Why is accessibility important?
Accessibility is one of many keys to providing a better user experience on your website. The basic purpose of accessibility guidelines is to help guide web creators toward practices that can make their sites easier to use for everyone, whether they are handicapped or not.
Building an accessible website means building a website that's meant to be accessed and used by anyone. It means making sure your site works whether the images, stylesheets, or scripts load or not. It means making sure your text is readable in a variety of lighting conditions, for a variety of users who may or may not have vision impairment. Accessibility can mean a lot of things, but fortunately it's not too difficult to achieve a fairly accessible site.
Of course, accessibility standards for university websites are also mandated by the federal government within Section 508.
Scan your page
Technology Services provides the AChecker tool to scan your pages for accessibility compliance issues. If you need to scan a page that is behind a login you can use the "HTML File Upload" or "Paste HTML Markup" options of the checker. To get the source code of the page, right click on the page and navigate to "View page source" (or the equivalent for your browser).
Helpful tools & resources
Below are some helpful tools and resources to help you learn more about accessibility and test your websites to make sure they are as accessible as possible. See our Section 508 checklist and example code for help making your site more accessible.
- Virginia's Web Accessibility Template Guide covers the web accessibility requirements and suggestions for the state of Virginia.
- Penn State's Accessibility Guide is an extraordinarily comprehensive and informative guide to the issues and solutions of building accessible websites.
- Section 508: Uncle Sam's Guide to Web Accessibility is a great introduction to the basic requirements of Section 508.
- HiSoftware Cynthia Says is a useful tool for testing your site for Section 508 and WCAG accessibility compliance.
- The Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox is an essential tool for testing websites for much more than just accessibility.
- Colour Contrast Check is a useful tool for checking the degree of contrast between foreground and background colors you might be using.
- Vischeck can show what a website will look like to various types of color blind users.
If an organizational page requires graphics or audio to get the meaning from the page, an alternative "text-only" or transcript page should be made available for people who may not be able to view the graphics or hear the audio. The VCU Text site has tools to dynamically generate a text version of your site; the VCU Text site does not generate *new* alternate text for graphics but uses the text you have provided. A text site is a supplement, not a replacement for an accessible website.