Accessibility of Higher Educational Institution’s Websites — A Study
Websites are today the face of an organisation in the virtual world, with a global reach. While Universities are organisations (in India) offering higher education. They use their websites for education and the dissemination of information. Accessibility of these websites will be the test of their global reach to their students. The Information and Technology (IT) Act 2000 of India, is silent on the subject of website accessibility for persons with disabilities. However, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) guidelines, which have been ratified by the Govt. of India, in 2007 of which Article 9.2 (g) & (h) lay down that, states should facilitate access for persons with disabilities for education, for new information and communication technologies, especially the Internet. One of the aims of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is to assess and accredit institutions of higher education in the
country and lay special emphasis on upholding the quality of higher education in India. The websites of 137 Central and State Universities with NAAC accreditation were used for the present study. The study was undertaken on 3rd December 2011 to analyse the quality of the websites designed by these Universities (in India), both of the central as well as the state government. The study aimed at evaluating the websites in terms of media tools for information, education, dissemination, accessibility, design and interactive participatory features for students with disabilities. The study indicated that 24.8 per cent websites under study and 57.1 per cent Central Universities’ websites offered information in the regional language. None of the Central University websites passed the Markup validation test, except three State Universities. Only 25.5 per cent of the websites of NAAC accredited Central and State Universities in India passed the cascading style sheet (CSS) validation and 8.8 per cent mobile phone validation test. Even though 67.2 per cent of them used videos, images and photographs
in websites, none of them provided alternative text or audio description. The majority of the websites under study provided downloadable information
and participatory features, but very few of them offered accessibility features.