Virginia Commonwealth University

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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. Accessibility issues can affect anyone: type can be unreadable because of poor contrast, images may not download because of a slow connection or broken server, a user may disable javascript for security reasons, or a user may have any of hundreds of different handicaps that make reading or using a website difficult.

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.

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.

Text alternatives

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.