An accessible website can be used successfully by people with visual, aural or physical disabilities. Making a website accessible to people with disabilities helps make a website more usable by everyone. There is also a legal requirement to provide information in a form that's accessible to all users.
The percentage of people with disabilities in many populations is between 10% and 20%. According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), almost two million people in the UK live with sight loss – approximately one person in 30.
While not all disabilities affect access to the web, many do. Many people have problems with small print, for example.
This large audience can access the web using different methods and tools. These might involve magnifying websites to make text and images larger, using text-to-speech output like screen readers or braille feedback devices. IT Services is responsible for supplying accessibility software such as JAWS and ZoomText.
This audience can use any University of Warwick website, as long as the website follows the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) web content accessibility guidelines.
Accessible web content
If your website is built and maintained using SiteBuilder most accessibility considerations are already taken care of. SiteBuilder has several accessibility features built in. In practice, this means the website:
- Appearance can be controlled by the user
- Can be navigated using a mouse, keyboard or other input devices
- Works well in text-only browsers
- Works well as speech
- Works well at low bandwidth
However, you should be aware of accessibility when creating content in your web pages.
Ensure you give all images meaningful alternative text descriptions. Use plain English and be succint.
Blind or visually impaired users with speech reading tools will often scan through a page listening to just the links. So, avoid link text that makes no sense when read out of context. Use meaningful link text that says exactly what it is and work the link text into your prose.
For example, the link in this sentence:
There are useful resources in the Royal National Institute for the Blind's Web Access Centre.
…is more accessible than in this sentence:
Click here for the Royal National Institute for the Blind's Web Access Centre.
Adding captions and transcripts to your videos:
- Help deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals
- Help blind or partially-sighted people because the text alternative can be turned into other forms, such as large print, braille or speech
- Help people make sense of voices, accents or languages that may be difficult to understand
Useful tools to add captions and transcriptions include:
WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative)
You should conform to level A and AA success criteria (previously called priority 1 and 2). The WAI provide definitive guidelines on how to make your website accessible and checklists so you can see if your current website meets the required standard:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Web Content Accessiblity Checklist – a checklist you can follow to determine whether your site meets the level A and AA guidelines
- WAI Resources – a comprehensive list
SENDA and new sections of the DDA, which explicitly concern education, have been in force since September 2002. The law affects all education and training provided by higher and further education institutions, including provision of student services.
In addition to not treating a disabled person “less favourably” for a reason relating to their disability, institutions are required to make “reasonable adjustments” if a disabled person is placed at a “substantial disadvantage”. This includes provision of accessible institutional services, including departmental, faculty and institutional websites.
Legal opinion: Maguire v SOCOG, 2000
A visually impaired Australian took legal action under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which the UK's DDA broadly mirrors, against the Sydney Olympics Commission for providing an inaccessible website and refusing to correct it. The action was upheld and the Sydney Olympics Commission fined. Reference was made to the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 as a technical benchmark.
Australian case law is not binding in the UK but in cases that are unconsidered and undecided, it can be considered persuasive and, therefore, Maguire v SOCOG will probably be used in any legal action.
As a result, legal experts recommend University websites meet all the W3C's level A and level AA guidelines.