Accessibility for content creators

Web accessibility is about creating content for everyone—including people with varying physical and cognitive abilities. As content writers, we must remove any barriers that prevent people from doing what they need to do online.

Watch a video explaining digital accessibility.

Why accessibility matters

One in five people globally have a documented disability. That's 20% of the population or 1.5 billion people! Examples include:

  • Vision (limited or no vision, colour blindness)
  • Thinking* (dyslexia, ADHD, epilepsy, anxiety)
  • Temporary (broken limbs, pain flare-ups, sensory overload)
  • Movement (arthritis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis)
  • Hearing (no or limited hearing)

*Most of the students registered with UVic's Centre for Accessible Learning fall into this category.

Some people use assistive technologies—like screen readers, screen magnifiers, switches or wands—when browsing websites. Watch someone use a screen reader.

Benefits of accessibility

Accessible content doesn't just benefit people using assistive technologies. It creates a better website for everyone.

An accessible website reaches more people, is better understood by people whose first language isn't English, improves a mobile device user's experience, ranks higher in search results, and provides a consistent experience.

It's simply the right thing to do.

Accessibility rules for website content

All content on your website must be accessible. This includes text, images, video and documents.

Text

Write simply and purposefully. Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs.

  • Aim for a grade 6-8 reading level
  • Use the inverted pyramid (state your conclusion first, then go into detail)
  • Use bulleted lists when possible
  • Avoid jargon or uncommon words
  • Don't build complex tables (avoid nested and merged cells)
  • Left-justify text (never centre content)
  • Never manually underline any text

Use a free readability test tool like Hemingway or Read-able to see if your content is easy to understand.

Headings

Headings are important for people using screen readers, as well as for search engine optimization (SEO) and general readability.

  • Only have one h1 (title) per page
  • Your second heading must be an h2
  • You can have multiple h2s, h3s or h4s, but don't skip a heading level
  • Pages should also have a display name in Cascade (often the same as your h1)
Example showing how to use headings properly, with one h1, two h2s, and four h3s
This is an example of how you should structure your headings. It's logical and hierarchical.

Heading example

This example can be understood by people using screen readers as well as search engines.

The UVic template has styling built in, so:

  • don't change fonts or sizes,
  • don't bold or underline, and
  • don't centre align.

Note: we made this example an image so it didn't interfere with the headings already used on the page. Always avoid using images containing text if possible.

Hyperlinks

Screen reader users often read links out of context when scanning the page. That's why we don't use link text like "click here."

  • Use descriptive link text
  • Avoid generic link text like "click here" or "read more" or URLs
  • Indicate the file type after the link (e.g. PDF)
  • Use a class (class="file") if appropriate

Images

Not every page needs an image. Use an image only when it supports the content.

  • Avoid graphics, infographics and charts (if you must use one, include a long description tag)
  • Avoid images with text
  • Photos should include a caption
  • Images should include img alt text
  • Decorative images can have alt="" (screen readers will skip over these)
  • Images should be a maximum of 300 KB (use TinyJPG to reduce image size without sacrificing quality)
  • Crop images before uploading to Cascade
  • Use logical filenames and display names in Cascade
Two undergraduate students on a bench at UVic
Use the img alt tag to describe an image. A person using a screen reader will have the text read out loud and needs to understand what the image conveys.

Suggested alt text

Alt text depends on context. Here are two acceptable options for this image:

  • img alt="Two students sitting on a bench at UVic"
  • img alt="UVic student Asiyah Robinson laughing with her friend on campus"

Choose the first option if it's a page about UVic's extraordinary environment. Choose the second if it's a story about Asiyah.

Videos

All videos embedded on your website—including YouTube videos—should have closed captions and transcripts.

Documents

Every document linked from your site must be accessible, including PDFs.

  • Consider whether the content can be a web page instead
  • A properly tagged PDF is superior to a Word doc
  • Remove old documents from your website

Generally, documents follow the same accessibility rules as web pages. University Communications + Marketing is working on making all new PDFs created by their designers accessible.

Additional information

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the leading authority on web accessibility. UVic aims for a minimum of level AA compliance, as defined by WCAG.

Making your website accessible is not a one-time project. It's an ongoing process. We all need to be accessibility champions if we want to make our digital content accessible for everyone.

Download UVic's Accessibility Checklist (PDF).