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Standard Operating Procedure

Accessibility and Usability

Purpose

The goal of this procedure is to successfully ensure that a UTPA web site is adhering to accessibility and usability standards.

Scope

This procedure is intended for all new or redesigned web sites at The University of Texas-Pan American.

Prerequisites

Designing a new website or a complete overhaul of an existing site. A valid UTPA e-mail Account must be in existence (in order to be able to access the web server). Also, UTPA students, staff and faculty must be given publish privileges to their respective web site. For assistance, contact the Internet Services department: webhelp@utpa.edu

Responsibilities

Web Developer / Web Page Authors

Procedure

Accessibility Guidelines:

All web page owners must review their web sites to ensure that they follow the following accessibility standards. UTPA's web accessibility policy can be found at http://www.utpa.edu/policies/accessibility/. The following standards are based on state and federal policies and guidelines.

  • All images, Java applets, Flash, video, audio files etc that convey content, must use the “alt” or “longdesc” tags to describe the content to provide access for people using assistive technologies.  The alt descriptions should succinctly describe the content conveyed by the objects without being too verbose or vague. Alt descriptions for images used as links should describe the link destination. Complex graphics like graphs, charts etc. must be accompanied by detailed text description in the body of the page, a link to the description on a separate page, or the longdesc attribute. Images used only for design, structure or that do not provide unique information shall have a “null” or “blank” alt description(alt=”” or alt=” “).
  • Upon receiving a request for accommodation of multimedia presentations, training/informational video or audio files which support the mission of the University, equivalent alternatives like captions for video files or captions and/or transcripts for audio files shall be provided.
  • Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color for those with color blindness or for visitors with devices that do not display color.
  • When using style sheets for layout and design, the web pages shall be created so that all information in the document is still readable and understandable when the style sheet is turned off.
  • When image maps are used for navigation, client side image maps with the appropriate alt text for the image as well as each hot spot region shall be used instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.
  • Data tables in web pages shall have the row and column headers appropriately identified. Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers. Tables used strictly for layout shall not have row or column headers.
  • Frames used in a web page shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation like using the title attribute of the frame tag.
  • When using animated content like gifs, plug-ins or other technologies, the web page must be evaluated so that people with disabilities are not adversely affected. Pages shall avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
  • A text only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be created and maintained only when a web page cannot comply through any other means. The text-only version shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.
  • When scripting languages are used to convey essential information or to create navigation or interface elements, functional text shall be used to convey equivalent information that can be read by assistive technologies.
  • When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to the plug-in or applet that complies with §TAC 213.30. The applet or plug-in and the content within them must be accessible to assistive technologies, or alternative means of accessing equivalent content shall be provided.
  • Electronic forms designed to be completed and submitted online shall allow people using assistive technologies to access the information, filed elements, directions and cues available to complete the form. This includes providing text labels for form controls and associating labels with form elements in the markup.
  • A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
  • When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more times is required. 

In addition all web pages on your site should also

  • Provide a link to the UTPA homepage.
  • Provide the University's contact information.
  • Provide a link to the Policies page.
  • Avoid using vendor specific "non-standard" extensions.
  •  Validate your site's CSS using the W3C CSS validator.

Tools and Resources

There are several online Accessibility checkers available, some of which are listed below. You can test your web pages against one of these tools to check for any errors.

After checking your web page with one or more of the above tools, correct your web page with the recommendations provided by the software. Run the tests until your web pages pass all the tests.

These free online tutorials explain each of the accessibility standards in more detail. The below links are provided to help you get started.

Screen Readers

Testing your web pages with screen readers like JAWS will give you an idea of how a person with disability using a screen reader will experience your web page. A free web based screen reader, which has some limitations, can be found here http://webanywhere.cs.washington.edu/. Testing your sites against a text based browser such as Lynx is also a good practice to make sure all your content is accessible to screen readers.

Also consider colorblind users when choosing color combinations. Vischeck is an online tool that simulates colorblind vision which can help you with this process.

Usability

Here are some guidelines to make sure your web page is available to the widest possible audience by  following web standards to make the content more readale.

  1. Test your web pages on multiple browsers and platforms to make sure they render correctly even on different internet connections.
  2. Use standard fonts throughout the site that is easily legible.
  3. Whenever possible use text instead of graphics to reduce the download time of pages.
  4. Use headings to indicate font size, such as H1 for page title, H2 for section heading and H3 for sub section headings.
  5. Label links to describe where the links leads. For example, label a link "UTPA homepage" rather than "click here" if it directs people to our homepage.
  6. If you use drop down menus, make sure they do not automatically redirect the user on selection from the list. Provide a "Go" button that will activate the selection from the list.

Writing for the web

Most visitors to your website will scan the page for highlights. Users with cognitive and learning disabilties will benifit if the content on your page was written for the web. Some consideration include:

  • Be succinct: write no more than 50% of the text you would have used in a hardcopy publication
  • Write for scannability: don't require users to read long continuous blocks of text. Make one point per paragraph.
  • Use headings and subheadings.
  • Make your point and then explain it.
  • Use short line lengths: seven to ten words per line.
  • Use plain language whenever possible.
  • Use bulleted lists.
  • Write with an active voice.
  • Avoid unnecessary jargon and slang, which can increase the user’s cognitive load.
  • Include a glossary for specialized vocabulary, e.g., medical or legal terminology.

Security

  • Use SSL encryption when requesting any personal information from the user on a web page such as SSN, email, password, credit card etc.
  • Web pages designed for children must comply with all applicable federal and state laws intended to protect minors.
  • All web pages collecting data online must contain a link to the Policies page which has a link to our Privacy Policy or publish their own Privacy Policy on the site.

References

Definitions

Section 508 – Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.
WAI - A W3C initiative aimed at improving the accessibility of the Web.
WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a set of guidelines and checklists describing how to make a Web site accessible.
Usability - A correlative to accessibility, usability is the principle that information or applications should not only be possible to access, but should also be easy to understand and use.

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