If you build web applications or websites for any university-related activity, including courses, you should make your web applications and sites accessible. Building a fully accessible web application or site is not a simple task. There are many issues—from user experience design to color choice to client-side programming techniques—that must be considered.
At a minimum, the university recommends the following from your web applications or websites (hereafter referred to, simply, as “sites”):
- Each page in your site should be fully readable by a screen reader.
- Each page in your site should be fully navigable without using a mouse.
- Images that convey information on your site should have alternative text descriptions.
- Videos should have captions and audio files should have transcripts
- All pages should be designed around the principle of distinguishability.
It is important to understand that the above items are only a fraction of what it takes to make a site fully accessible. The prevailing web accessibility guidelines are the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.1 Level AA conformance. In addition to JHU guidance, external funders and regulatory agencies may require compliance with WCAG 2.1 Level AA guidelines. As such, you should always be working toward compliance with the WCAG 2.1 Level AA guidelines.
A simplified guide to the WCAG 2.1 standard is available for content creators and developers.
The university does not currently provide technical resources to convert an existing site or assist in building a new site to meet the above requirements. As the site owner, this is your responsibility.
There are three major steps you can take to make your site more accessible:
- Use proper HTML markup with correct nesting of elements so that you never have an H3 tag before an H1 tag in any HTML page, for example.
- Provide text alternatives for all images on your site, as well as captioning for video and transcripts for audio.
- Use ARIA roles to properly mark up the sections of content, links, and form elements on all your pages.
Google offers a free course on building accessible websites if you would like in-depth training on the subject. Additionally, a training course on how to make WordPress sites accessible is available through LinkedIn Learning.
To test your site for accessibility, there are automated web accessibility checkers that you can use to start. Automated checkers only detect approximately 30 to 40% of accessibility barriers, so it is also important to do manual testing to identify remaining barriers. Please refer to the Getting Started part of the website for more information.
The Accessible University website offers a sample website with numerous accessibility issues and a corrected version of the same website that can help site developers identify and understand accessibility barriers.
It is important to think about building accessibility into your sites as a process. If you are building a new site, it is much simpler and less expensive to design and build in accessibility from the start. If you have an existing site, develop a plan for making the site accessible and continually build toward reaching that goal by addressing various accessibility barrier types step by step.