Aggies Define IT Accessibility

Q: What does web accessibility mean to you?

Tracey Forman, Assistant Director, Disability Services

A: Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can access, use and contribute to web sites as effectively as for people without disabilities. It means that websites are accessible to people who use assistive technology (such as screen readers, screen magnification, voice controls, keyboard-only actions). Web sites designed with web accessibility in mind allow individuals with disabilities to be able to understand everything presented on a website without the need to request help to access the information on the page or having to request an alternative version of the content.

Lesley Mizer, Instructional Designer, Employee & Organizational Development

A: Web accessibility means giving everyone the opportunity to access information and contribute ideas. We all benefit.

Erick Beck, Director of Web Development, Division of Marketing & Communications

A: Web accessibility means making sure that we build our sites so that everyone can receive the content that they are trying to convey.  It is easy to end the previous sentence with the extra phrase "regardless of any disability or handicap," and that is too often how we think.  But that isn't how we should approach it. It isn't an extra burden on our shoulders for the benefit of a few, it is making sure we treat everyone the same.  "Discrimination" is often avoided as an ugly word, but that's exactly what not being accessible is.  We don't think twice about the appropriateness of providing access, such as ramps, talking cross-walks, etc. in the physical world.   In the online world though, where providing access should be much easier, we are still way behind in making it an every-day part of our process.

Mary Bailey, Training and Development Consultant, Employee & Organizational Development

A: Web accessibility means you are ensuring anyone and everyone can reach your site and come away with information and understanding. Anymore, I think the platform must be considered. You aren’t accessible to fully-able users if they are dependent on a wide-screen setup to use or navigate your site. Accessible means a website can render itself in a meaningful way, regardless of the device.

Michael McGinnis, Web Communications Specialist, Division of Marketing & Communications

A: Web accessibility does not simply mean following the rules. In the end, real people are being affected by our design decisions. What should we do with skip navigation links? Well, what do users of screen readers do with skip navigation links? How much description do we need in the alt element for an image? Well, how much description would you want for that image if you couldn't see it? Spend an hour trying to surf your website using JAWS, and you'll have a different perspective on web accessibility. Personally, with five generations of macular degeneration in my family, web accessibility might someday become more than a nice option that other people need.

Dorian Campbell, Training and Development Consultant, Employee & Organizational Development

A: Web accessibility (to me) means making sure that everyone that would like to access the information on your site can. It means that no one is excluded from the content and that everyone can have relatively the same experience on the site (for the most part). As a bonus, designing a site, from the beginning to be accessible to all, usually means that your site will be more user friendly, have a more straightforward and thoughtful layout and eliminate some unnecessary content and fluff.

What do you think?

We would love to hear your experiences with accessibility. Contact the Division of Information Technology accessibility team if you have any questions or comments.

Did you know?

  • In the United States, about 55 million people have a disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • About 1 in 5 Americans have some kind of disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • The percentage of people affected by disabilities is growing as our population ages.
  • Two popular, free screen readers are VoiceOver (Mac OS and iOS) and NVDA (Win).
  • Good accessibility practices can improve the search ranking of your website.
  • Form fields without labels can cause problems for some assistive technology users.
  • Low color contrast makes content difficult to see, especially for users with low vision.
  • Documents linked on a website need to be accessible too (e.g., PDF and Word files).
  • Audio content, like podcasts, need transcripts for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Online videos should be captioned for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Using HTML tags correctly is very important for accessibility.
  • Descriptive link text helps make a website more accessible. Avoid using "Click here" or "Read more."
  • A "screen reader" is an application that reads content aloud to a user.
  • There is no "alt tag" in HTML. "Alt" is an attribute used with the img tag.
  • HTML uses the alt attribute to provide a text description of an image.
  • Alt text should describe an image, if the purpose of the image is to convey information.
  • If an image is a link, the alt text for the image should explain where the link goes.
  • If an image is only being used for decoration, the alt text should be null (i.e., alt="").
  • If a table has headers, using header tags (<th>) will make the table more accessible.
  • An accessible website is one that can be navigated and understood by everyone.