Deadline moves up for digital accessibility

The implementation of Iowa State's digital accessibility policy will occur a couple of months earlier because of a new federal deadline.


A digital accessibility toolkit is available and includes guidelines, resources and tools to assist faculty and staff in numerous areas. It has LinkedIn Learning pathways with curated courses. A required training module also is being developed in Workday Learning similar to Title IX and free speech training.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently updated regulations in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that public entities' web content and mobile apps are accessible and compliant by April 24, 2026. ISU's policy was set for full implementation by July 1, 2026, but the federal rule supersedes university policy. Ensuring all ISU courses satisfy regulations will be key for departments and instructors between now and the deadline.

"This is not a major change (except in the case of course materials), and we have already started updating our university policy. We are working with university counsel, spoken with senior leadership and have been working toward this for some time," said Cyndi Wiley, digital accessibility lead for Information Technology Services. "Federal rules align the web content accessibility guidelines -- which have become the global standard -- specifically to the ADA for the first time."

Wiley said the regulations impact nearly all campus communication that occurs on a screen. The pressing issue for departments and instructors is to determine updates needed in their courses to comply and identify funds to accomplish it. The DOJ recommends $2,000 per course for the first year, in addition to a 10-year sustainability plan. The bulk of the cost is employee hours to ensure compliance.

“The cost for the first two years is so departments can create an inventory of its courses and software that is required for classes (like external apps -- referred to as LTIs -- in Canvas)," Wiley said. "It is also for remediating course content and building new courses that are accessible from the start.”

Digital accessibility ensures all students can learn to the best of their ability. Wiley said digital accessibility standards also factor in program and university accreditation.

Helpful software

The most significant change between the proposed changes made by the DOJ and those adopted in April is the addition of course materials, which were not part of the proposed changes. 

Anthology Ally is software that works in Canvas to automatically check course content and files for accessibility issues and delivers guidance to instructors to improve it.

"We work with the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching to use Ally, which has the capability to do institutional reporting. We know how many courses we have in Canvas each semester, which courses have some accessibility issues and what departments those fall under," Wiley said.

Wiley presented the information to college associate deans who shared it with department chairs to work with faculty. A communications plan is being developed to alert faculty to the new requirements and ways to incorporate them when most return to campus this fall.

Siteimprove is ISU's tool to ensure web accessibility and compliance for public facing and internal websites, such as Workday, ServiceNow and others. Wiley said work continues to ensure compliance.

Department liaisons

Wiley recommends departments select a liaison to join a digital accessibility work group that will launch this fall.

"The digital accessibility team will share information and updates with the liaison group, who will pass it on to their departments," Wiley said. "It will allow us to set up a regular meeting schedule and discuss tools that have been or will be developed to help departments with the change. If additional tools are necessary, this is where that could be brought to the group."


ISU has had a digital accessibility policy with stepped implementation since February 2022. The next benchmark is Aug. 1 for all Canvas courses to have a score of 80% or higher.

After that, the next benchmark is Aug. 1, 2025, when all public-facing webpage content must have a 95% or higher score in Siteimprove and all online courses must be at 85% or higher in Ally.