Web accessibility works when we all use the same set of standards and consider access issues throughout our design, build, and maintenance processes.
Texas A&M’s Web Accessibility Standards
The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) maintains guidelines that are largely considered the international standard for web accessibility; that’s what we use at A&M. The WAI has published guidelines for browsers, media players, authoring tools, websites, web applications, and probably a few more I’m forgetting. If you’re building sites with mostly static content, the set of guidelines most relevant to you are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. If you’re building more dynamic sites or web applications, you’ll want to look at WCAG 2.0 and Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) 1.0 (these design patterns are the best part of ARIA, by the way).
These guidelines provide a framework for defining accessibility. What makes an online form accessible? WCAG 2.0 can tell you. What about images? That’s in there too, along with almost anything else you can think of.
Considering Access at Every Step
While we’re talking about how web accessibility works, let’s also look at some common pitfalls. Web accessibility doesn’t work when…
- We think about access issues for our site templates, but ignore the content our contributors are adding through the CMS.
- We rely exclusively on automated tools to tell us what’s wrong.
- We test our site once, fix issues, and never consider accessibility again.
- We assume if there’s a problem, someone will let us know.
Do you see a trend? Web accessibility only works when it’s considered at every step. You can never say you’re finished making your website accessible or “it’s done.” It’s more accurate to say a website is more accessible. It’s an ongoing process that’s never finished. Just like anything else on your website, there will always be aspects that can be improved and updated as technologies change, needs change, and standards change.
To start considering accessibility issues, grab a checklist. I like WebAIM’s WCAG 2.0 checklist. If you’re not sure what some of the checkpoints mean, we can help. Take a look at the IT Accessibility website for resources and contact information.
An important note: Aim for achieving all A and AA criteria in WCAG 2.0. AAA is great anytime you can manage it, but AA is the minimum standard for A&M.
No comments yet.