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Accessibility best practices

Note: This is a high-level overview of UVic's web standards. Training is available on this topic for content developers and Cascade authors.

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

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.

WCAG 2.0

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.

Accessible text

Page titles

Page titles (aka "display names" in some Cascade versions) are very important for accessibility. Your page’s title is the first thing a screenreader will read when a user goes to a new web page.

They are also:

  • visible in the browser window/tab when viewing a web page
  • displayed in search results

Good page titles are important to help people know where they are and move between pages open in their browser.

Headings

Using headings to break up sections of text helps readers digest large amounts of information.

Users rarely read everything on a page in its entirety. Most will scan the headings before deciding whether to read the text below.

For people who cannot use a mouse, headings allow a user to navigate to different sections of the page using a keyboard.

Heading levels should follow a logical order: H1 for the page title, H2 for major headings and H3 for major sub-headings.

Users who rely on screenreaders use descriptive link text to help them understand what to expect when they click on a link—will they be taken to a new site (external link), or another page within the same site (internal link)? Will clicking on the link download a file?

Accessible images

Images cannot be understood by screenreaders, so providing meaningful text alternatives is essential for creating accessible web content.

Never use an image to communicate essential information, without also providing a text-based description as well.

Alt text

Users who are blind or have low vision rely on text alternatives to understand the purpose or context of a photo, figure, graphic, etc. In the web world, this is referred to as “alt text.”

Alt text can be accessed in different ways:

  • People using screenreaders will have the text read aloud to them
  • People who have images turned off will see the text in place of the image on the page
  • Search engines will crawl the alt text for use in image-based searches

Accessible video & audio

Multimedia (video and audio) presents unique challenges for accessibility. Captions, transcripts and descriptive audio are all ways to ensure your audio and video content is accessible.

Accessible documents

Where possible, use HTML to convey text-based information. If you need to provide a PDF, use the built-in tools to ensure your document is accessible.

HTML vs PDF

Can you incorporate this content directly into your website instead of uploading a document? Web pages are easier to read online, and easier to update if information changes.

If you want to give people the option to print, you can provide a “print this page” option to avoid maintaining two sources of information.

When PDFs make sense:

  • Secure forms, especially where a signature is required
  • Complex design items (brochures, viewbooks, posters) intended for print purposes

In either case, an accessible version of the information is required, either as web page content or an accessible PDF.

PDFs produced through UC+M

University Communications + Marketing (UC+M) is working to make all new PDFs created by their designers accessible when a properly-formatted webpage isn’t available.

If you have existing web PDFs created in partnership with UC+M that may need updating for accessibility, please get in touch your UC+M marketing contact.

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