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  Disability Services - Online Courses - Web Accessibility

Web Accessibility for Non-Techies

You don’t have to be a computer expert to check the accessibility of a web site. You may need the assistance of your web master to make necessary changes, but finding where changes have to be made is the first important step.

Alternative Text
Hover your mouse over any pictures on your site. A text box should pop up showing the “alternative text” for the picture. Ideally, this text will convey important information about the picture. If instead, it says something like “pic00123.jpg” or “Picture 1”, consider the purpose of the picture. What information are you trying to convey? How can you present the same information in a few words? The alternative text should be changed to reflect the picture’s purpose. If the important information cannot be conveyed in a few words, such as a complex chart, another way of presenting this detailed information may be needed. Discuss options with your web master.

Also, look for “words” that are actually images, such as a graphic that says “Home”. Alternative text for these word images should match the word (i.e. “Home” not “Picture of the word Home”). If you do not see the text box, turn off images in your browser. The text will appear where the pictures were.

Multimedia Presentations
If you have multimedia on your site, consider how a person who cannot hear the audio or someone who cannot see the video will have access to the information. If you only have audio, providing a transcript may be sufficient. However, if you have a video, captions must be added that are synchronized with the video. There are a number of different software programs that can be used to do this as well as services that will caption for you. Similarly, if information is conveyed visually, you may need to add a second auditory track with audio descriptions for the blind.

Use of color
Consider whether information is conveyed only through color. For example, does a form require that all fields marked in red be completed? Does the user have to press the green button to start an exercise? You don’t have to avoid the use of color in these ways, but you do need to provide an alternative way to get the information. For example, also mark the red fields with an asterisk or have the word “START” on the green button.

Data Tables
Tables should be used to show information that makes sense to put in a chart, not just used for formatting. You should have headings that show what each column or row contain. For example, instead of just a chart of names, addresses and phone numbers, have a header row that says “Name”, “Address” and “Phone”. To someone who can see the chart, it’s obvious, but adding the headers makes it easier for a blind person to navigate the chart. There is some coding that your web master needs to do to really make tables and charts work well for blind individuals which you won’t be able to check easily, but you can see whether there is a header row or column.

Forms
There are some things that help make forms accessible that only your web master can do, but there are some simple things you can look for. Does the form indicate required fields using color, or some other visual cue, such as italics or bold? Also, the description of information to be typed in should come before the entry box, not after. Press the TAB key. Does the cursor move from field to field in a logical manner? If there is a time limit, such as on a test or login screen, is there a way to request extra time so that someone who types very slowly has the opportunity to finish?

Drop Down Menus
When using drop down menus, require the user to press a “Go” or “Submit” button after highlighting their choice. Drop down menus that automatically send users to the highlighted location when they release the mouse button cause problems for visitors using screen readers, always sending them to the first option.

Appropriate Links
In the early days of the Internet, almost every link said “click here”. But when someone using assistive technology pulls up a list of all the links on a page, it’s confusing. A better practice is to have the links be descriptive of where they lead, such as “Home”, “Apply for admission” or “Contact us”.

Navigation
Start at the top of the page and press the TAB key to move throughout the document. Does the cursor move from section to section in a logical manner? If there are navigation links at the top of each page, is there a way to quickly and easily skip over them, so a person using a screen reader doesn’t have to listen to them again and again?

Color Contrast
It’s important that the text on your sight contrasts clearly with the background so it is easy to read. It’s best to avoid patterned backgrounds where there will be text. Also, contrast that seems easy to read for someone with normal vision might not be so easy for someone with vision problems. Lighthouse International (http://www.lighthouse.org/accessibility/effective-color-contrast/) has a wonderful website explaining how to choose colors.

Access Keys (http://www.accesskeys.org/tools/color-contrast.html) will run a test on your site to check for appropriate color contrast. A quick and dirty test for contrast is to print the page in black and white, and make several generations of copies to see if the text becomes difficult to read after a few generations.

PDF files
Many PDFs are not actually text, but an image of text, similar to taking a picture of a document. Unfortunately, these PDFs are inaccessible because screen readers and other assistive technology cannot interpret them. To see whether your PDF is text or an image of text, try to highlight some words in the document. If you can, then your file MAY be accessible. If you can’t, then you have an image and it is not accessible.

Power Point Presentations
Power Point presentations present problems for screen readers. This doesn’t mean you can’t use PowerPoint Presentations, but make a second alternate format copy for screen reader users. To do this easily, view your presentation in outline view, copy and paste the text into a Word document, and format within Word. Compare your text to the original to make sure there aren’t any graphics that need to be explained, as this copies only the text.

Mouse Dependency
Can you navigate the site and do everything needed without using the mouse? If there are “mouse over” links, are those same links available elsewhere on the page?


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