The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 makes it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities and promotes equal rights, equal opportunity and equal access for people with disabilities.

There are accessibility standards for buildings, requiring things like wheelchair access. Similarly, there are accessibility standards for websites, which ensure that websites can be accessed by people with disabilities. The current standard is called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines v2.0, or WCAG 2.0, and the Australian Government requires that we comply with it.

When we talking about web accessibility for people with disabilities, we usually need to consider four types of disabilities: visual, auditory, motor and cognitive, as well as seizure disorders.

People with visual disabilities including blindness, low vision and colour blindness

How they use the web

  • They may use screen readers, which read web pages out loud, or braille readers, which can form braille characters
  • They may set their computer or their browser to use large text and high contrast colours
  • They may not use a mouse if they can’t see the pointer

How we ensure accessibility

  • When we put an image or video on a web page, we also provide the same information as text. This includes alternate text for images and multimedia, and transcripts or captions on video.
  • We use proper headings in our web pages, to enable screen reader users to get an overview of a page and jump to the relevant section
  • We use link text that makes clear where the link goes, and avoid generic links like “click here”
  • We provide content as web pages rather than Word documents or PDFs, as this is the most usable and accessible format for screen readers
  • We avoid using colour alone for meaning (e.g. red for warning or green for good)
  • We ensure all content and functionality can be used without a mouse

More information: http://webaim.org/articles/visual/

People with auditory disabilities

How we ensure accessibility:

If we give information by audio, we also provide that information as text. This could be a transcript of an audio recording or captions on a video.

More information: http://webaim.org/articles/auditory/

People with motor disabilities

This can include conditions where movement is reduced or impaired, such as quadriplegia, arthritis and multiple sclerosis, and where there is involuntary movement or tremors, such as cerebral palsy and Parkinsons disease.

How they use the web:

  • They may use just a keyboard and not a mouse
  • They may use a mouse but with difficulty
  • They may use other technologies such as a joystick, or mouth control, or voice control.

How we ensure accessibility:

  • We make sure a website works with just with a keyboard
  • If there is something on the page that moves or animates, such as dropdown menus or rotating banners, we make sure it works without a mouse or with poor mouse control
  • We make it easy for people to jump to different parts of a page

More information: http://webaim.org/articles/motor/

People with cognitive disabilities

This includes disabilities which affect memory, problem solving, attention and comprehension. Some important examples in a university setting are dyslexia, which affects how written information is processed, and ADHD, which affects focus and attention.

How we ensure accessibility:

We make our content straightforward and consistent.

  • We avoid long blocks of text on web pages, and instead use headings, bullets and numbers to make the page easier to read
  • We provide content as web pages rather than Word documents or PDFs, to ensure people with cognitive disabilities can access our content in a way that suits them. For example, people with dyslexia may want to change the text colour and background colour, or use a screen reader to read out text.

More information: http://webaim.org/articles/cognitive/

People with seizure disorders

Some people have disorders where seizures, migraines, nausea or dizziness can be triggered by flashing, flickering and strobing content.

How we ensure accessibility:

  • We don’t publish any content which flashes, flickers or strobes
  • If there is a good reason to publish such content (for example, as part of a research project) there is a clear warning displayed before the content is shown

Making your content accessible

Most of the work is done for you in the UQ templates. For content editors, most accessibility requirements will be met by:

  • keeping our content clear and consistent
  • writing for the web, with good headings, bullets and numbers, and descriptive link text
  • including good text alternatives for any images, audio, video and multimedia
  • putting information into web pages rather than PDFs or Word documents

Making your content accessible has many benefits:

  • Search engines don’t have eyes or ears – accessible content is better for search optimisation
  • Accessible content is nicer to use for everybody – we all prefer websites which are consistent, straightforward, easy to read and easy to use
  • Accessible content is better for people from non-English speaking backgrounds - it works better with automatic translation tools, and captions and transcripts support comprehension of audio and video
  • Accessible content works better on the many different devices, like phones and tablets, that are used to access the web.

Making your content accessible is easier if you plan for it in advance. For example:

  • If there is information to be published, ask for it in Word format so you can turn it into a web page.
  • If a video is being planned, make sure there will be a transcript created.
  • If a recording of a public lecture needs to go online, ask the speaker to supply their notes.
  • If planning a new website, list accessibility as one of the requirements.

A good guide to accessibility for content editors is available here: http://www.4syllables.com.au/resources/accessibility/