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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 different physical and cognitive abilities. As content creators, we must remove 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 and 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 (or "display names" in some Cascade versions) are very important for accessibility. Your page title is the first thing a screen reader reads to a user.

They are also:

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

Good page titles help people know where they are and move between pages.

Headings

Use headings to break up sections of text; this helps readers digest information.

Users rarely read every word on the page. 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.

Screen readers use descriptive link text to help users understand what to expect when they click on a link. Will they go to a new site (external link) or another page within the same site (internal link)? Will clicking on the link download a file?

Plain language

Aside from how you structure your text, you also need to consider the accessibility of the content itself. Complex content is a barrier to many users.

48% of adult Canadians are estimated to have literacy skills below high school level, while one in every six Canadians is considered functionally illiterate.

This means that 17% of the adult population in Canada isn’t able to fill out forms, follow written instructions, or read maps.
"A Plain Language Guide for Writing Inclusive Digital Content", 2021.

Find out how to ensure your web content is readable for all audiences.

Accessible images

Screen readers do not understand images. Include meaningful text alternatives to create accessible web content.

Always include a text description when using an image to communicate essential information.

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 screen readers 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. Use captions, transcripts and/or descriptive audio 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 from Word, PowerPoint or Acrobat to ensure your document is accessible.

HTML vs PDF

Can you incorporate this content 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, you need an accessible version of the information, 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 possible.

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

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