What is digital accessibility?
When all users can equally access the information and functionality of a website or any type of digital content, these are considered accessible. Many websites are difficult or impossible to use for some people because the website presents barriers to universal access. This is often a result of creating content or developing websites without taking all users into consideration. Overwhelmingly, 70% of all U.S. websites are inaccessible according to Nucleus Research's The Internet is Unavailable.
Best practices for accessibility occur in every part of a website’s development and maintenance. It also applies to any content that may end up online, be it a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, a PDF, or any other. From web designers and web developers to website builders and content editors, we are all responsible for making the web accessible for all.
One of the great things about digital accessibility is that it improves the experience for all users including users with disabilities.
Is my website accessible?
Accessibility is a mindset and there are many tools that can help get you started. Best practice is to start with automatic tools and then conduct manual testing for things that tools cannot help with.
There are many free browser extensions available. We recommend the following:
- WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool
- Siteimprove web accessibility checker available for Chrome and Firefox
There are resources available to guide manual testing, such as how to test screen-readers or keyboard navigation. ISU follows the User Experience process to test for general usability, accessibility, and user behavior. When evaluating a website for accessibility, we use a variety of both, automated tools and manual testing. We check for logical reading order, visual design principles and elements, readability, and perceptions of the users. We include people with disabilities in the process from the beginning.
Accessify your course! Iowa State University's Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) has a resource related to designing your courses with accessiblity in mind.
This hashtag, #A11y, is typically pronounced “A one one why.” Sometimes it is ally or alley, as in alleycat. A11y means accessibility, but in the realm of social media where hashtags are common, it means digital accessibility in particular. It’s the letter a with the number 11 as a stand in for the eleven absent letters with a Y at the end for accessibility. It’s shorthand basically.