The Accessibility Drive: Updates and Resources
Introduction and Updates
As we’ve reached the September accessibility deadline, I’d like to look back on the progress that’s been made in making the University’s web estate a more accessible, inclusive space and service for all of our users.
With almost 1500 sites hosted by and affiliated with the University of Edinburgh, it would have been very easy to view improving compliance with web accessibility as a monumental task. However, with the use of the Little Forest web registry tool, comprehensive and consistent communications around web accessibility, and a robust set of workshops, we’ve been able to substantially increase the number of accessibility statements and decrease the average number of distinct errors present on Edinburgh websites by nearly one-third.
Additionally, we have focused extensively on guiding site owners towards publishing accessibility statements that reflect and take into account the ways in which the site fails to be accessible, explanations for how they will be fixed, alternative means of accessing content, and contact information for site owners and managers. Every site requires its own accessibility statement, and the only exceptions to this are EdWeb sites that link to the central EdWeb accessibility statement and sites that are purely administrative or referatory. In order to gain the information required to write an accessibility statement, it is necessary that accessibility audits are carried out on the site, both manual and automated. We provide a tool, Little Forest, that aids in automated accessibility testing.
Little Forest has allowed us to track the websites within and affiliated with the EdWeb estate, and has substantially helped site owners in being able to track and solve issues. Our workshops and blogs aimed at five specific content areas- identified for their efficiency and ease of solving- aid site owners in more effectively making their sites accessible.
In this blog, I’d like to highlight several workshop we’ve recorded that contain valuable information on web accessibility that I hope site owners and managers will make use of and consult. Our workshops delved into each of the five specific content areas- heading structure, PDFs, reflow and responsiveness, colour contrast, and alt texts and labels- in addition to several more general and introductory workshops.
Interpreting your Little Forest Accessibility Audit
To provide an introduction to the use of Little Forest as a web governance and accessibility platform, we organized a workshop to explain how to interpret accessibility audits provided by Little Forest and how to, ultimately, use those audits to create actionable solutions and improvements.
Proper Heading Structure
The first workshop focused on the standards of sound heading structure- designing websites with good heading structure in mind is critical to making sure that websites are truly accessible, as websites with good heading structure make it easier for screen readers to successfully and quickly navigate pages to find relevant information. We have also published a blog on Proper Heading Structure that further elaborates upon what is required.
Accessible PDF Design
The second workshop focused on designing accessible PDFs, as even though PDFs are often difficult to navigate and incompatible with screen-reading software, PDFs remain one of the most popular non-web formats for containing information. We have also published a blog on Accessible PDF Design that further elaborates upon what is required.
Reflow and Responsiveness
The third workshop focused on reflow- or the process of fitting content to the width of a page so that site material remains within the boundaries of the page window when users zoom in to enlarge content. We have also published a blog on Reflow and Responsiveness that further elaborates upon what is required.
Accessible Colour Contrast Design
Our colour contrast workshop elaborated upon how to make sure that sites have sufficient contrast between text and background, especially for users with low contrast sensitivity. We have also published a blog on Colour Contrast Design that further elaborates upon what is required.
Labels and Alt Texts
And our workshop on the final content area- labels and alt texts- focused on explaining how to properly write and design labels and alt texts that suitably describe images and page structure for users with visual impairments.
I’d like to thank all of the site owners and managers who have engaged in this accessibility drive to make our web estate more inclusive- especially in an age where more of our services are migrating to online platforms. To find more information on the general accessibility drive, please refer to Jonathan Trout’s engaging and in-depth blog post on Taking Responsibility for Web Accessibility. I also encourage you to watch these workshop recordings, refer to the blogs, and reach out with any questions you might have on accessibility and Little Forest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.