Why is accessibility important?

Accessibility is one of many keys to providing a better user experience on your website. The basic purpose of accessibility guidelines is to help guide web creators toward practices that can make their sites easier to use for everyone, whether they are people with disabilities or not.

Accessibility 
The website passes the WCAG 2.0 Level A accessibility standard.
The website contains a link to a “text only” version of the website.
The website contains zero HTML validation errors.
The website contains a "Skip to content" anchor link after the opening body tag.

Accessibility issues can affect anyone: type can be unreadable because of poor contrast, images may not download because of a slow connection or broken server, a user may disable javascript for security reasons, or a user may have any of hundreds of different disabilities that make reading or using a website difficult.

Building an accessible website means building a website that's meant to be accessed and used by anyone. It means making sure your site works whether the images, stylesheets, or scripts load or not. It means making sure your text is readable in a variety of lighting conditions, for a variety of users who may or may not have vision impairment. Accessibility can mean a lot of things, but fortunately it's not too difficult to achieve a fairly accessible site.

Requirements

It is a requirement of the Commonwealth of Virginia that all VCU websites are compliant to the WCAG 2.0 (Level A) requirements. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the WCAG 2.0 guideline.

A great resource for how the WCAG standard is different from Section 508 standard is available:

Text alternatives

An alternative "text-only" or transcript page should be made available for people who may not be able to view the graphics or hear the audio. Technology Services provides a script that will dynamically convert any VCU webpage to a text only version. Once in the text-only version users can surf around to any VCU page in text only mode. A text site is a supplement, not a replacement for an accessible website.

To enable the text only version on your page, insert the following link into the footer signature of your page.

<a href="http://text.vcu.edu:8080/tt/referrer">View text version</a>

How to check accessibility

There are many different audiences who require different accommodations based on their disabilities and needs. The four main categories of which people with disabilities fall under are visual, auditory, motor, and conceptual. Due to this variety of disabilities, websites need to be made accessible to all audiences in the same manner as it is accessible to people without disabilities. When possible it is good practice to do in person testing of your website with a variety of users to make sure the website able to be navigated and the content consumed.

Continuous reporting with SiteImprove

Technology Services has partnered with SiteImprove to provide web governance software to VCU's organizational websites. The software can be used identify accessibility errors, broken links, spelling mistakes, readability scores for content and other helpful insights to make your web pages friendly for VCU's web visitors. Account users have the ability to login to a dashboard or view statistics sent in a periodic email. To get an account with for VCU's SiteImprove please submit a Service Desk ticket at go.vcu.edu/webhelp with what VCU websites you need to begin getting reports for.

Scan your individual pages

Technology Services provides the AChecker tool to scan your pages for accessibility compliance issues and HTML validation. The AChecker tool defaults to check your pages against the WCAG 2.0 (Level A) requirements, but also includes options to check against WCAG 2.0 (Level AA), and Section 508 requirements.

If you need to scan a page that is behind a login or some type of firewall you can use the "HTML File Upload" or "Paste HTML Markup" options of the checker. To get the source code of the page, right click on the page and navigate to "View page source" (or the equivalent for your browser). 

Helpful tools & resources

Below are some helpful tools and resources to help you learn more about accessibility and test your websites to make sure they are as accessible as possible.