What is Web accessibility?
Accessibility generally means equal or equivalent access by a person with a disability. A website is considered accessible if it can be used as effectively by people with disabilities as by those without. However, this does not mean that individuals will have a parallel experience. For example, it would be very difficult for a blind user to complete a task on a website as quickly as an individual who can see. This is due to the fact that listening takes longer than looking at the screen and reading. What it does mean is that a blind parent visiting your website should be able to get the same information as a person who can see.
Does accessibility mean different things for different people?
Yes, it depends on who you are, what you do, and what technologies you use to engage with content. For a blind user, it might mean having technology work with the screen reader software they use. On the other hand, a user with attention deficit disorder might be looking for a website that does not have flashing or blinking objects they find distracting. Also, to a color-blind user, a website is accessible when color is not used to convey meaning and there is a significant contrast between colors. And, a user with mobility impairment sees accessibility as being able to use a website with limited fine motor skills and to navigate without needing a mouse.
Why does it matter if I make my websites accessible?
In addition to complying with state and federal laws and policies, making your communications accessible is important both as a matter of fairness when attempting to reach your audience. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 57 million Americans have some type of disability, with 31 million having a mobility disability and 16 million a sensory disability involving sight or hearing. Ensuring that your websites are accessible is critical for successful communications.
Are there standards or laws for accessibility that I must comply with?
While there are numerous U.S. federal laws and regulations that protect the rights of disabled individuals (including ADA, IDEA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), few address technology in detail. The passage of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 originally resulted in the Electronic & Information Technology Accessibility Standards, which define the minimum level of accessibility for websites developed or used by the federal government. They cover a broad spectrum of electronic and information technologies, including web content. The standards are the only set of technology accessibility standards that have their basis in the law, so these became the de facto objective standards to build from and measure against.
Concurrent to this federal procurement standard, the first set of formal guidelines for identifying how to develop web accessible content was published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in May 1999. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0) deﬁne how to make web content more accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. The successor WCAG 2.0 were published in December 2008 and became an ISO standard, ISO/IEC 40500: 2012 in October 2012.
Together Section 508 and the WCAG guidelines outline the technical and behavioral principles that should be followed to ensure websites and related digital content are accessible.
Yet, accessibility rules and guidelines are always evolving. The formalization of WCAG 2.0 in 2016 was followed very quickly by calls for comments on WCAG 2.1 and 3.0. To stay abreast of the latest large-scale accessibility efforts affecting websites, visit http://ncdae.org/resources/articles/systemchange.php.
How are individuals with disabilities able to use websites and related online technology?
There are a number of assistive technologies, devices, software, or techniques that help individuals with disabilities when they visit websites or use related digital technologies. These include screen readers, refreshable Braille displays, screen magnifiers, onscreen or other specialized keyboards, and word prediction software.
Websites designed with accessibility in mind are designed so visitors can use these assistive technologies to navigate and interact with content. In some cases, universal design principles can enable integration of accessibility within the website, minimizing the need for external assistive technologies.
What are the key elements of an accessible website?
For a website to be considered accessible, it must adhere to the following key elements:
• All information on the website is explicitly labeled, using alternative text for each item, including images and image links.
• Visitors can navigate the site with the keyboard without the need for a mouse. They should also be able to activate objects with the keyboard and move through the site in tab order.
• The site has focus control, providing the user with the ability to control keyboard and reading focus within a web page or application. Keyboard focus is the on-screen location where keyboard actions will be interpreted by the application. It is often indicated visually by the cursor or a selection highlight, or programmatic dotted rectangle. Reading focus is the on-screen location where a screen reader begins to render content from. Users who are blind, have low vision, or have mobility impairment all rely heavily on proper control of keyboard and reading focus when browsing web based content.
What website elements can “break” accessibility?
There are a number of digital content types and website elements that can weaken accessibility. Some examples include PDF or other document files that are formatted so a screen reader cannot read the text in logical order, video files that do not include captions, or external website content that is embedded into the website which may not be accessible on its own. It is important to evaluate all new content and technology integrations to make sure your website remains as accessible as possible.
Are there any tools available that can help us evaluate the current accessibility of our websites?
Yes, please visit the Accessibility Resources page to learn more about the tools you can use to ensure your website is accessible.
Where can I get training on creating accessible PDF's?
All Texas State faculty, students, and staff have access to Lynda.com training online. You can learn how to create an accessible PDF, including interactive PDF's that are accessible at https://www.lynda.com/InDesign-tutorials/Accessible-PDFs/476622/555290-4.html?org=txstate.edu.
How can I easily add a link to the Adobe Acrobat Reader to all pages in my site?
The easiest way to add a link to the Adobe Acrobat Reader is to add it to the footer on your homepage (topmost page in your site). This will cause the link to appear in the footer on every page in your site.
- Log into Gato edit at https://gato-edit.its.txstate.edu.
- Navigate to the home page for your site and open it in edit mode.
- Open the footer to edit the text/code.
- Copy and paste the code below into a separate line at the bottom of any other text, then save changes and publish the page. You should see the new icon/link on all pages in your site.
<a href="https://get.adobe.com/reader/"><img src="http://gato-docs.its.txstate.edu/jcr:9d99b2a1-2d5a-49c5-98c3-ae46892c3f23/Get_Adobe_Acrobat_Reader_DC_web_button_158x39.fw.png" alt="Get Adobe Acrobat Reader"></a>
Is it better to create and share an accessible PDF or Word document?
As far as accessibility is concerned, PDF and Word are fairly equal so long as you create and share an accessible version of the document. The reason you might choose to create and share a PDF instead of a Word document is more likely based on one or more of the following differences:
- PDFs are Universal. Editing documents in Word can be easy and useful, but if you save a Word document on a Mac, it may not visually transfer the same way it would to a PC or mobile device. On the other hand, PDF's are viewed the same way across all devices.
- Decreased File Size. You can convert any file into a PDF without sacrificing quality. You even have the ability to merge multiple documents, such as spreadsheets, photos, and presentations, into a single PDF file that can be shared as a much smaller file than even the original independent files.
- Free to Read. Most PDF Readers, including the Adobe Acrobat Reader, are free. This ensures that anyone you send the file to will be able to see the full version of your document.
- Interaction. Texas State faculty, students and staff can use Adobe Acrobat Professional to create a fully interactive experience, by including hyperlinks, rich media, music, movies, and many other advanced features. To get more information about Adobe at Texas State visit the Adobe CC for Faculty and Staff page.
- Mobile Access. Adobe Acrobat Reader is available on any device; individuals can read your PDF files anywhere they want, while still accessing a lot of the same functionality they would have on a desktop device.
- Completely Searchable. Individuals can easily find what they are looking for through a quick search of the document. PDF documents can even be organized with a table of contents that link all sections to the appropriate pages in the file.
I know I should avoid "click here" for links on the Web. Does that also apply to documents?
Yes, the same guidelines that exist for accessible Web content also exist for accessible documents (e.g. - PDF, Word, and PowerPoint) Instead of saying "click here," provide viewers with descriptive text to help them (and the screen reader they may be using) with information about where they will be directed once they follow the link.
A good example would be, "Visit the How to Apply (Parents) page to learn more about how to borrow funds through a parent loan at Texas State University."
How can I get an updated digital copy of my accessibility audit report?
Accessibility audit reports are available on an as needed basis for individual website owners, managers, and editors to resolve accessibility issues in their sites. To get an updated copy of your website's report, send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your website name with the request.
Also, editors will need to have the website manager/owner's approval. Forward the written approval with the request and/or copy the manager/owner on the request to confirm approval.
How do I know what errors I can fix when looking at my accessibility audit report?
Reading through an automated accessibility audit report can be challenging. Many of the descriptions provided may not be clear enough to help you assess what you need to fix in your site. If you find yourself in this situation, please reach out to the Gato support team at email@example.com or 245-5566.
As we learn more about the automated reports, we create a library/legend of relationships between the technical information provided in the report and the steps/guidance for resolving the issue. In addition, Gato support will be working on a list of known template issues we are working on to ensure the Texas State Web community are updated on our combined progress.
What is the best way to handle alternative (ALT) text for images, videos and links?
Alternative (ALT) text is used to describe a visual aspect of the page that individuals cannot see. It is read aloud by a screen reader as the reader moves through the page content.
While ALT text should be brief, it should also consider the critical aspects of the item. Context is extremely important where ALT text is used, because it describes the importance of the image, video or link in he same way I sighted person would interpret the item visually.
While ALT text is the responsibility of the individual website owner(s), manager(s) and editor(s), there are ways to streamline our efforts. Gato support will be working with public image/video repository owners across campus to encourage the use of ALT tags, key words, and other relevant metadata to improve the information sharing experience.
Is there a specific style of fomatting that is better for screen readers, such as accordian (FAQ)?
While it is true that individuals are more likely to listen to an entire page if they are unfamiliar with a site and/or the content is very important to them, most of the time they attempt to find what they are looking for as quickly as possible.
Headings, landmarks, searches within pages, and lists of links (or tabbing from link to link) are among the most common methods an individual utilizing a screen reader may employ to find content quickly in a site.
Most modern screen readers will:
- Let users know where lists begin and end, including how many items there are in a list
- Allow users to navigate through data tables, going from cell to cell and (as long as the table has been marked up correctly) pointing ou the headings for each cell
- Navigate from heading to heading, povinding a list of links organized alphabetically where individuals can use the tab key to navigate to links and form controls, and search within the page for keywords, among other methods
The point is, even though the content is linear, individuals who utilie screen readers usually have many options for navigating through content, and each person has their own preferred method. As long as your content is appropriately organized by headings and includes descriptive attributes for the screen reader to provide contextual information, your site will provide a better user experience.
For additional information related to Web formatting relative to screen readers, please visit the WebAim: Testing with Screen Readers question and answer page.