Five Best Practices for Web Accessibility

Library Resources | Khalilah Gambrell | June 23, 2016

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How can librarians help everyone access information despite limitations? Take a look at the five best practices to support accessibility for all users.

The 5th Global Accessibility Awareness Day was held on May 19th. It is a day to reflect on the current state of web accessibility and the best practices to ensure access for all.

Imagine you were a student assigned to evaluate two peer-reviewed articles on the topic of energy consumption using library resources. For many students this task is fairly straightforward, but for students who have visual, hearing, cognitive and physical disabilities what seems straightforward may be frustrating.

As librarians, how do we help everyone access information despite limitations? The following are five best practices to support accessibility for all users.

1. Connect with your users. Conduct interviews and/or usability testing to observe how users utilize your website and resources. Document successes and challenges and consider developing an accessibility checklist to support standardization.

2. Contact your school’s office of disability services or a local organization that supports persons with disabilities. These offices and organizations are great resources to better understand what disabilities your students/community face and the assistive technologies (AT) that they are using. Collaboration with these groups is critical for providing your users with a great user experience.

3. Validate your code. It is important to evaluate code to ensure it aligns with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. These guidelines were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to provide standards for developing accessible websites and online applications. WCAG has twelve guidelines grouped under the following four principles also known by the acronym, POUR. Each guideline has three success levels (A, AA, AAA) that your institution can use to verify it has complied with said guideline.

Four WCAG Principles

  • Perceivable – regardless of your impairment, the website is available to you
  • Operable – regardless of your impairment, the website is navigable
  • Understandable – regardless of your impairment, the content is understandable to support using the website
  • Robust – regardless of your impairment, the content is accessible across user agents including web browsers, operating systems and assistive technologies.

A list of web accessibility code validators is available at https://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/.

4. Validate your content. A web accessibility code validator evaluates your code. It does not measure the user experience. Content can be another barrier to web accessibility. To prevent this barrier, consider the following:

  • Write in plain language. Be clear and concise. Never use jargon or acronyms without defining what they mean.
  • Ensure link text is contextual. Never use “Click here.”
  • Have descriptive HTML page titles to indicate to a person using a screen reader the point of the page.
  • Use off-screen text to provide context to a person using a screen reader when necessary.

5. Navigate your website and resources with a keyboard only. Verify if you are able to:

  • Tab in a logical order
  • Enter, edit, or submit a form
  • Left, right, up and down arrow keys to navigate
  • Enter key to take an action

If you are interested in learning more about web accessibility, check out the following recommended resources. Also, we would love for you to add a comment with your best practices for web accessibility.

Recommended Resources

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