CWIS Web Centre

Please Note: we are no longer actively updating this site but it still contains some useful information. New websites should be built using the Plone content management system.

Rules and regulations

Accessibility

Many Web users may be operating in contexts very different from your own. They may have a disability, or be using an different operating system or have a slow Internet connection.

For example, people who are blind use speech synthesis software to read aloud the content of a Web page. You must make sure that your design allows your information to be accessed in this way by always using alternative text to describe an image or non-text element. As well as helping people who have difficulty seeing your Web site, it will also help the majority of users, as the alternative text will be visible if the image takes time to download. The University of Leicester is committed to designing for accessibility.

What is SENDA?

With the implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA), from September 2002, it is now a legal requirement to take steps to ensure your Web site is accessible to disabled people.

SENDA[External Link] has been introduced to include educational establishments that were previously exempt from the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). As of September 2002 it will be a legal requirement to provide equal access to information and services for everyone.

What does this mean for us?

Basically we must make sure that information on the Web Site in accessible to everyone, and if it isn't we have an obligation to make 'reasonable adjustments'. If information can't be accessed by a disabled person, we must provide an alternative form of provision so as not to disadvantage the person concerned.

How do we do that?

Don't worry, creating an accessible Web site shouldn't be difficult, in a lot of cases there are probably just small adjustments to make to comply with the legislation. One of the most common (and easiest to fix!) mistakes is not including alternative text for images. This means that people with impaired sight or those using text-only browsers wouldn't be able to access any information which is presented by an image.

These top ten simple tipsDownload PDF are a starting point for making sure your site is accessible.

Guidelines

To help you to ensure your Web site is accessible, the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) have produced the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines[External Link]. These explain in detail what you need to do to allow as wide an audience as possible view your Web site. They are split into three priorities:

  • Priority 1 is a checkpoint that you must satisfy, otherwise some groups of people will find it impossible to access your information. The University of Leicester's Web site conforms to Priority 1
  • Priority 2 is a checkpoint that you should satisfy, otherwise some groups will find it difficult to access your information
  • Priority 3 is a checkpoint you may satisfy, otherwise some groups may find it somewhat difficult to access your information

HTML

You Web site should also conform to the published standard for HTML 4.0 Transitional. You can use the Validation Service provided by W3C[External Link] which will check your HTML and give recommendations for improvements.

You should use HTML to mark up the structure of your pages and provide layout information using Cascading Style Sheets[External Link] (which can be overridden by the user, or ignored by older browsers).

Colour

To ensure that the colours you choose are displayed as closely as possible on most screens you should keep to the 216 'Web Safe' colours. These colours are based on combinations of six possible values each for red, green and blue. Further information on how to use Web Safe colours in text and graphics is in the Corporate Identity GuidelinesDownload PDF. There are also links for Web Sites that can help you pick colours for your designs in the Design it Resources section.

Colour is highlighted in W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines[External Link]. You shouldn't rely on colour alone to convey your message as some people may not be able to differentiate between certain colours, or may be using non-colour or non-visual displays.

Checking Accessibility

Once you have addressed accessibility issues, you can use the Webxact[External Link] tool to help you to check that they conform to Priority 1. This tool automatically checks the main accessibility checkpoints and offers advice on areas you should check manually. It also gives an idea of the size of your site and how long it will take to download.

As well as using Webxact, you need to check yourself that your pages display as expected with older browsers, different screen resolutions and colour depths, on different operating systems (where available fonts may be limited), and with text-only browsers such as lynx (available on the irix service).

How do I find out more?

British Law requires that Web sites meet Priority 1 Checkpoints of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The full documentation explaining what this means can be found on the W3's Web site[External Link]

There also a PDF available on designing accessible Web SitesDownload PDF which has more readable information, including practical tests to help you learn more about accessibility.

The TechDis site[External Link] contains a list of precepts of accessibility and usability, which give easy to follow advice on accessible Web design.

I still need help!

If you have any questions or problems with checking the accessibility of your site or making adjustments, please contact the CWIS Officer at cwis@le.ac.uk

UPDATED: 18th November 2005
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