Web accessibility – what is it and what does it mean? Simply put, web accessibility refers to whether or not an individual with a disability can easily make use of web resources. Can the person – who may be blind or deaf or suffer from a physical impairment – make use of the same information that an able-bodied person may find on the web?
With the ever-expanding internet, accessibility for all individuals has escalated in importance. In recent news, individuals with disabilities have chosen to litigate against organizations, companies and colleges in order to force these institutions to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This can be seen in the New York Times article by Vivian Wang, “College Websites Must Accommodate Disabled Students, Lawsuits Say”.
Seeing this trend, the Ritz Library team at Dutchess Community College chose to be proactive in evaluating our Ritz Research Guides for compliance issues. Our guides use the LibGuides software, a common library standard. In order to help in the process, WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) was used. WAVE offers a free extension for either the Firefox or Google Chrome browsers, or it can be used online through their website. WAVE analyzes each web page in relation to screen readers and determines what pertinent information is missing for a person with disabilities. The tool produces a report for the user to review.
Fig-1. Example of WAVE output.
Much to our immediate dismay it was apparent that we had compliancy issues with our libguides. We had numerous issues with widgets having missing or incorrect labels and with images missing alternative text data. Alternative text allows a screen reader to describe the picture that is on the web. In a few cases, we had images or words all in capital letters that made differentiations for screen readers difficult. We used the article “Making Accessible Links: 15 Golden Rules for Developers” by Gian Wild to assist us in determining and correcting the problem when the WAVE message was ambiguous, and also as a basis for future research guides creation.
<input type=”radio” name=”searchFieldSelector” id=”guidedField_0″ value=”” checked=”checked” />
<label for=”guidedField_0″> Keyword</label>
<input type=”radio” name=”searchFieldSelector” id=”guidedField_1″ value=”TI” />
<label for=”guidedField_1″> Title</label>
<input type=”radio” name=”searchFieldSelector” id=”guidedField_2″ value=”AU” />
<label for=”guidedField_2″> Author</label>
Fig-2. Sample creation of div id and label code.
For our non-compliant widgets, we reached out to the various vendors for solutions to update their widgets with correct labels. Our image libraries in LibGuides were updated so that all images contained alternate text.
Within one to two weeks we were able to bring all of our guides into compliance, and pass an auditing review by the college.
In our desire to create best practices, we have created the following standards:
- All imported images must have alternate text specified
- All Ritz Research guides must be WAVE compliant before being placed in a public status
There are other considerations that can be looked at in the future for improving web accessibility for the disabled, including analyzing screen color contrasts and if labels are being used effectively. As technology expands so does the need to stay abreast of developments so that all individuals can maximize the plethora of information found on the web.
Wang, Vivian. “College Websites must Accommodate Disabled Students, Lawsuits Say.” New York Times, Oct 11, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/nyregion/college-websites-disabled.html.
Wild, Gian. “Making Accessible Links: 15 Golden Rules for Developers.” Sitepoint, February 20, 2014, https://www.sitepoint.com/15-rules-making-accessible-links/.