Website Accessibility

Mount Union's website is currently in the process of meeting accessibility standards set forth by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).  These guidelines are part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which was developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium, (W3C). Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act outlines many of these requirements, and all website editors and publishers are becoming familiar with them.

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What does Website Accessibility mean?

Website Accessibility is making ones website compliable with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).  These guidelines were created to allow those with disabilities to still have full access to all that the internet has to offer, including written text and multimedia content.  The newest version of these guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are based on four key principles of accessibility.

  • Preceivable: Available to the senses (vision and hearing primarily) either through the browser or through assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, screen enlargers, etc.)
  • Operable: Users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device.
  • Understandable: Content is clear and limits confusion and ambiguity.
  • Robust: A wide range of technologies (including old and new user agents and assistive technologies) can access the content.

Read more about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).


 

How do you implement web accessibility on a page?

Before anyone can make their web site accessible, they must understand accessibility, be committed to ensuring accessibility, learn how to implement accessibility, and understand their legal obligations.

Awareness/Understanding: Web developers are not against the idea of making the internet accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities.  Most accessibility problems come from a lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility, not because the developers want to make their pages less accessible to all.  Raising awareness and understanding of how to make a web page or web site more accessible is the first step in being able to implement web accessibility easily on their page.

Leadership/Management: Being aware and understanding the problem isn't the end all be all of the conversation on accessibility on web pages.  It is important that the leadership or management keep accessibility as a priority for the web development team and the individual developers.  Without the accountability from the leadership, some will make their pages accessible and others may not because it is not expected of them.

Policies/Procedures: As leadership and management embrase accessibility on their web site, and the developers are aware and understand accessibility, it is important to implement certain policies and procedures when developing pages.  These policies and procedures will become the norm for developers so accessibility is not lost in the routine of the work day.

 

All three of these steps should be taken in order to properly implement the idea of accessibility on a web site, from top to bottom in an organization or company.  Taking these to make a website more accessible will mean that the pages will reach everyone, including those using screen readers as well as others whom have disabilities.


 

How do you make your website more accessible?

Provide alternate text to images

When using the HTML tags, ensure that when images are added to provide alternate text for the image using the <alt> tag.  The alternate text should also have any text within the image as well.  When using this tag, refrain from using phrases like, "picture of...", "image of...", "logo", or "photo".  The alt tag is read outloud by screenreading software as well as appears if the browser has images disabled.  If a caption is provided for the image, the alt tag is not necessary to provide, unless the image has content, text, that is important.

Provide a longer text alternative for infographics

Try and refrain from using infographics with high-dense information or has a large amount of important information, such as graphs or charts.  If it is unavoidable and infographics must be used, provide a longer alternate text to properly explain the infographic.  This text should be provided on the same page and have a link, before the infographic that can take the user to the text explaination.  With the link, a heading, such as, "Alternate Text" should be provided to add further clarification to the page.

Closed-caption ALL videos

Ensure that all videos embedded on your website have the closed-caption setting turned on as default.  This means that whenever a video is played on the website captions are automatically displayed.  Also, try not to have links to videos that take the user off of the page, rather have that video embedded onto your website properly.  This makes certain that no video displayed or used on the website do not have the closed-caption on.

Use descriptive, sensable link labels

When links are added to the page, ensure that the link properly describes and makes sense for what the link is and/or where it will take the user.  Refrain from using "click here" or "more", but instead use a longer, more descriptive phrase for links. For example instead of using "To Register Click here" make the link the whole phrase "To Register Click here".

Use Headings within the content

As a web developer, use Headings throughout the page, within the content on the page to make the page more organized and easy to follow, for users with disablities as well as user without.  The use of Headings before tables is also very important in the clarity of the page.  A Heading before a table is essential, but Headings throughout the content of the page should be used to help with clarification for users browsing your page.

Ensure users can complete and submit all forms

Make sure that forms on your website are organized well and can be completed and submitted easily.  Ensure that their are labels for all area that require user input and are clearly explained as well as known if it is required for completion of the form.  To make these labels, use the <label> HTML tag to make the form even more clear.  Also, ensure that if their is an error in the information provided or a required element is empty, it is clearly explained and easy to fix and resubmit. 

Provide appropriate document structure

Headings, lists, and other structural elements provide meaning and structure to web pages.  They can also facilitate keyboard navigation within the page.  This will allow the page to be more organized and clarity when the page is structured using these elements.

Do not rely on color alone to convey meaning

Color is a great way to get information to users in a organized fashion, but as a web developer do not solely rely on color to get the information to the user.  The information will not be able to reach to those who are colorblind or using a screen reader.  The color of text, or graphics will not matter to those who can not see if.  If color is used, ensure that the colors contrast and can easily be seen and read by those who are colorblind as well as those who are not. 

Make sure content is clearly written and easy to read

The page must make sense and the content must be written and organized in a fashion that is easy to read and understand.  All pages should be well organized, easy to read and easy to understand, but when making a page to be more accessible, this is even more important to be user friendly for those with disablities.

Ensure accessibility of non-HTML content, including PDF files, Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Adobe Flash content. 

Make sure that pages or links that direct the user to any non-HTML content such as PDFs Word documents, Powerpoints, or Adobe Flash content is accessible as well.  If you cannot make it accessible, consider using HTML instead or, at the very least, provide an accessible alternative. PDF documents should also include a series of tags to make it more accessible. A tagged PDF file looks the same, but it is almost always more accessible to a person using a screen reader.


 

Future updates for the Mount Union website.

The University of Mount Union continues to make changes to the mountunion.edu web site to make the site more accessible to reach everyone who has access to the internet.  There are many more updates planned for the future to ensure that the web site is as accessible as possible to reach everyone.

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