Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation (PhD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Brent Williams

Committee Member

Lynn Koch

Second Committee Member

Stephanie Lusk


Accessibility, Auto-validation, Rehabilitation, Section 508, Software Validation, Usability


The problem observed in this study is the low level of compliance of higher education website accessibility with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The literature supports the non-compliance of websites with the federal policy in general. Studies were performed to analyze the accessibility of fifty-four sample web pages using automated testing via auto-validation tools and using manual testing via assistive technology, followed by a comparative analysis of the findings of the auto validation tools. The auto-validation tools utilized on the sample web pages were comprised of three W3C validation tools. The results showed that two-thirds of the websites failed Priority 1 validation, while one hundred percent of the websites failed to meet the Priority 2 and Priority 3 validation. In addition, three web pages were tested against Section 508 guidelines. The result of the manual testing by assistive technology confirmed that all three websites failed to meet the minimum requirement of federal policy. Moreover, a comparative analysis between the validations of the W3C tools showed that significant differences existed between the findings of each auto-validation tool.

The findings of this study implied that passing the evaluations of auto validation tools is not enough to ensure accessible websites to individuals with disabilities. It is important to utilize assistive tools to determine web accessibility as it appears to individuals with disabilities. Recommendations were made for improvements such as encouraging universities to provide training for website managers and implementing the mandatory use of screen-readers as a validation tool.