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How accessible is my website?

In my last post, I reviewed an insightful article that I had read which discussed the accessibility of a website.  The article itself was extremely helpful and furthered my understanding of what it truly meant for a website to be accessible.

With that in mind, I thought I would see just how accessible my own website is based on the Section 508 guidelines found on the site WebAim (web accessibility in mind).  This blog post will be dedicated to my findings.  In doing so, I hope that you may learn from the mistakes I may or may not have made.  For further assistance in understanding what it is I am trying to convey, or to just simply learn more, you may find Jim Thatcher’s Section 508 Tutorial helpful.

The following standards that I will be discussing are excerpted from Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, §1194.22.  The pass/fail criteria that is associated with each standard represent an interpretation of Section 508 web standards.  However, what I discus is technically NOT official Section 508 documentation.  For the full text of Section 508, please see the official government 508 web site.

The first 508 standard, section A, states that a text equivalent for every non-text element needs to be provided (e.g., via “alt”, “longdesc”, or in element content).  What this means, is that in order to pass this standard, basically every image or embedded media that conveys content needs to have equivalent alternative text.  An example of what this will look like is seen below:

<p><img src=”Images/headshot.jpg” alt=”Headshot Achievement” ></p>

As you may have guessed, a site will fail this standard if a non-text element has no alt or text description or the description is not equivalent, or is not described in the adjacent text.

Unfortunately, upon review of my site, I noticed that I neglected to provide sufficient alt text.  Instead, I mindlessly copied and pasted my image code one after another- repeating the information.  Now that I understand alt text better, I can make these changes in order to make my site a bit more accessible.

Section A goes on to say that the alternative text should also succinctly describe the content conveyed by the element, without being too verbose (for simple objects) or too vague (for complex objects).  A site would fail this standard if the alternative texts are verbose (“picture of…”, “image of…”, etc.), vague, misleading, inaccurate, or redundant to the context (e.g. the alt text is the same as adjacent text).

Once again, I have noticed that my own site is not accessible in regards to this standard.  While I cited the sources of my images, I neglected to provide the alternative text that should describe the content conveyed by the image.

There are of course a few other guidelines in Section A, but they do not necessarily apply to my web site.  For example, Section A mentions that complex graphics, such as graphs or charts, need to be accompanied by equivalent text, either through a description in the body of the page or a link to a description on a separate page.  While that makes sense, I did not have anything of the sort on my site.  One other guideline mentioned was that transcripts should be provided for audio content.  While I did have video with audio on my web site, I did not have just plain audio.  I feel that the video accompanies the audio.

This last example of Section A brings me to into what Section B has to say about audio/visual components.  It declares that equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation should be synchronized with the presentation.  This means that if there is video, than there should be synchronized captions that accompany it. 

I am sort of torn on this one though.  While my video does not necessarily have synchronized captions, I feel that it does not really need it.  That is, however, just my opinion.  My video is nothing more than a trailer for a video game.  However, the video game itself is completely story driven and depends on the narration of the main character.  The audio in the trailer is purely narration from the game.

Thinking on the issue now, I see that the video would not only be best served with captions/ sub-titles, but that it would also make my site that much more accessible.  By including sub-titles for the narration, I feel that I would enhance the experience the visitors of my website will have.

To conclude this post, I found the Section 508 guidelines to be very helpful and beneficial.  This was my first attempt at creating a website and I was bound to make a mistake or two.  Regardless, I fell confident going forward that I will not make the same mistakes and that my current website and any future sites I create will be accessible.

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