The Access Web Symbol:

Signage in Cyberspace

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Background

Access Web has decided on the use of the universal symbol of accessibility (white wheelchair on blue background) as its icon. Our intent is that this symbol become widely distributed throughout UCLA web sites, and that when people choose this link (or the associated text, UCLA Disability Access Web), they will be taken to disability access information that is accurate, up-to-date, and relevant.

There are still some unresolved issues with regard to deployment of the symbol. We hope that this document will serve as a framework for a dialog between the Access Web Team and UCLA campus web publishers in order to address these issues.

Although this document discusses standards, we are well aware that the Web poses difficult challenges for the promulgation of standards. For example, we will discuss setting a recommended minimum size for the Access Web symbol. Most web publishers today target a 640 x 480 pixel per inch resolution, but as technology improves higher resolutions will become more popular. Thus we anticipate that the recommended minimum size will change over time.

Implementation

The Symbol Itself

The Access Web Team is aware that symbols other than the universal symbol of accessibility have been developed recently to indicate Web accessibility. Although the Access Web is concerned with Web accessibility, that is only one of our concerns. Our goal is to provide information about access to physical facilities as well as web pages. This is why we chose the universal symbol.

Our goal is for the symbol to be immediately recognizable and easily accessible, but unobtrusive and easily integrated into existing web designs.

Size of the symbol on the screen.

We need to set a minimum size for the symbol. We would like to offer users the choice to have the symbol be any size larger than the minimum so it can be better integrated with existing page designs.

In order to make the symbol accessible to people with mobility impairments, we believe it should measure about 1/2 an inch on the screen. A 30x30 pixel image will vary from just over 1/4" to just under 1/2" depending on screen resolution.

Quality Control: We are reluctant to allow users to enlarge or reduce images themselves, because image degradation would probably result. We can provide a variety of "standard" sizes for downloading, but we would prefer to create "odd" sizes on a per-request basis.

Colors

Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specific to California dictate that the symbol should be a white wheelchair on a field of blue. Maximum contrast is desired between the two colors in order to accommodate users with low vision who have difficulty seeing low-contrast items. It is also important to choose colors that have the highest likelihood of maintaining their integrity regardless of the hardware being used to view them. We have chosen blue RGB #0000FF and white RGB #FFFFFF.

Shape

Although our original design was square in shape, we added a circular symbol at the suggestion of University Relations in order to make it more harmonious with design elements on the new UCLA Home Page. We will begin by offering users the choice of either a circle or a square. If other shapes are requested, we will review those requests on a case-by-case basis.

Placement of the Symbol

Placement of signage is crucial to its utility. In the physical world, for example, regulations specify that Braille signage be placed a specific number of inches from the floor and from the frame of the door. This standardization makes it possible for blind people to find signage quickly without having to search a large area.

In cyberspace, placement of signage is important as well. It is difficult for vision-impaired and mobility-impaired users to "search" a web page. They need to know that the Access Web symbol will always be in a certain place on a page in order to be able to find it easily.

We have initially decided that the Access Web symbol (and link) should be placed whenever possible in the bottom portion of the web page. Optimally, it would be no more than three elements from the bottom of the page, with an element roughly corresponding to an image or a paragraph.

Linkage

When the user selects the Access Web link, where does it take them? Our long-term plan is to create a system by which it will take them to the accessibility information that is most directly relevant to them, based on what they were viewing when they selected it. For example, the Access Web link at the bottom of the UCLA Home Page should bring the user to the top level of the Access Web. The Access Web link at the bottom of the Student Information Page should bring the user into the Student section of the Access Web. In the future, a person selecting the Access Web link while viewing information about an event at Royce Hall would be linked to accessibility information specific to Royce.

It is possible that departments will have accessibility information of their own and that they will want to use the Access Web symbol to link to it. Such a linkage might provide even more specific and relevant information for the user than anything the Access Web team might be able to provide. But such a linkage might also provide inaccurate, outdated, irrelevant information, or might even be a broken link.

Quality Control vs. Wide Deployment

Our goal of wide deployment of the Access Web symbol conflicts with our need to ensure that the symbol is used appropriately.

In UCLA's decentralized environment, compliance with Web standards and guidelines is voluntary. At the present time we are not aware of any legal guidelines specific to signage in cyberspace, but we believe it will only be a matter of time before they are created.

In the meantime, we cannot wait for the law to catch up with technology. We want UCLA web pages to link to the Access Web and to provide appropriate information about access. Even more importantly, we want UCLA to continue to provide a leadership role in electronic disability access, and we believe these issues present us with an excellent opportunity to shape future cyberspace signage regulations, through leading by example.

We welcome your questions and comments. Please direct them to David Green, Assistant to the Coordinator, ADA & 504 Compliance Office <dgreen@saonet.ucla.edu>.

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Last updated 11-Mar-97.