This research studied Web accessibility of education department home pages of institutions accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). A multiple-methodological approach based on the literature and U.S. Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was used to further understand accessibility issues relating to higher education Web pages and visually-impaired Web users using screen readers. Growing demands for Web accessibility may be attributed to increased use of screen readers by baby boomers due to age-related visual disabilities (U.S. Department of Commerce, “Dramatic changes in U.S. aging highlighted in new census,” 2003). An additional growing market that benefits from Web accessibility comprises those who use mobile devices (Tilson & Lyytinen, “The 3G transition: Changes in the US wireless industry,” Telecommunications Policy, 2006; World Wide Web Consortium, “Mobile Web best practices 1.0,” 2008). Even with Section 508 law and a likely growing demand, studies show few Web sites achieve Web accessibility and failure rates appear to be increasing (Hackett & Parmanto, “A longitudinal evaluation of accessibility: Higher education Web sites,” Internet Research, 2005). The six hypotheses tested represented the literature‚s pressing issues, (a) Web master accessibility education/training, end-user communications, and strategic decision-making responsibilities, (b) Web site complexity, and (c) organizational enactment of Web accessibility in policies and Web master hiring practices. A mailed survey sent to NCATE education department Web masters tried to identify levels of Web accessibility training, communications, and strategizing. To analyze home page accessibility and complexity, AChecker™, A-Prompt™, JAWS™, and Kelvin™ were utilized. In addition the existence of institutional Web accessibility guidelines/policies and Web accessibility requirements in Web master job postings were sought to determine importance placed on Web accessibility by these institutions. Results encompassed a 95% failure rate in Section 508 compliance (census and sample). The 2009 results were compared with 2002 results of two previous studies and showed an increased failure rate. Through the hypothesis-testing, two of six hypotheses had significant, positive relationships: lower levels of home page Web accessibility related to lower levels of Web master Web accessibility training as well as increasingly higher complexity in Web page design.

Full Thesis:
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Thesis Advisor:
Mary Robinson Lind

Award Date:
September 1, 2009

Capella University
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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