For Content Creators
The following aims to provide a high-level overview of do's and dont's, tips and tools to help you create great content.
What is web accessibility?
Video from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. The Web is designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.
Accessibility is essential for WVU to create high quality websites, web tools, and to not exclude people from using our products and services.
If you do nothing else, follow these rules:
Write in plain english
- Keep your language simple, at a high school reading level. If you must use acronyms, jargon or technical language, provide plain English alternatives or a glossary.
Use descriptive link text.
- This means
never use any of the following words when creating links:
- Click Here
- Read More
- Learn More
- Click Here to Read More
- This means never use any of the following words when creating links:
Alternative text for images
- If you can't see an image, how do you know what it represents? Answer: Alt text.
- Alt text is largely about context. When creating content, ask yourself: "If I couldn't see this image, what would I want to know about it?"
- When writing alt text, imagine you're describing the image to a friend over the phone. What would you say? Use this as alt text.
- Do not include:
- "Image of"
- "Picture of"
- The name of the photographer
Organize your content with headings, paragraphs, and lists
- Using semantic markup will aid the accessibility and readability of your content.
- Most pages automatically insert a Heading 1 as the page title. Consider structuring your content from there (Heading 2's are main sections, Heading 3's are sub-sections of major sections, and so forth).
- Do not skip heading levels
Do not underline text
- Most users equate underlined text to be a link. Only underline links, nothing else.
Use high-contrast colors
- There will be times when you get to pick your foreground text and background colors. Make sure the two colors are dissimilar enough to provide good contrast for users who don't have perfect 20/20 vision.
- Not sure? Test your color contrast. Make sure it passes WCAG AA.
Avoid images of text
- You may be tempted to use an image containing text (like an event flyer), rather than typing out the content on your web page. Do not do this, because screen readers and other assistive technologies cannot read text that appears in an image.
- If you want your text to be read by the user, use actual text on the web page (which can be styled with CSS) rather than an image-based presentation. The image's alt text should include anything in the image that cannot be converted to actual text, like a logo or brand name.
- In addition to making the content accessible, other reasons to use actual text over images of text include:
- Text in images cannot be copy/pasted by the user.
- Text in images cannot adapt to different screen sizes or orientations.
- Browsers on slower internet connections may not show or download graphics.
Let's talk about PDF files
PDF files are sore spots for accessibility—even the US Government advises against using PDF files. Yes, you can create accessible PDFs; however, PDF files are rarely fully accessible by default. Correcting a PDF to make it accessible is a time-intensive process. Our general recommendation is to convert content in PDF files to HTML content on your website. This is the most future friendly, robust, and accessible solution.
When using a PDF is appropriate
A PDF file's great strength is that it will look the same on any computer and print more or less the same way from any printer. Knowing this, using a PDF should be strictly used for documents:
- That are meant to be printed, and
- Must maintain their layout.
If your document does not meet the above criteria, convert the content from PDF to a page on your website.
Check and fix PDF accessibility errors
If you must keep content in the PDF format, be sure to check your PDF for accessibility errors and correct them. It is easiest to correct accessibility errors when starting from the source document. For example, if you wrote a document in Microsoft Word, then converted that document to a PDF, it is best to fix errors in the Word document first, then convert the accessible document to PDF.
To this date, there are no known tools that will correct PDF accessibility errors as a batch process. It is a manual, one-by-one, time intensive process.
LinkedIn Learning, formerly Lynda.com, created a wonderful video course outlining how to create accessible PDF files. LinkedIn Learning does require a subscription. Luckily, they offer a free one-month trial which is sufficient to complete a five-hour course.
Resources for content creation:
- Writing Accessible Content by Sami Keijonen
- How to design words by John Saito
- Improve your writing in real-time with Grammarly and Hemingway
- Why “click here” is a terrible link, and what to write instead by Stephanie Leary
- Accessibility: Image Alt text best practices by Siteimprove
- Alt-texts: The Ultimate Guide by Daniel Göransson
- Alt vs Figcaption by thoughtbot
- Emulate a disability.
- Accessibility cheatsheets for Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, and InDesign by The National Center on Disability and Access to Education
- Create and verify PDF accessibility with Adobe Acrobat Pro
- Videos of how to create accessible Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents by the National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials
- When to use HTML webpages instead of PDFs by Pope Tech
- An Overview of PDF Inaccessibility by The Paciello Group