Access Granted: Coding and Crafting Accessible Content

When most people, myself included, hear the phrase “online accessibility” they usually think first of including someone with visual disabilities. It makes sense, as the internet is largely a place to consume visual content.

What I have learned, however, is that accessible online content needs to cover as many differing web browsing experiences as possible. For example, I was confronted with the following question while attending a presentation where the speaker asked us:

How do your web pages perform for someone who is not using a mouse?"

We all know that alternative text and color contrast are important concepts to address for visual disability. I was guilty of not considering other disabilities as well, because an extremely important aspect of web usability is how you navigate between pages. How could I have overlooked this? Why did I assume everyone could use a mouse?

To see what a tabbed-, rather than mouse-, navigation experience is like, you could try right now on this blog post if you are using a keyboard. Simply click on the main menu, then use the tab button to move between menu options. Some people can perform this task by pressing the tab button and some people use voice-activated mechanisms. It’s not the easiest way to move through options — for example, how do you back-tab to the previous option?

This kind of web functionality comes from web developers; there is not much the general content creator can do about framework code. This is why we web developers must keep an open mind about who we think of helping when we hear the phrase “online accessibility.” We must follow as many inclusionary practices as possible.

To help address this and other online accessibility issues, the UC Davis Brand Guide will soon have clearer guidelines surrounding the following online accessibility topics, with recommendations for best practices regarding:

  • alternative text
  • words on images as part of the image
  • anchor links that jump to other parts of the page without scrolling
  • links that open in a new tab
  • using the proper order and structure of headings (h1-h6)
  • flashing imagery/quick-cutting videos
  • the wording of a link or a button
  • large font
  • color contrast 

My hope is these tools and guidelines will be as useful to others when crafting accessible online content as they were for me, and that everyone who wishes may access the glorious internet.

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