Taking responsibility for Web Accessibility
As more of our services than ever move online, our web estate has become the face of the University. Inclusivity of all our users has never been more important.
A Practical and Ethical Approach
With September’s legislation deadline rightly also attracting attention, we want to help our devolved web community improve the accessibility of their websites this summer. What we propose is not a catch-all solution: the idea of ‘full’ compliance with WCAG and our other duties may not be practically achievable, even with full manual testing. But as a means of raising our baseline and making a strong step in the right direction, we believe it is both practical and ethical to focus on the following:
- publishing “best effort” accessibility statements, and
- identifying and fixing high-priority accessibility problems.
Through workshops, guidance, and training in automated testing tools, this will be actively supported by the ISG website and the disability information teams. Let’s go through it.
A key element of the new legislation (see Further Reading, below) is the idea of accessibility statements, where websites need to state in full all the ways where they fail to be accessible, explain when they will be fixed, and offer alternative ways to access the content.
This is potentially quite a large undertaking. It is our view that at minimum each site at the University should publish a ‘best effort’ statement, covering
- How the site is known able to support accessibility needs (e.g. contrast levels, resizing, etc)
- Areas where the site is known to be inaccessible (e.g videos lacking subtitles,
- A timeline for improvements or replatforming
- What users should do/who they should contact if they are unable to access the site, or require an alternative format.
Every site needs its own statement – note that only EdWeb sites should link to the EdWeb statement.
Workshops to help you write your accessibility statement can be booked via MyEd events – search for ‘Accessibility Statement Writing’.
Automated testing and Little Forest
The University uses the ‘Little Forest’ web registry tool to keep track of the web estate. It features some automated testing tools, including for accessibility.
Automated testing is not exhaustive. It produces both false positives and false negatives, but it can help identify many of the kind of issues we have chosen to prioritise.
We are offering all web owners and editors access to the tool. Please submit a request for access via email to the Web Governance Administrator.
We will be offering a series of workshops in May to introduce this software and the key ideas of using it to assist accessibility improvements. Please register on MyEd Events, search for ‘Accessibility Workshop’.
Priority areas for improvement
We have prioritised the following areas on the basis of them being relatively easy to identify, relatively easy to fix, and having a relatively large impact for users. This list is by no means exhaustive: we of course recommend going as far as possible to meet all WCAG2.1AA guidelines, but as a minimum to tackle before September we feel it is meaningful and achievable to focus upon:
- Responsiveness – text reflow and resizing for variable screen environments
- Colour contrast – ensuring sufficient contrast between text and background for all users
- Subtitling – a text alternative to audio content, including audio content in videos
- PDF fixes – best practice in creating PDFs and identifying existing problems
- Heading structure – that headings adequately communicate the organisation of page content, particularly useful for assistive technology
- Labels for form fields, buttons, and images – alt-text and labels that properly describe content and function to better enable assistive technologies
More information on these topics workshops will be shared in subsequent blogs and via email channels. We are also running supporting workshops on each topic in June and July – search MyEd events to book your place.
Note that for EdWeb users, technical or platform-related accessibility fixes will be tackled by the ISG LTW web team. Content issues, however, will remain the responsibility of devolved teams.
Are any sites exempt?
Sites qualified as ‘archives’ are not affected by the legislation, and you won’t need to write an accessibility statement. Provision 4.3 (a) defines the an archive as:
a website or mobile application which— (i)only contains content that is not needed for active administrative processes; and (ii)is not updated or edited after 23rd September 2019;
If you want to make a case that your particular site is so exempted, we will need to keep a record in our registry. Please contact our Web Governance Administrator with the site URL and your rationale.
You may also consider deleting old sites. We will also be working to develop an archiving process with a new digital archivist who will be joining us next month – stay tuned for announcements on that.
Information Services’ accessibility pages provide further information on the University’s accessibility guidelines, policy, and legislation, in addition to information on assistive technology and accessible document creation.