Accessibility

UVic has an equal access policy, guaranteeing equal access to all services for everyone.

The university strives to ensure that all UVic websites are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. All top level UVic websites are required to follow the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) accessibility guidelines. Faculties and departments are also encouraged to check and update the most important parts of their sites.

Looking for information on accessibility on campus

When redesigning a site for accessibility, it is important to know how a screen reader interprets HTML.

The most commonly used program on campus is JAWS, which runs on PC computers. JAWS (like other screen readers) starts by listing the number of links on a page. Then it lists off all the major links from top to bottom. After it has gone through the links, it reads out the text on the screen.

You should be aware of its limitations:

  • JAWS works with tables, but it reads their content in the order they are listed in the HTML source file.
  • If you use nested tables to control layout, JAWS should generally work well, but it will have more problems with tables produced by programs in "layout mode."
  • Screen readers tend to get confused by frames. They may not always be able to navigate to different frames correctly.
  • The biggest problem for screen readers is images. They rely on ALT tags or long descriptions to interpret them.

Updating a website to ensure it complies with accessibility standards is not as difficult as it sounds. The W3C has identified three levels of checkpoint items:

  • Level 1 checkpoints address issues that would completely prevent disabled visitors from visiting a site, so they must be met. The standards listed in Section 508 correspond to the issues outlined in this level. They include the use of ALT tags in images and proper labelling of data tables.
  • Level 2 checkpoints are optional, but should be addressed if possible. If these points are not met, visitors with a disability may not be able to visit parts of a site. They include the use of style sheets, and the elimination of pop-up windows and frames.
  • Level 3 checkpoints are "nice to have" but not mandatory. Points include establishing a logical tab order among links on a page, providing keyboard shortcuts for important links and grouping links in easily identifiable sets.

All official UVic web sites should take the following steps to ensure they meet accessibility standards:

  • Provide ALT tags for all images, and especially for graphical buttons. Spacer images require an ALT tag, but they should be empty.
  • Do not use frames if at all possible. Even for visitors without disabilities, frames can be confusing and frustrating to use.
  • Use cascading stylesheets for layouts, and make sure the page can be read without stylesheets.
  • Provide an alternative stylesheet optimized for visually impaired users.
  • Use tables only for tabular data. If you have laid out your pages with tables, take a close look at the source code to ensure that the order of the information in the source code will make sense to a screen reader.
  • Ensure that your web software produces HTML that is compliant with the W3C HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.x standards.
  • Add a link at the top of each page to skip navigation to the main content. At the bottom of all content (but above the footer) add a link to the start of the navigation bar. This enables a person using a screen reader to skip the navigation, and jump directly to content on a page.
  • If you use pop-up windows, ensure they are accessible.
  • For graphs or photos requiring a long explanation, add a LONGDESC tag, pointing to a separate html file with the description.
  • A full checklist of web accessibility guidelines is available on the W3C website.