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Web Accessibility

At the click of a mouse, the world is at your fingertips — that is, if you can use a mouse and see the screen and hear the audio. In other words, if you don’t have a disability of any kind.

Each of the major categories of disabilities (visual, hearing, motor, cognitive) require certain types of adaptation in the design of web content. Most accessibility principles can be implemented very easily and will not impact the overall "look and feel" of your site.

University Web & Design handles most web accessibility centrally in our page templates, but there are several ways you can help ensure your webpages are accessible for all web users.

General Web Accessibility
  • Our design makes use of a color contrast checker to verify accessibility for our fonts, etc.
  • We require alt text on images.
  • We use CSS instead of decorative images in our web design.
  • We added WAI-ARIA Landmark roles to our page templates (W3C recommended, these provide assistive technologies navigation advantages).
  • Cascade includes a basic accessibility check on page submission
Ways to Make Your Site Accessible
Hyperlink Phrases Rather Than Single Words

Do not use "here" or "click here." Phrases are easier to spot, but should be descriptive. To meet accessibility guidelines descriptive phrases are crucial. For those using screen readers, hearing "link click here" is frustrating at best.

Make Images Accessible

Images on the page: All of your images must have "alt text" that is brief, descriptive and can serve as a reasonable alternative to the image. This gives screen readers and those not able to load images something to work with. Watch out for redundancy in your alt text  leave out phrases such as "Image of" or similar extraneous content in your alt text.

Image file names: Giving your images meaningful file names can add additional context — it's also great for search engines and your general file maintenance. Try something like crim-dell-bridge.jpg instead of IMG0123.jpg.

Make Documents Accessible

Your informational content should be created as webpages and not uploaded as PDFs or other file types. Cascade webpages are more accessible for those using assistive technology and easier for your visitors to view across their devices.

For content that must be presented as a document, it is only considered accessible if it meets certain technical criteria and can be used by people with disabilities. It’s important to make sure your documents are accessible before uploading them into Cascade.

Use Proper Heading Structure

When encountering a lengthy web page, sighted users often scroll the page quickly and look for headings to get an idea of the structure and content of the page. Screenreader and other assistive technology users also have the ability to navigate web pages by heading structure, assuming true headings are used (as opposed to text that is simply big and bold). Do not use bold text to give the visual appearance of headings — use actual Heading 5 and/or Heading 6 for all content headings. WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) lists all of the reasons why semantic structure is important.

Add Captions to Videos

Embedded YouTube videos on the W&M website must have captions. You can use YouTube's auto-generate function, but you must manually review them as they are only about 95% accurate and often incorrectly display proper nouns. For example, the university's name or the name of a speaker. You can also enlist the help of a captioning service to caption your videos for you.

Many of the guidelines in the Cascade Writing & Style Guide, when followed, improve our sites' accessibility.

Don't Ignore the Accessibility Checker

When you submit edits, Cascade's built-in content checker includes a report of basic accessibility issues. Be sure to review and address any items that are flagged during this step.