Deciphering the Cryptic World of Web Accessibility

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There has been a lot of talk about  Web Accessibility lately – perhaps you have even heard about the WCAG 2.0 Technical requirements? To summarize for those who haven’t, WCAG requirements lay out a series of guidelines to follow, which for school districts and divisions, ensures you are doing your best to remove any technological barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing or interacting with your website.

By following the WCAG guidelines, browsers such as Firefox and Internet Explorer and applications like those found on Mac, which are compliant with screen readers, are able to convert the content on your school sites into synthesized speech, which is one of the main ways people with disabilities access the internet and what make these guidelines so important!

In the fall of 2015, WCAG guidelines were made compulsory in some provinces such as Manitoba and Ontario and may soon be applied more broadly, which is why our team are preparing you for these changes!

Making Your Site Compliant:

There are three different levels of Web Accessibility compliance: A, AA and AAA. At Scholantis, all of our web sites are Level A compliant, as this is currently the highest level of compliance required by any Canadian province.

While we will ensure that your site can comply with the WCAG Level A requirements, all content editors (From web designers to teachers) need to ensure that the content they create complies with these basic tenants:

Web Accessibility (The Basics):

  • Make sure your site has clear and consistent navigation options
  • Use headings and spacing to separate information
  • Images need a detailed label in the ALT tab to provide a text alternative
  • Foreground text needs to have sufficient contrast with background colors
  • Ensure that apps, like forms, include clear and relevant labels
  • Provide alternatives for non-text content like videos
  • When using colour to differentiate web elements, provide additional identification which doesn’t rely on colour, for example, an asterisk (*) for required fields on an entry form.
  • Create sites which can be seen from different browsers and devices (e.g. mobile, tablet and desktop)
  • Create links and buttons which are easy to identify (e.g. changes when mouse hovers over the text/button.)

Writing for Web Accessibility:

  • Informative, unique page titles
  • Use short headings to group related paragraphs and clearly describe the sections.
  • Label your links with specified relevance, rather than phrases like ‘click here’ or ‘read more’.
  • Have text alternatives for images and other media which are important to your content.
  • Provide transcripts/captions for multimedia like videos or podcasts.
  • Keep content, error messages and instructions clear (e.g. use bullet points when writing a list instead of a large lump of text.)

Developing for Web Accessibility (Advanced):

  • Include alternative text for images (e.g. ALT=”” or include them in the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
  • Provide clear instructions, error messages, and notifications to help users complete forms on your site
  • Identity language and language changes (e.g. <html lang =”en”>)
  • Structure your content properly with markup language (e.g. well structured HTML code)
  • Make sure coding reflects the order of the content for the site
  • Create a responsive design which will adapt to different technology (e.g. mobile, desktop)
  • Provide information in coding on function and state for custom widgets, like role=”navigation”
  • Make sure people can tab through your content for navigation.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Modern browsers have made it easier for visitors with disabilities to use the internet. They can now read using zoomed in text, they can use screen readers as mentioned above, which works by converting text using speech synthesizers and braille displays, and anyone who can’t use a mouse will be able to use keyboard navigation, to tab through links.

Making sure your website is accessible and interacts well with these tools is important because it means everyone gets the same user-experience and allows your team to create a great web experience.

Having content that is relevant, organized and properly labeled, aids search engines in reading your site – this means better search results! On top of that, more people can physically see and navigate your website. This means by producing more accessible content, you are making it more visible to a wider audience.

Although WCAG 2.0 standards are not compulsory everywhere, why take the risk of someone missing important information because they can’t see or navigate your site?

How Scholantis Can Help:

We understand that WCAG guidelines can seem complex and daunting, which is why our web developers know the ins and outs so you don’t have to! We can take care of all your WCAG needs, as well as give training to the right people to help them maintain WCAG requirements.

 

REFERENCES

How to meet WCAG 2.0 – An extensive reference guide
WCAG 2 at a Glance – super simplified version
Web Accessibility basics