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Accessibility basics

Guidelines

Accessibility doesn’t happen by accident. Websites and documents must be deliberately designed and developed to be accessible right from the start, and this process should be deeply embedded in the digital culture of our institution, just like privacy or security.

The University uses the newest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2 Level AA, an internationally recognized best practice for public-facing websites.

Here, we included simplified web accessibility guidance as a great place to start with accessibility, providing the essential information for making your web content more inclusive.

Titles

Titles are the first thing a screen reader reads to the user. Titles appear in the tab in a web browser. Make sure to distinguish the title from the main heading, which is visible in the web page’s body; the title is not.

  • Provide descriptive, concise, and unique titles.
  • Refrain from stuffing titles with keywords to the point when they stop being descriptive and concise.
  • The most important unique information should come first.

Headings

  • Provide descriptive, concise, semantic headings that stand out from the rest of the text.
  • Follow the hierarchy (H1, H2, H3, H4) without skipping heading levels. For instance, don’t jump from H1 to H3.
  • Most pages should have only one H1.
  • Text that does not act as a heading should not be marked as a heading.

Lists

  • Use short, narrow, semantic lists for grouped items.
  • All lists must be marked up as lists using the list features provided by the authoring tool.
  • Don’t create fake bullet lists.
  • If you are creating a list of links, make sure these are also true marked lists, and make sure there is proper spacing between links in the list.
  • Provide descriptive, unique, and easy-to-find links with adequate space around them.
    Links like “click here” or “learn more” are not good because they don’t make sense out of context.
  • When a link leads to a document or opens in a new window, then that should be indicated.
  • Links must be consistent.
  • If an image functions as a link, it should have alternative text that presents the function of that link.

Tables

  • Use simple, semantic tables with meaningful, marked-up headers.
    A simple table should have a single header at the top of each column and, optionally, a single header in the first column of each row.
  • Avoid complex tables; break them into simple tables, do not merge cells, and use up to one header row and header column.
  • Don’t use tables for layout, and do not create screenshots of tables.
  • Add titles or captions for tables.

Images

  • Provide concise and descriptive text alternatives (alt text) for all informative images that consider context.
    If you add an image to your content, you must describe it because screen readers can’t read pictures.
  • Don’t include “image of” or “photo of.”
  • Don’t use Artificial Intelligence (AI) alone to write alt text for an image.
  • Don’t stuff alt text with SEO keywords.
  • Avoid images of text as much as possible.
  • If you need help figuring out where to start writing alt text, think about how you would describe the image to a friend over the phone.

Color

  • Don’t rely on color alone for meaning.
    Colorblind and low vision users may not be able to perceive the color, and screen readers do not announce colors.
  • Use enough color contrast.
    Poor text contrast with its background makes reading difficult, especially for people with low vision. Use free color-contrast tools to test color contrast ratio.
  • Don’t use Rochester’s Dandelion Yellow with white!

Text

  • Write text for easy and quick comprehension.
  • Use plain language, explain acronyms, avoid or minimize jargon and complex language, and define uncommon terms.
  • Don’t use fancy fonts.
  • Don’t use underline on a text that is not a hyperlink.
  • Avoid using all caps.
  • Use left-aligned text.
  • Don’t put two spaces after a period.
  • Don’t use empty paragraphs for spacing.
  • Provide the right amount of space. Lines should be spaced at least 1.5 times the font size, and paragraphs should be spaced at least two times the font size.

Layout and navigation

  • Use a simple layout and predictable navigation.
  • Keep navigation consistent; avoid changing the order of the links.
  • Provide consistent help (exact location for help content and links – phone number, contact info, FAQ, chat, “get help” page).
  • Keep the visual display clean and uncluttered.

Multimedia

  • Provide captions for audio and descriptions for information provided visually.
  • Plan ahead of time, especially for audio descriptions. Think about captioning and audio description requirements before the video is produced and during the production process.
  • Provide captions and transcripts that are accurate and not generated by AI.
  • You can use professional services to create captions and audio descriptions, especially for high-visibility, high-impact media. You can also do it yourself.
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