Web Accessibility

What Is Web Accessibility?

“Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed.” (Source: Wikipedia). 

WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 are a set of recommendations for making web content more accessible, published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The underlying principles of these guidelines dictate that content should be:

  1. Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
    • This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can’t be invisible to all of their senses)
  2. Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
    • This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
  3. Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
    • This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding)
  4. Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
    • This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)”

Source: W3C’s Understanding WCAG 2.0.

Some Initial Recommendations

It’s important to factor in a consideration of web accessibility from the very beginning of planning your website, to ensure that your site is accessible to all users. There will always be things to update, or issues you might need to catch later, but incorporating accessibility into your web design from the get-go will help you build a stronger and more functional website for all users.

When using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, many accessibility considerations are already built-in, so there are things you can let your CMS take care of for you.

Here are some initial recommendations of things to consider:

  • Structure & Layout
    • ensure a logical document/page structure (nest your headings correctly: H2 > H3 > H4) 
    • use tables only for tabular data, not for page layout
  • Design
    • consider your use of color (color contrasts, colors that are too bright, colors conveying meaning…) 
    • consider the legibility of your typeface and font size 
  • Content
    • break up walls of text 
    • provide text alternatives to multimedia content (alternative text, a.k.a. alt text, for images, captions or transcripts for videos), and ensure accessibility of other external files (such as PDFs)
    • create links that make sense out of context (avoid “click here”)

Check Your Work

There are tools out there that can evaluate the accessibility of your site based on its URL and give you feedback to help you improve your site’s accessibility. Once such tool is the excellent WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool: simply plug in your site’s URL, run the evaluation, and read through the feedback provided. The tool gives you a rundown of accessibility errors, color contrast errors, alerts for things that could potentially use improvement, and even highlights the accessibility features that have been used correctly.

There are also tools that can check specifically for color accessibility for colorblindness. One such example is Toptal, which shows you how your site looks to users with different types of colorblindness.

Application-Specific Resources

MediaWiki

Omeka

  • Image file titles are used for alt text, so make sure to name your image files accordingly before uploading them to Omeka.
  • See Omeka’s Accessibility Statement for information on both front and back end accessibility.

WordPress

  • Look for accessibility ready themes.
  • Make use of accessibility plugins.
  • Check out WordPress’s own Make WordPress Accessible handbook.

Additional Resources

There are offices here at Grinnell that can support you in the creation of an accessible website:

Do some further reading:

And check out courses through Grinnell’s LinkedIn Learning subscription, available to all students, staff, and faculty, such as their UX Foundations: Accessibility tutorial.