • Serving Customers with Disabilities
  • Disability Etiquette Basics
  • Effective Communication, Part 1: Communication in Person
  • Effective Communication, Part 2: Remote Communication

Checklists and external resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Web Accessibility Perspectives Videos: Explore the Impact and Benefits for Everyone provides videos demonstrating how web accessibility is essential for people with disabilities and useful for all. Each video is about 1 minute (the compilation is 7:36) and each page includes supporting information.

Topics include:

  • Keyboard Compatibility
  • Video Captions
  • Colors with Good Contrast
  • Customizable Text
  • Clear layout and Design
  • Speech Recognition
  • Text to Speech
  • Understandable Content
  • Large Links, Buttons and Controls
  • Notifications and Feedback

Digital content materials produced or published before January 2017 is considered legacy content and is exempt from compliance with the standards outlined in the SUNY Oneonta Accessibility Plan, unless requested.

If you are having any issues with electronic accessibility please contact our Information Technology Service Desk at 436-4567 or email at helpme@oneonta.edu.

Students who need help finding resources related to disability accommodations or other disability-related services can refer to the Office of Accessibility Resources.

Faculty who have questions on instructional materials can refer to the Ally for LMS Help for Instructors or contact the TLTC for assistance.

Drupal web editors can refer to the Drupal User Guide or email webmaster@oneonta.edu for assistance.

Reach out to a member of the SUNY Oneonta EIT Accessibility working group:

  • Brendan Aucoin, information technology librarian;
  • Christine Bellinger, technology solution specialist;
  • Sue Clemons; associate VP for finance and administration and controller;
  • Mark English, technology services manager;
  • Emmon Johnson, IT customer support solution specialist;
  • Steve Maniscalco, chief information officer and accessibility officer;
  • Tim Ploss, instructional support technician;
  • Jennifer Smith, assistant director of digital strategy;
  • Terri Thomas; procurement and travel office manager;
  • Betty Tirado, director of business services;
  • Raphael Web, instructional support technician.

If you are having any issues with electronic accessibility please contact our Information Technology Service Desk at 436-4567 or email at helpme@oneonta.edu.

Back to top