“De-Myth-tifying” Web Accessibility

Yes, the title is meant to be a groan-worthy pun, but it’s making an important connection. “Web Accessibility” can be mystifying and there are many beliefs about it that turn out to be myths or misconceptions, once you dig a little deeper.

One of the most pervasive is that “Accessibility is expensive and difficult.”  As UXMyths points out, it doesn’t have to be either – not when accessibility is part of the design process from the beginning.  Yes, retro-fitting an existing site does take time and effort, but that time and that effort are investments with long-term payoffs-more potential visitors to the site and increased good will.

It Doesn’t Take Much

Since most of the Web sites in the Purdue Calumet system are built on the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) , much of the responsibility for accessibility falls on the Web communication specialists in University Relations. They’re the ones primarily responsible for the function and the template of a page – the top header and navigation, sidebars and footer.

As content editors, managers and owners, you do have a few things to think about when you’re updating existing pages or creating new ones:

  • Images: use alternate text to describe them
  • Structure: Use headings, lists, paragraphs, to structure your copy
  • Links: Tell the visitor where the link will take them
  • Tables: Use a logical structure and if you’re adding a data table, be sure to include the extra information to identify header cells, add a caption and a summary

And they quickly become part of your routine. They don’t require much if any extra effort beyond what you’re doing now. It’s important to remember that.

Even Documents Can Be Tamed

Documents, which we upload as a convenient – to us – method of communicating information to our visitors, do need to be made accessible or that information also needs to be provided in another format that is accessible. If we don’t do this, we are essentially excluding a section of our audience, telling them that this is information that they don’t need to know.

The good news is that we have tools available to create accessible documents. Office 2010 has a built-in accessibility checker which is a great place to start. Acrobat X Pro and InDesign 5.5 also have improved accessibility features. Retro-fitting existing documents can be messy and time-consuming, but creating accessible documents from the beginning can be a breeze! And we have the classes to help you learn how!