PSU Tech Comm Meetup Learns About: Web Content Accessibility Basics for Technical Communicators

By Marta Yousif

Research has shown that 20% of people who interact with technology have some sort of disability. Sharon Helms, who works at the PSU Office of Information Technology, spoke about the potential issues with levels of accessibility in technology as a result of a lack of awareness of disability types.

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Attendees of the PSU Tech/Comm meetup are thoroughly engrossed in a video presentation

Helms shared a list of the major categories of disability types as well as a list of her top ten guidelines to keep in mind regarding maintaining accessible web content.

Major Categories of Disability Types:

  1. Visual: disabilities regarding sight ability
  2. Hearing: disabilities regarding hearing ability
  3. Motor: disabilities regarding physical ability
  4. Cognitive: disabilities regarding mental ability

Helms brought attention to the Web Content Accessibility Guideline Website (WCAG) linked below, which provides good insight, suggestions, and information regarding web content accessibility as well as a list of four standards and guidelines to follow:

P.O.U.R.

  1. Perceivable: available to all senses (vision and hearing primarily)
  2. Operable: users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device
  3. Understandable: content is clear and limits confusion and ambiguity
  4. Robust: a wide range of technology (including old and new user agents and assistive technologies) can access the content

Helms concluded her talk with a list of ten guidelines to keep in mind when creating accessible web content.

10 Guidelines for Accessible Web Content:

  1. Provide text alternative: describe the content and the purpose of the image as concisely as possible (about 140 characters or less)
  2. Use headings to create structure: create unique headings with provided heading styles to create structure
  3. Use bullet and number feature to make lists: use the list feature for all bulleted and numbered lists and use the indent feature to create sublists
  4. Provide headings and summaries for tables: indicate column and row headers for all data tables with headings and provide a concise summary of the table’s purpose
  5. Provide a strong color contrast: small text must be a minimum 4.5:1 contrast ratio, and large text must be a minimum 3:1. Utilize a contrast checker if needed
  6. Provide clear and meaningful links: provide descriptive text for hyperlinks and indicate if the link opens in a new tab/window. Avoid terms like “click here”
  7. Avoid using images of text: do not use an image of text if that text conveys important information, is used as a heading, or appears in the user interface
  8. Avoid using tables for layout: tables have a specific semantic for screen readers and users, so we can use them to create columns
  9. Avoid using sensory characteristics: avoid using spatial relationships, page position, or relying on any single sensory ability such as vision or hearing
  10. Avoid using color alone: do not rely on color alone to communicate information; instead provide redundant visual cues such as Xs and check marks

Resources:

Web Content Accessibility Guideline Website

18F Accessibility Guide

PSU Accessibility

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