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This post is written by Heidi King, Content Writer at OmniUpdate.

You’ve redesigned your website using the latest WCAG 2.1 standards, run accessibility checks, changed branding to accommodate ADA-friendly design, and have revised hundreds, if not thousands, of images, articles, videos, and links to make sure that your website content is ADA-compliant.

Yet can you say with confidence that your website allows anyone with any type of disability to fully engage with the content?

Even as colleges and universities are working diligently and in good faith to meet the ADA-compliance standards, there are still website accessibility mistakes that continue to plague their hard work.

This article presents the top 7 most common website accessibility mistakes that schools continue to make. These are:

  1. Missing or irrelevant alternative text (alt text) for images.
  2. Accessibility options that aren’t “accessible” to everyone.
  3. Non-contrast errors.
  4. Improperly formatted forms.
  5. Misidentified links.
  6. Non-accessible PDFs.
  7. Working only for accessibility compliance without considering Universal Design for Learning (UDL) standards.

Full accessibility compliance is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re late to the race, start with a free website accessibility check. Then, comb through your website for these common errors. Making a conscious effort to check and recheck your website periodically will go a long way in maintaining your website’s compliance with ADA standards.

What Accessibility Tools Do


People with disabilities use tools to help them navigate and understand website pages:

  • Assistive tools are both hardware and software that disabled people use to interact with the web. These can include screen readers that actually read text aloud to a user, magnifiers that make hard-to-read text larger for people with low vision, voice recognition software, and options for people who can’t use a mouse or a keyboard.
  • Adaptive techniques help disabled people improve their interactions with digital technology by reducing mouse speed, increasing the size of text, and turning on captions for images. Most software will include adaptive options.

Because of the different ways people are accessing information on a web page, it is important to understand and utilize the WCAG 2.1 standards.

Top 7 Accessibility Mistakes

Once you understand how differently abled people access your website, you will understand why these mistakes can be so frustrating.

1. Alternative text (alt text) is missing or irrelevant for images.


According to WEBAIM, alternative text continues to be the most problematic aspect of web accessibility. If alt text simply describes an image, it’s not giving the context or relevancy needed to understand what the image conveys. 

Take a look at this graph:

High school juniors prefer to search the website for specific college information at least 76% of the time, as opposed to 69% of high school seniors.

High school juniors prefer to search the website for specific college information at least 76% of the time, as opposed to 69% of high school seniors.


Image source: 2019 E-Expectations® Trend Report

If the alt text simply says, “graph of student mobile preferences,” a user using a screen reader gets no information about what’s really going on with the numbers. In situations where it’s too complicated to explain every line in the graph, point out the most pertinent information to share.

A robust content management system (CMS) like OU Campus can enforce a user to add alt text for images before a page can be published.

2. Relying on accessibility tools may provide solutions for one group of users and obstacles for another.


Accessibility tools are extremely beneficial for differently able people, but do you rely on them to make your webite accessible. For example, using a screen reader makes text readable, but how do people with low vision read the content on your website if they don’t have one? The better plan is to format pages appropriately. A good CMS can be customized so that content contributors use templates that are accessible.

3. Non-contrast errors trip up even the most visited sites on the web.

While there have been overall improvements since the last study in 2017, a recent Alexa accessibility analysis found that eBay, YouTube, CNN, FOX News, and weather.com are but a few of the websites found with non-contrast errors. Even so, if websites from companies that have dozens of dedicated team members can continue making mistakes, it’s obvious that colleges and universities will, too. As a rule of thumb, the contrast ratio between surrounding text and the background should be at least 4.5:1.

Appropriate contrast settings are vital to text readability on a web page.

Appropriate contrast settings are vital to text readability on a web page.


Image courtesy of OmniUpdate

4. Forms have incorrect formatting. 



Screen readers have a forms mode so that form elements and their associated labels are read. This means that it’s imperative your forms are properly coded so no vital information is skipped. Your CMS should make it easy for your users to properly format and label your forms.

Instructions should be placed before a form box or within a form element or field set. If there is a box for a legend, use it and keep the legend short and direct.

Instructions should be placed before a form box or within a form element or field set. If there is a box for a legend, use it and keep the legend short and direct.


Content that is not correctly identified in a form may not get read by a screen reader. In this form, a screen reader will specify the first box as “Name” but may not read the instructions underneath the box.

Content that is not correctly identified in a form may not get read by a screen reader. In this form, a screen reader will specify the first box as “Name” but may not read the instructions underneath the box.


Images courtesy of webaim.org

In the example above, the two form fields are identified, but a screen reader may not read the instructions underneath the “Name” field that falls outside of the form field.

5. Links are identified out of context.



Most colleges and universities no longer have “Click Here” or “More” to indicate a link, but most also don’t go far enough in identifying the link. A link must make sense outside the context of a sentence or paragraph. If you can describe the link with a couple of words or a phrase, do so, but also know that it’s okay to link a full sentence. 



Furthermore, make sure your links meet accessibility requirements. The color contrast ratio between the link and surrounding text should be at least 3:1. Make sure it is underlined so that people who are colorblind can see the link. And use color for people who use a keyboard to navigate through an article—that way they can clearly skip to the links.

6. PDFs are not accessible.


PDFs continue to be problematic on websites. That’s because to make them accessible, you have to assess accessibility issues in the source document before converting it to a PDF. If you’ve already converted the document to a PDF, you’ll need to use Acrobat tools to remedy the document. Watch the webcast Accessible PDFs: Starting with Your Source Document to learn more.

7. Forgetting that accessibility compliance means better design for all.


Eliminating accessibility barriers benefits all people. When you use Universal Design for Learning (UDL), you are championing accessibility for all students by reducing and ultimately removing any barriers that inhibit learning. UDL can also reduce any costs associated with implementing accessibility.

Becoming and staying accessible requires constant monitoring of your college or university website. Take the time to ensure that your site doesn’t have any of these common errors. It’s also a good idea to have a CMS that helps identify errors before they are published.

Check out OU Campus to see how a CMS can keep you compliant with accessibility guidelines.

 

Article Author

Mallory Willsea

Mallory Willsea

Executive Producer
Director of Marketing and Business Developement, mStoner, Inc.

Mallory Willsea brings more than a decade of marketing, digital, and enrollment marketing experience to Higher Ed Live and mStoner. Mallory serves as the main point of contact for Higher Ed Live sponsors. As head of marketing and sales for mStoner, Mallory develops the firm's marketing strategy and works with potential clients to identify right-fit solutions.

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Mallory Willsea

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