Accessibility Updates Web services blog | firez
Web Services

Accessibility Updates | Web services blog

We wanted to provide a quick update on recent accessibility work and tell you about some upcoming accessibility training for staff on June 7th. And what better time to publish it than Global Accessibility Day!

What do we mean when we talk about accessibility and accessible websites?

Accessibility is about making sure that content is accessible, read and understood by as many people as possible. It means removing barriers to allow everyone to participate. Accessible content is available to everyone, including non-native English speakers and people with disabilities, illnesses, or impairments, permanent or temporary. Accessible websites, applications and interfaces can be used by anyone.

World Accessibility Day

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is an awareness day held on May 20 that focuses on digital access and inclusion for over one billion people with disabilities and impairments. It is celebrated every year on the third Thursday of May.

GAAD’s purpose is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion.

There are many great virtual event sessions being held throughout the day (and night!) by experts from around the world. Here are just a few that might be of interest:

  • How to make your videos accessible and inclusive
  • How awareness of assistive technology affects the success of students with disabilities in college [university] level
  • Merge accessibility with user experience
  • Audio descriptions and subtitles
  • Accessibility teachers coffee hour

Find out more, consult the complete list of events and register on the GAD website.

Recent work on accessibility

Here’s what we’ve done in this important area since our last accessibility update:

Accessibility group

What was called the Web Accessibility Group has grown and evolved into Accessibility group over the past year or so. About a dozen staff members from different teams across the university meet every month or so to discuss concerns, plans, and projects that will help push accessibility to the top of the agenda.

Our overall goal is to enhance online and offline experiences for all students, staff and visitors of all types from around the world. We can achieve this by ensuring that our websites, apps, systems, buildings, educational materials, videos, signage and general environments are designed and accessible in an inclusive manner.

If you are interested in learning more or joining the group, please email me (, including Accessibility Group in the title/subject.

Accessibility training and audits

Since our last accessibility update, we’ve trained various teams and individuals across the university to help them create accessible web content.

Towards the end of last year, we worked closely with a team of LLCs to help them conduct an accessibility audit of the LibGuides student-facing system. Taking their most popular and complex content, we used both automated and manual testing techniques and tools to make a detailed assessment of whether such content can be easily accessed, consumed and understood by every visitor, including those with disabilities or impairments.

You can see the whole accessibility check process on our guide, Performing an accessibility self-check.

The result of this project was a list of issues that we could address together with the vendor, SpringShare, to greatly improve the experience for any visitor, but especially for those who use a screen reader.

We were also able to create an accurate accessibility statement detailing where the content was accessible and what the remaining issues were (and when they would be fixed).

Accessibility Statements

Every active website, online application or system and mobile app used by students, staff or the general public must be covered by an accessibility statement specifying the following:

  • How accessible the website, app or system is
  • What to do if you can’t access parts of the website, app or system
  • How to report accessibility issues or provide feedback
  • The executive procedure
  • General contact information
  • Technical information about the accessibility of the website, app or system
  • Compliance status
  • Details about inaccessible content like PDFs and how to circumvent those issues to access the content another way
  • How the website, app or system was tested
  • What is the organization doing to improve its accessibility

You can view the accessibility statement covering the university’s main website as an example. We are available to guide you in creating an accessibility statement for your university site or application.

Updating and testing our websites

We regularly carry out accessibility audits and tests on our websites, as well as the models and templates we use to build those websites. Our goal is for the university website to become fully WCAG 2.1 AA compliant, something we believe is not too far off. Achieving this requires a significant amount of work, requiring your entire website to meet over 100 different requirements such as these:

  • provide text alternatives (« alt text ») for non-text content
  • provide transcripts for audio and video
  • provide captions for videos
  • make sure the content is structured in a logical way and can be navigated and read by a screen reader
  • don’t use color as the only way to explain or distinguish something
  • use text colors that stand out clearly against the background color
  • do not use text images
  • ensure that your website is responsive, for example to the user’s device, page orientation and preferred font size
  • make sure everything works for keyboard-only users
  • allow people to play, pause and stop any content on the go
  • do not use flashing or flashing content or let the user disable animations
  • provide a « skip to content » link.
  • use plain english
  • keep sentences short
  • don’t use words and phrases that people won’t recognize, or provide an explanation if you can’t help it
  • explain all abbreviations and acronyms, unless they are well known and in common use
  • use valid HTML so that user agents, including assistive technologies, can accurately interpret and analyze the content
  • make sure your code lets assistive technologies know what each UI component is for, what state it is currently in, and if it changes

We recently updated our video component to include an area to view a transcript. A transcript is a text description of the audio content of the video. Providing an accurate transcript for each of our videos is a legal requirement.

A screenshot of the video transcription feature in action

We use tools like SiteImprove to measure and identify the compliance of our web content and to help pinpoint any issues that may be negatively affecting our visitors’ experience.

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The SiteImprove accessibility console

Contact us if you would like an accessibility report on your website from SiteImprove.

OPD training – “How to create accessible web content”

I’m teaching an OPD course focusing on accessible web content. This course aims to help staff create content that goes beyond and can be enjoyed by all, regardless of device, location, situation, disability or impairment.

This 90 minute session (which takes place twice a year) will give you:

  • Insight into why accessibility is essential for all web content creators
  • An overview of web accessibility (without the jargon)
  • Live demonstrations of assistive technology including a screen reader
  • Instructions on how to try assistive technologies built into your computer and mobile device
  • A look at the techniques our audiences use to tailor your content to their specific needs (e.g. dyslexia and color blindness)
  • Working knowledge of how to create accessible content for the web, including how to structure your page, improve readability, use color effectively, write suitable alt text for images, add transcripts and captions to videos, build better links, and more
  • The reassurance that creating accessible content isn’t difficult, technical, or requires a whole new approach
  • A breakdown of who will benefit from publishing accessible content (including non-native English speakers)

If you or your team would like to learn more about accessibility or make sure you create fully accessible web pages, please join me on Monday 7th June 10:30-12:30 after registration on the OPD website.

Need help with website accessibility?

We’re here to help you create accessible websites and web content. If you need help making your videos and documents accessible, contact Creative Services. Otherwise, simply log in to a ticket Help4U and we will get back to you as soon as possible to help you make your website fully readable, accessible and on brand.