A site that does not take accessibility into consideration can mean a loss of business and legal challenges. Large corporations and institutions now often face court challenges over the lack of accessibility to content. In 2012, Netflix agreed to provide on-demand close captioning for all their video titles following a court challenge lodged by a Massachusetts resident and both a state and national disability rights organization. If Netflix had designed their service with accessibility in mind from the start, the movie and TV streaming company would have saved both time and money building a barrier-free product.

 

In a previous blog, we took a look at the question of web accessibility. We examined the ways in which your Remote-Learner LMS makes content available to all users through accessibility features in the Atto, text editor. These features assist in making content available to blind or partially sighted users.

 

It’s important to take a hard look at certain basic design principles behind your site or design new content. By following these principles as you go forward, you create a more welcoming and accessible learning experience.

 

Describe All Images

When you illustrate a point with an image or chart, be sure that it is clearly described in the text as well. There are two ways to do this: Alternative Text and cutlines.

 

A browser displays alternative text (Alt Text) tags in place of an image. If a site visitor has turned off images or is using a text-only browser, they will see the alt text instead of an image. Visually impaired visitors often make use of text readers when navigating. In this case, the alt text is read aloud.

 

Cutlines are captions of text describing the image contents, generally placed immediately below the image.

 

Regardless of how you wish to handle it, the text should contain a clear description of the image contents. If there is any text in the image itself, it should also be stated in the alt text or cutline.  The text should be concise and give useful information to a reader who cannot visualize the contents.

 

For example, if your content presents a painting of the Mona Lisa, you cannot only say it is the Mona Lisa. That does not describe the content in a meaningful way. Instead, you might say, “An image of the Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous painting. It is a half-length portrait of a seated young woman. Her face has an enigmatic expression that has sparked considerable discussion over the years.”

Pay Attention to Color Schemes

Partially sighted or color-blind visitors may have trouble identifying variations in color which can make reading text difficult. A significant portion of the population has red-blue color blindness, and other forms of color blindness exist. For this reason, it is important that all text appears in high contrast color schemes. When in doubt, black and white is the safest bet. You should also avoid activities or content that rely on distinguishing between colors, when at all possible.

 

Create Accessible Video and Audio

Video content can be inaccessible in different ways. Blind or partially sighted viewers cannot see the graphical content, whereas deaf and hard-of-hearing users may be unable to access the audio. As such, all videos should present close captioning or offer a complete transcript of the video content. Alternately, you can provide the content of the video as a separate text document.

 

Whichever method you use, you must include any information presented in the form of graphs or images in the transcript. Audio content must likewise come with a complete transcript or an alternative document that shows the essential details of the content.

 

An often overlooked requirement of accessible video and audio is the inclusion of easily accessed start, stop and rewind tools. These functions allow users to follow and process the information at their pace.

 

Check for Keyboard Accessibility

Users may have physical disabilities that make it difficult or even impossible to navigate through a webpage using a mouse or similar pointing device. As such, your webpage should be fully navigable using only a keyboard. Items such as drag-and-drop or point-and-click quizzes should also be accessible with the use of only the tab, arrow, and enter keys. And, you should be able to access every part of your web pages using only those keys.

 

Test Your Site

Various automated web services exist that can test a given webpage and offer suggestions as to ways to improve their accessibility. An example of this service is the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, or WAVE. To use WAVE, just enter the URL of a public page you wish to test, and it will return a report on any issues it finds. WAVE’s tools are not infallible; however, and the best way to check a site is by testing it personally.

 

For more information on web accessibility, there are many online resources. The WebAIM site provides assistance, advice, and links to training. The United States government offers regular news and access to regulations and tools at their Section 508 website. And, for Canadian regulations, refer to the Treasury Board of Canada’s Standard on Web Accessibility guidelines.