Tips for Making University Websites More Accessible for People with Disabilities

University websites play a crucial role in engaging with the academic community and sharing information with the rest of the world. Around one in five college students in the U.S. report some form of disability, which means that inaccessible websites and online course content prevent them from learning effectively. By adhering to accessibility guidelines and incorporating inclusive design principles, universities can create websites that accommodate a diverse range of users’ needs. This article presents essential tips to make university websites more accessible.

1.  Observe color contrast standards

One important aspect of web accessibility to watch for is color contrast, which refers to the distinction between the foreground (text) and background colors. A high-contrast color scheme ensures that individuals with visual impairments or color blindness can read and comprehend the content without difficulty. For instance, a website that uses black text on a white background is more readable than one that uses red text on a purple background.

Using a color contrast checker, university web designers can identify color combinations that comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The WCAG specifies a minimum contrast ratio of 3:1 for large text and 4.5:1 for normal text. By following these guidelines, university websites can ensure that information is easily discernible, promoting an inclusive user experience.

2.  Add alt text to images

Images convey information more effectively for certain individuals, but they can pose significant barriers for individuals who rely on screen readers or have visual impairments. By providing alt text for images, universities can ensure that users with disabilities can understand the context and meaning of the content.

Effective alt text describes what is shown on the image in a concise manner, providing enough information to convey the purpose of the image. This allows screen reader users to comprehend the visual content and ensures that they are not left out of any crucial information or announcements conveyed through images.

3.  Write descriptive link text

Link text is another crucial element of web accessibility. Meaningful and descriptive link text enables users to understand the purpose and destination of the link without having to deduce it from the surrounding text. Instead of using generic phrases like “click here” or “read more,” university websites should use descriptive language that conveys the content or action associated with the link.

For example, instead of “Application form,” a more accessible alternative would be “Access the application form here.” This approach tells the user what to do and what to expect once they perform the desired action. It enhances the overall user experience and ensures that individuals using assistive technologies can navigate the website effectively.

4.  Organize content with headings and subheadings

Clear and well-structured content is essential for users with cognitive disabilities or those who rely on screen readers. Headings provide a hierarchical structure that enables users to navigate through the website efficiently instead of having to read the entire website to scan and locate the information they need.

University websites should follow a logical heading structure, using heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) in the correct order. This allows screen readers to interpret the content accurately and enables users to navigate the website using assistive technologies more effectively. Adding heading tags will also allow search engines to index your website more efficiently.

5.  Provide transcriptions and subtitles for multimedia content

Multimedia content, such as videos or podcasts, is becoming increasingly popular as a medium of instruction. However, these forms of content can be exclusionary to individuals with hearing impairments or those who prefer to consume information in written format.

To ensure equal access, universities should provide accurate transcripts for videos and captions for audio content. These features enable individuals with hearing impairments to access the information and enhance the overall user experience for all users. Some users also offer on-campus transcription services to allow users to transcribe content on demand.

Website accessibility for more inclusive learning

Creating accessible university websites is essential to promote inclusivity and equal access to information for all users. By prioritizing color contrast, implementing alternative text for images, creating descriptive link text, structuring content with proper headings, and providing transcripts and captions for multimedia content, universities can significantly enhance the accessibility of their websites.

Web accessibility should be an ongoing effort, with regular audits and usability testing to identify and address potential barriers. By embracing inclusive design principles, universities can ensure that their websites cater to a diverse range of users, fostering an inclusive academic community that values accessibility and equal opportunity for all.

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