10 Tips for Creating Accessible Web Content with WCAG 2.0: Webinar Q&A Highlights
Updated: February 22, 2018
Last week, Janet Sylvia, head of the Web Accessibility Group at the University of Georgia, presented in our webinar, “10 Tips for Creating Accessible Web Content with WCAG 2.0.” She gave a concise overview of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0, followed by ten tips for creating accessible web content. Janet covered tools and methods to check the accessibility of your website, and then concluded with a Q&A.
Watch a recording in full on the video below or read on for highlights of the Q&A.
Who is responsible for web accessibility in a university setting?
JANET SYLVIA: The bottom line is that it’s everyone’s responsibility. We have administrators who are responsible for establishing policies on our campus. We have procurement personnel who are responsible for purchasing accessible hardware and software.
Then we have faculty who are responsible for the accessibility of online course content. We have IT personnel who are responsible for websites and website developers. We have digital media developers.
It’s about everyone doing their part to benefit the whole. So ultimately, it’s everyone’s responsibility.
What is the difference between using a toolbar to check your web pages and using an automated accessibility checker?
JANET SYLVIA: A toolbar allows you to manually check items on a single web page, element by element. An automated checker does this work for you, and some of them can crawl through your entire site.
“[Web accessibility] is about everyone doing their part to benefit the whole. So ultimately, it’s everyone’s responsibility.”
But the problem that most people encounter is they’re not quite sure how to read the reports or remediate errors when they use automated checkers. I’ve heard of a number of people who will run an automated check, get the report, and not know what to do with it. So using a toolbar first provides you the opportunity to learn what you should be looking for on those reports. It puts you in a better position to use automated tools in the future.
And just a side note, it’s good to involve people with disabilities to help test your website for accessibility in addition to toolbars and automated checkers. We should be willing to pay these individuals for their time. They’re providing a service based on their expertise, so we should be willing to hire people to assist us with this as well.
I’m the head of my campus disability support office, and I’m trying to get our campus IT on board with web accessibility. They’re not. What would be a good starting point to begin educating them?
JANET SYLVIA: We have some very unique challenges in higher education. Typically, on a university campus, the web designers are distributed. Or rather, it’s a distributed environment, meaning every college or department may have their own silo.
“If you make sure that you don’t target just the IT teams but instead include the entire university, then more people get trained and the word spreads that way.”
We experienced the same thing on our campus, and it was the reason we established our web accessibility group. We started offering trainings that were announced campus-wide. We also have groups on the university campus specifically for web designers and developers. And so we would send the invites specifically to their listserv as well.
Another thing to keep in mind: sometimes when a university department or college within a university uses a content management system, then anyone within that college could be responsible for posting content online and providing links to download documents. It could be a secretary, a student worker, an IT person, etc.
It’s really important to announce any kind of trainings that you offer to help raise awareness and get people on board with accessibility. If you make sure that you don’t target just the IT teams but instead include the entire university, then more people get trained and the word spreads that way.
Where do you get an accessibility toolbar?
JANET SYLVIA: Many can be downloaded for free. Try these resources:
- Web Accessibility Toolbar (WAT)
- Firefox Web Developers Toolbar + Accessibility Extension
- Use with Firefox Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar
- WAVE Toolbar (works on password protected pages, dynamically generated content, etc.
- Step-by-step instructions for using each toolbar: W3C Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility
Automated Checkers (Free):
- WAVE single pages
- Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE), multiple levels, web crawling
- Vison Australia: Document Accessibility Toolbar (for Word)
How do you get people on board with implementing correct heading structure?
JANET SYLVIA: First, convince them of the need. Tell them how important it is and that they’re easy to implement.
Share how important it is for navigation. You might find testimonials from individuals who use screen readers and ask them to share how important headings are.
Here’s a great way to get faculty buy-in.
A lot of faculty members use Word documents or Open Office, so we would teach them how to use headings in those documents. There’s an easy way to turn your headings into a table of contents in Word.
Once the faculty realize they don’t have to update their table of contents manually, and any time they change information, as long as they’ve used that heading structure, they can just click a button to create or update their table of contents, they love it.
If you were new to web accessibility, how would you suggest getting started?
JANET SYLVIA: Begin with tip #10, adding an accessibility statement to your website, syllabus, or online course.
As you create new content, you can keep the 10 tips handy and implement them during the creation process. As you learn the 10 tips, you can maybe graduate to the WebAIM checklist for HTML content and then also the WCAG 2.0 documentation.
To remediate any existing content, assign each person on your team a task. For example, one person remediates all the hyperlink text, and another person remediating images and alt text, and so on.
Do you have any success stories about faculty working on accessibility?
JANET SYLVIA: I’ve been training faculty for more than 10 years on how to create accessible content. Most are very open and excited to learn. Over the last couple of years, I’ve actually taught this one-hour seminar as a half-day workshop for academic faculty and instructional designers. And we would meet in a computer lab, where faculty could log into their online course or bring their online course materials on a USB drive and then plug it in and open their content that way.
As we covered each tip, we would allow the faculty time to stop and remediate their existing content, so they would gain experience using the technique in an environment where there were people to assist them. And then, by the end of the workshop, people who were new to accessibility were able to end the workshop with both knowledge and experience in making their course content accessible, plus they had content that was ready to go and accessible.
Several of our faculty members actually later became accessibility advocates among their peers. And so I would highly recommend targeting faculty members as groups to share these tips with.
For more actionable insights on fostering web accessibility in higher education, check out The Long Road from Reactive to Proactive: Developing an Accessibility Strategy.
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