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 people with disabilities or not.
Accessibility means making web content available for as many users as possible. Visitors who should be taken into account when thinking about accessibility on the web are often not just visitors with impairments, but users with slow connectivity or small screens, users who speak English as their second language (ESL), or users who are new/inexperienced with technologies. At VCU, diversity and inclusion are the norm, and users who require additional accommodations to browse VCU’s online resources shouldn’t be an afterthought or exception.
In addition to VCU's specific website checklist, all VCU websites are required to comply with the following general accessibility guidelines:
- Pages must include skip to content links
- Title tags need to be unique for each page
- Form inputs need to have associated labels
- The entire site needs be navigable with only the keyboard
- Non-trivial images must include alt text
- Links need to have meaningful text and tell users where they are being pointed to
- For all PDFs, users must be able to highlight text in a logical order and copy it to another program
- Videos have to be captioned
- Pages must set an appropriate language
- Suitable color contrast ratios between text and background
It is a requirement that all VCU websites are compliant to the WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) requirements. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the WCAG 2.0 guideline.
|The website passes the WCAG 2.0 Level AA accessibility standard.||✔|
|The website contains a link to a “text only” version of the website.||✔|
|The website contains zero HTML validation errors.||✔|
|The website contains a "Skip to content" anchor link after the opening body tag.||✔|
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. Technology Services provides a script that will dynamically convert any VCU webpage to a text only version. Once in the text-only version users can surf around to any VCU page in text only mode. A text site is a supplement, not a replacement for an accessible website.
To enable the text only version on your page, insert the following link into the footer signature of your page.
>View text version</
How to check accessibility
There are many different audiences who require different accommodations based on their disabilities and needs. The four main categories of which people with disabilities fall under are visual, auditory, motor, and conceptual. Due to this variety of disabilities, websites need to be made accessible to all audiences in the same manner as it is accessible to people without disabilities. While automated tools can often help identify issues, creating and maintaining an accessible website ultimately requires human judgment, reasoning and action. When possible it is good practice to do in person testing of your website with a variety of users to make sure the website able to be navigated and the content consumed.
Continuous reporting with SiteImprove
Technology Services has partnered with SiteImprove to provide web governance software to VCU's organizational websites. The software can be used identify accessibility errors, broken links, spelling mistakes, readability scores for content and other helpful insights to make your web pages friendly for VCU's web visitors. Account users have the ability to login to a dashboard or view statistics sent in a periodic email. To get an account with for VCU's SiteImprove please submit a Service Desk ticket at go.vcu.edu/webhelp with what VCU websites you need to begin getting reports for.
Scan your individual pages
Technology Services provides the AChecker tool to scan your pages for accessibility compliance issues and HTML validation. The AChecker tool defaults to check your pages against the WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) requirements.
If you need to scan a page that is behind a login or some type of firewall 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).
Checking the accessibility of PDFs
Content creators making accessible PDF files should follow similar guidelines as HTML web pages in regards to using appropriate document structure and markup. At a minimum, users should be able to highlight the text of the PDF in a logical order and copy the text content out of the PDF and into another program. SiteImprove's continuous reporting will also check for PDF accessibility and provide tips on how to repair issues. Additionally, Adobe's Acrobat Pro software has accessibility tools built in to remediate issues during the initial creation.
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.
- SiteImprove's Accessibility Checker Chrome Extension, a tool to help evaluate any web page for accessibility issues. It provides intuitive, visual feedback about your content by highlighting and detecting issues right on the page.
- Jim Thatcher's Side by Side comparison of WCAG vs 508 standard.
- Lea Verou's WCAG 2.0 color contrast tool helps web developers decide what color combinations provide enough contrast to meet the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
- The Accessibility Project, a community-driven effort to make web accessibility easier.
- TotA11y, a open sourced browser bookmark tool to check the accessibility on your website.
- 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.
- 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.