Accessibility myths and misconceptions
Web accessibility has always been a requirement for UMaine websites, and Digital Communications has been increasing efforts to improve the accessibility of web content on umaine.edu. The term “accessibility” refers to our efforts to remove barriers that prevent access to websites by people who have a disability. This month, we acknowledge some myths and misconceptions around this topic.
My class/program isn’t a good fit for someone with disabilities, so why worry about accessibility?
Honestly, it’s hubris for us to decide pre-emptively that someone isn’t capable of the career an education prepares them for. There are constant innovations occurring that are making accommodations for disabilities that we thought were not feasible just a decade ago.
Additionally, the number of potential students who have a disability is larger than you may think. According to a 2012 study by the U.S. Census bureau, nearly 1 in 5 people have a disability in the U.S. (about 56.7 million people). These disabilities range from profound difficulty seeing and hearing, to situational disabilities where the text may not be their primary language. Traits such as color blindness or vision problems addressed by eyeglasses mean color contrast or glare on a screen can interfere with their learning. Some disabilities are temporary, and some (motor skills) affect the use of a mouse or touchscreen but their keyboard use is strong.
I only add content to the website Digital Communications set up for me, accessibility is their issue not mine.
It is true that our team here in Digital Communications is responsible for the website design you use (theme in WordPress terms), and we are routinely finding minor improvements we can make to enhance accessibility. By making use of the tools we provide, there are a number of accessibility issues you do not need to address (the navigation menus at the very top, the way site search operates, and the way lists of articles and events behave, for example).
At the same time, our websites would be useless without the content you provide between the top and bottom of the page— and the content you create in that space will benefit from a focus on accessibility.
- Ensure that the images you add have proper “alt text”
- Create links that have explanatory, unique link text
- Add clear instructions to your web forms
All of the topics we have covered regarding web accessibility in previous newsletters have focused on the work you can do to make your content accessible, and are available on our User Guide.
It takes too much time and effort to make my content accessible.
We hope that over the last academic year, our monthly newsletter has given you helpful tips on web accessibility so that you can keep these issues in mind as you first create content. It is truly daunting to look at a website that has hundreds of images that lack alt text, but the truth is that a situation like that took years to get to such a state.
Addressing accessibility as you work with your content can become second nature, and does not need to be an onerous task you take on every couple of years. Think about accessibility when you first plan to build a new web page, and you will save yourself time and effort.