If you’re one of the people charged with maintaining your department’s website, you might have heard or read about accessibility.
Accessibility is about making the web available to and usable by as many people as possible — including people with visual, auditory, mobility, cognitive, and other disabilities.
Each of those disabilities requires its own set of accommodations. Some of those are provided or created by user-owned technology, but others need to be built into your website so that all of your users enjoy the fullest possible online experience.
That sounds like a tall, technologically complicated order, right? It can be, but there are many ways to improve your site’s accessibility that don’t require specialized knowledge, software, or equipment.
What you might not have heard about accessibility is that accessible design is actually also good design, or that disability highlights and amplifies usability issues that affect all of your site’s users. Making your site accessible will make it better for everyone. (And if that’s not enough to convince you, try this: accessibility isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s federal law.)
Things we need to consider when building accessible websites include
- how we use color
- text size
- contrast between text and background
- whether our pages are “busy” or relatively “clean”
- how we use images (whether for aesthetic reasons or to provide information)
- how we structure our text with headings and subheadings
- the way our pdfs (if we use them at all) are formatted
A good place to start learning about accessibility is WebAIM, a nonprofit organization based at Utah State University’s Center for Disabilities. WebAIM’s website offers a huge array of resources, including the excellent “Introduction to Web Accessibility.”
The University of Alabama offers some basic accessibility guidelines for the web here: http://webguide.ua.edu/accessibility.html.
The University’s accessibility website, accessibility.ua.edu, offers contact information and myriad third-party resources to help answer your questions. You can also sign up to view an accessibility wiki, join a UA accessibility listserv, access the UA accessibility Blackboard course, and receive information about DocSoft, a captioning tool recently purchased by the University.