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Web Accessibility

Think about your audience as you construct your web pages. A variety of users will navigate to your pages so it is important to take the extra effort to increase your website’s overall accessibility and usability. According to the World Wide Web Consortium, to be accessible, web content must be:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

For more on these principles, please visit Accessibility Principles.

People with disabilities make up about 20% of the population. That is roughly 1 in every 5 people. Some disabilities include blindness, low vision, color blindness, auditory disabilities, motor disabilities, cognitive disabilities, and seizure disorders. Some members of your audience may rely on assistive technologies in order to access your website.

Disabilities and Assistive Technologies:

Disability

Assistive Technologies

Blindness

•Screen readers

•Refreshable Braille devices

Low Vision

•Screen enlargers

•Screen readers

Color Blindness

•Color enhancement overlays or glasses

Deafness

•Captions

•Transcripts

Motor/Mobility Disabilities

•Alternative keyboards/input devices

•Eye gaze tracking

•Voice Activation

Cognitive Disabilities

•Screen readers

•Screen overlays

•Augmentative communication aids

 

It may be of use to understand how screen readers work. Screen readers are a kind of speech synthesizer that reads text outloud, allowing blind people to access information independently, without having to have direct assistance from someone else. This software responds to text depending on the textual formatting. The text for the title, for example, is formatted with Heading 1 and so the screen reader understands this is the title. If your text is broken up by formatting with Heading 2 through 6, the screen reader understands the hierarchy associated with this formatting and will be able to read or skip to a section accordingly.

As the content manager for your website, it is important to remember that assistive technologies do not completely compensate for a disability. Much like a wheelchair, web-based assistive technologies can enable access, but they are most effective when specific measures are taken in the building of your web environment. Similarly to how a wheelchair ramp helps a wheelchair user get into a building, using the correct HTML tags, headers, and clear link text can help someone using a screen reader in order to access your website.

Generally, the WYSIWYG will handle HTML tags for you, and as a general user you will only need to pay attention to how accessible your content is. However, if you will be writing your own HTML code please visit our documentation on HTML, PHP, JavaScript, and Web Accessibility.

According to Deque University - the comprehensive web accessibility curriculum online - there are several benefits of designing for accessibility:

  • Accessibility Improves People's Lives
    Accessible web sites take what was previously impossible (such as independent access by a blind person to information) and makes it possible.

  • Accessibility Improves Public Perception
    If your website is accessible, it shows that you are committed to equal opportunity and fairness. It shows that you care.

  • Accessibility Increases Compatibility
    By designing for accessibility, you must pay attention to how your website appears in many platforms, browsers, and devices.

  • Accessibility Improves Search Engine Optimization
    Accessible websites are more easily recognized by search engines.

  • Accessibility Increases Your Eligibility for Funding
    As a research institution, MSU seeks to make research as accessible as possible. Knowing how to make your research accessible, and having a track record to show that you have done so in the past, are two aspects you can indicate on grant proposals.

  • Accessibility Helps You Avoid Lawsuits
    Creating inaccessible websites is actually against the law. Section 508 of the ADA Guidelines specifically defines the measures you must take to keep your websites accessible. To view these guidelines, visit Section 508 Compliance, ADA Guidelines.

 

The World Wide Web Consoritum, or W3C, manages the technical specifications for HTML, XML, and other web technologies. In 1996 W3C formed the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to create technical guidelines for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. For more information the WAI, please visit the Web Accessibility Initiative homepage.

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