Do you understand what this blog is about? If you believe it will give you information about how we can make our website as accessible as possible then the title has done its job.
I have, obviously, over-egged the pudding to make a point [do you all understand that metaphor? If not, it is not accessible]. But the first step on the road to an accessible website is to have a title for each page that tells the reader what they can find on the page. And that continues through the initial content, the subheads, the images, everything. At no point do we want our audience to be wondering what our page is about.
That is the first stage of accessibility. And it is also the first item in our content checklist titled How to achieve AA accessibility rating:
- Your web page must have a title that describes its topic or purpose
You will be thinking that goes without saying but one of the biggest blockers for accessibility is assumed knowledge.
A short story
Let me tell you a story. A short one.
I put together a list of 15 points specifically relating to content and how to make it accessible. I shared this list with a few people and asked for feedback. I was slightly embarrassed to get replies back saying: “What does this mean?”
Clearly my list wasn’t accessible. Not everybody knows what an “alt tag” is and what it does. I do and had assumed everyone else did as well. The checklist has now been updated with better descriptions. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. All feedback welcomed.
It’s the law
We have an approaching legal requirement to make our website accessible. And we need to achieve an AA accessibility rating. We have put together our content checklist on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. This is what WCAG says about accessibility:
“Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your web content more usable to users in general.”
And this is our AA content accessibility checklist:
- Your web page must have a title that describes its topic or purpose.
- All images must have “alt tags”. This is a description of the image and can be added in the Media Library in the “Description” field. NB when creating a media gallery, ensure you use a different description for each image.
- The purpose of each link on the page can be determined from the link text alone. Do not use simply ‘Click here’ or ‘Read more’.
- Use easy-read alternatives to technically advanced text. Ideally text should be written to be easily readable by all levels of ability.
- Only play sound if user activates it [unless there is a good reason otherwise].
- Do not rely solely on shape, size, visual location, orientation or sound for understanding or navigation. Eg avoid content such as “click on the triangular button on the right when the music starts”.
- Do not change context (eg go to another page, play video) unless this is activated by the user. We want our users’ journey through our website to be as predictable as possible.
- Provide submit buttons to initiate change of context (eg go to another page, play video) and warn users in advance when opening a new window [opens in new window].
- Avoid images of text as these cannot be read by screen readers (logos are OK – with the appropriate alt tag).
- If language changes within the text, mark it in the source code so it is recognised by screen readers. Eg if there is a paragraph in French, use code <p lang=”fr”>Il y a un paragraphe en francais.</p>
- Information conveyed by colour differences should also be explained in text. For instance, the following four points are technical and will need to be discussed with video/audio providers.
- Provide a text transcript of audio-only content.
- Provide captions for all prerecorded audio/video content. Note: captions include subtitles plus text to describe important sounds.
- Provide a second audio track on all prerecorded video to provide audio description – or a second version of the video with audio description.
- Provide captions on live audio content.
We are testing our accessibility regularly using the SiteMorse platform and updating our pages where necessary.
We are also taking steps to improve our methods and our content types as we learn more about what is required. For instance, users can now toggle captions on and off on video within the website, and we now have the provision to add text transcripts to video files. We are also investigating the possibility of users being able to toggle to pared down, less visually noisy versions of pages. Every day’s a school day.
What we need now is for our content producers to make sure any new content achieves these AA standards.
All new video we upload to the website must have captions and we also want to add a full transcript of what is said in our videos. By the time the law applies to us, we need to make sure EVERY video, new or old, on our website has both of these features. NOTE: We cannot rely on YouTube’s auto captions. They seem to work OK a lot of the time but will then say something jawdroppingly embarrassing. We do not want this. We now have guidance on how to correct subtitles and create transcripts.
Accessibility is a challenge and one we intend to meet well before it becomes a legal requirement. The bigger challenge is to make sure the website is accessible while also being appealing and engaging to all our users.