What is Web Accessibility?
Going online is something we all do without giving it second thought. But what if you are visually or physically impaired?
When a website can only be navigated by a mouse, or a video doesn’t have closed captioning, a significant amount of your audience has been shut out.
There were nearly 40 million Americans with a disability in 2015, representing 12.6% of the civilian non-institutionalized population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Now think about your international audience – that number increases exponentially.
Websites, tools, and technologies should be designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. Specifically, so people can:
- Perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web
- Contribute to the Web
Major types of disability
Accessibility also supports social inclusion—the elderly, rural-area populations, and people in developing nations are able to connect with others across the street or across the world.
Benefits of an Accessible Website
Web accessibility benefits everyone. When websites are optimized for accessibility, overall user experience and satisfaction improves.
It benefits people without disabilities, including:
- Those using mobile devices
- “Temporary disabilities” like a broken arm or broken glasses
- Situational limitations like bright sunlight
Web Accessibility Laws and Policies
Federal and state regulations require public universities, like UNO, to have accessible websites. Lawsuits and civil rights complaints can be filed against universities for making web content inaccessible.
Learn more about IT Accessibility Laws and Policies
Brand Consistency and Accessibility
Keeping the brand consistent (e.g. colors, message, graphics) throughout the entire UNO website is key to ensuring users know where they are. That might sound odd, but it’s true.
Associating colors and logos with the UNO brand ensures that the audience recognizes the site they’re on, and provides clarity, familiarity, and purpose to the UNO story, strengthening the bond we have with our online visitors.
Because UNO has a clearly defined brand, we have been able to develop accessibility standards within its guidelines. This includes appropriate color contrast, removing drop shadows, and adding visual cues to links.
Accessibility guidelines have been added to the UNO Web Governance Policy:
1.3 ACCESSIBILITY AND SECURITY
UNO digital content must be accessible to all site visitors including those with disabilities. Official UNO sites must follow current legal guidelines, at both the national and state levels. Presentation of digital content should be optimized for all reasonable consumption situations: tablets, smartphones, non-smartphones and other mobile devices, different modern browser brands and versions, and various connectivity speeds. UNOmaha.edu sites and those approved as official exceptions (ie: omavs.com and unoalumni.org) must meet or exceed standards and best practices for system security, secure transactions, and protection of personal data and identity.
UNO’s Accessibility Updates
In 2019, the Digital Team and developers from ITS, with the approval of the Digital Executive Committee, initiated the Web Accessibility Project. This is being conducted in phases, and has not affected the overall usage, integrity, or maintenance of the site.
Phase I: Initial updates included implementing/extending use of W3C guidelines by increasing contrast ratios; creating alternate visual identification for links; removing “texture” or drop shadows behind images/buttons, etc.
How to Make Your Site More Accessible
Implementing these basic elements of accessible design doesn’t take much extra work, in fact Cascade templates already have fields in place for some of them. And, it improves the overall look and “feel” of unomaha.edu, and keeps brand consistency and web best practices at the forefront.
UComm and ITS are working behind the scenes to ensure unomaha.edu and its sub sites are accessible, and there are some things you can do to make sure everyone can read and understand your content, too.
Provide Appropriate Alternative Text
This field is provided in Cascade to help those who use screen readers understand the images on the page. If using an image for decorative purposes, select the "this is a decorative image" checkbox so the screen reader can ignore the image.
Write a Descriptive Page Title
This is the first piece of content on a page, and the first element announced by screen readers. This helps people with visual limitations quickly understand if they are on the correct page.
Avoid Using All Capital Letters
In common usage, using all caps implies you are shouting. It also makes it difficult for people with cognitive disabilities like dyslexia to read content. Use all caps only when writing an acronym.
Appropriate Page Structure
Using heading tags (H tags) and bulleted lists provides meaning and order to a page. Users can also tab through a page when keyboard navigation is needed. And, also helps people quickly scan the page for information they want, which results in a lower bounce rate.
- H Tags should be used in numerical order, top to bottom.
- H1 is actually the title of the page (there should not be more than one h1 tag on a page).
- H2 tags should be used as a subheading to denote different sections of information on the page. H2 subheadings should include specific information about what the user is about to read.
- H3 tags are then subheadings of your H2 tag, and so on.
- Don’t skip levels (e.g. don’t use an h5 if you don’t use h2, h3, h4)
- Don’t use an empty H tag to add extra spacing to pages.
Provide Headers for Data TablesIf you need to use a table to display data, make sure there is a header for the table. This ensures that the user can tab through the fields in a way that makes sense.
Provide Links That Make Sense out of Context
Each link should make sense when read by itself. It should contain specific words about the link behind it. Screen reader users sometimes obtain an alphabetically-organized list of links, so an entire list of “Click Here” or “Here” isn’t going to make a lot of sense.
Provide Captions and Transcripts
Not only does this help with auditory disabilities, it helps those understand what’s happening in a loud or busy environment, or those who need to use information from a video for writing purposes.
Make Sure Your Video Isn’t Set to Autoplay
Not only does setting a video to autoplay go against web best practices, the exposure to flashing lights at certain intervals and intensities can trigger seizures in people with photosensitivity epilepsy.
And for those with visual impairments, it makes them scramble to find the “pause” and “replay” buttons. It can also affect page loading times, and really, it’s just annoying!
If you'd like assistance creating more accessible content for your web pages, contact the Digital Communications team.