One of the most important things we do here at Web Services is work with other teams across the university to ensure their websites and systems are fully accessible. We do this using our accessibility check process.
This article will walk you through a sample audit and explain why we do it.
Accessibility Audit Case Study – LibGuides
- Who We Supported: Library and Learning Center (LLC)
- What we checked: LibGuides
- How we did it: Our review process
- What we found: Issues with color contrast, header structure, font size, alt text, and focus states
LibGuides offers useful resources for students of all subjects and is managed by the Library and Learning Center team. The LibGuides system consists primarily of guides, but also provides links to eBooks, magazines, and other online resources.
We have been asked to take part in a project to improve the content within LibGuides. Our goal was to help the team understand how accessible their content was and then help fix any issues they found.
There are hundreds of pages for every topic in the LibGuides system, so we knew we couldn’t rate everything ourselves. Then, after doing some accessibility audits to demonstrate the process, we trained the project team to do the audit process themselves.
When we thought about what to evaluate, we hand-picked individual pages to make sure we cover as many different templates and content types as possible. The pages were then assigned to different project team members.
Each person spent approximately 1-2 hours performing an accessibility audit of the assigned content, using both manual and automated checks and tools to accurately assess each page’s performance.
We logged issues in a document and included screenshots. These themes were shared and discussed together.
One of the desired outcomes of the project was to create an accurate and detailed accessibility statement that could be published for LibGuides. This document contains details of any outstanding accessibility issues and when a fix is expected for those issues. It also provides contact details for when someone has an accessibility issue and wants to report it.
Priority list of accessibility issues
Once all audits were completed and discussed, we had a list of priority accessibility issues that could be addressed. Some were more urgent than others. For example, videos and images that didn’t have alt text negatively impact some visitors, so we made them a priority.
In some cases, the project team was able to quickly update content to resolve issues. In other cases, we have been asked to update the LibGuides styles to fix issues with color contrast and font sizes.
Several complex issues were discovered that required vendor/supplier work. These problems have been collected and handed over to them to be fixed.
The result of all this hard work is that the LibGuides system meets the needs of our audience and the WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines. We have improved the readability of the contents and the overall usability of the system.
After the accessibility audit, we organized a training session for the LLC team on how to create accessible content. This session gave the team the knowledge to create web content that is easy to read and understand for everyone.
THE Course on creating accessible web content runs as an OPD session several times a year. At the time of writing, the next session is scheduled for March 17, 2022.
The accessibility work on a website or app is never done. There are several factors why this is the case, including:
- Minor content issues that can creep up over time (forgetting to add alt text to images when in a rush, for example)
- Technology also changes and evolves over time
- New recommendations are added to the WCAG guidelines
And that’s why we work in a continuous cycle of audits and improvements with all websites, apps and web-based systems across the university.
Why accessibility is so vital
Why do we do this job? The university website receives millions of visitors every month. Statistically, around 20% of these visitors will have some sort of disability or impairment which will affect how they use a website.
When a university website, app or browser-based system is fully accessible, it caters to the needs of every visitor, no matter who they are, where they are, or what device they are using. It means that anyone can find, read and understand our content online, including visitors with a disability or impairment.
- There are over 10 million people in the UK living with a disability ie one in six people
- 8.1 million people have significant visual impairments, including two million people who are blind
- about 14% of University of Dundee students report a disability each year (at least 1,900 current students)
- Hundreds more do not declare their disability (over 2,400 students is a fair estimate)
- We also need to consider prospective students, staff, prospective staff, research funders, alumni, general public, etc.
It is also important to remember this temporary AND situational disabilities can strike anyone at any time. An example of a temporary disability is a broken arm or a sprained wrist that could prevent you from using the mouse and instead require you to use the keyboard to navigate. An example of a situational disability is when you can’t see the screen clearly due to strong sunlight, or you can’t play the audio of a video because you’re in public and have to rely on closed captions instead.
Digital accessibility has never been more important to us at the University of Dundee because most people interact with us online and not face-to-face. Below are just a few example scenarios where a significant accessibility issue with a website or system would be a problem:
- International students applying for a course
- Students learn remotely from home
- Staff working from home
Being accessible means anticipating needs and not reacting to problems (provided problems are even reported). This requires that we be proactive and evaluate all of our systems and digital content to find and fix accessibility issues early.
If anyone can access our content online, the website or system hosting that content must be accessible by law under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018.
What is an Accessibility Audit?
An accessibility audit is an in-depth evaluation of a website or app that helps the people who manage that resource uncover accessibility issues. They can then prioritize and address these issues so that their website or app meets UK public sector accessibility regulations.
It involves testing a website or web app by running both manual and automated tests. The process uses different tools and browser extensions and screen readers for desktop and mobile devices.
The process allows people to discover problems in many areas, including:
- Color contrast
- Readability of the text
- Content structure
- Alternative text
- Compatibility with screen readers, magnifiers and other adaptive tools
The purpose of the process is to find out when we might be causing problems for people with disabilities or impairments in the way we deliver our online content. It helps bring problems to light so they can be resolved. This helps ensure that our content is discoverable, readable and understandable for everyone.
We use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 guidelines to help us understand whether a website or app is accessible or not.
Read our guide on accessibility verification process.
Checking accessibility is just one part of our ongoing efforts as a team and institution to make our digital platforms as accessible as possible so we can be fully inclusive and reach a wider audience.
The new university strategy will help further raise awareness, support and action so we can strengthen our efforts to serve every single staff member, student and member of the public who use our digital tools.
If you are responsible for a website, app or web-based system and would like to ensure it is accessible to all of your audience, please contact Web Services via Help4U or email firstname.lastname@example.org .uk.
Thanks for reading.