Accessibility guidelines

Key issues from the WAI Priority 1 and 2 guidelines

More detailed practical instructions for these checkpoints, together with additional help and resources are available from the links provided to Site Manager support guides.

  • Images and graphics:
    • Include an appropriate ALT text with ALL images, and longer descriptions of complex images and charts.
  • Image maps:
    • Use client-side image maps wherever possible.
    • Always specify appropriate ALT text for ALL linked areas of the image map and for the main image itself.
    • Provide a separate text-based list of links to accompany the image map.
  • Colour:
    • Do not rely on colour alone to convey meaning.
    • Use text and background colours that contrast well.
  • Language:
    • Clearly identify the language of the page and any changes in language within a page.
    • Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for your pages and their intended readers.
  • Scripting languages:
    • Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets or other programmatic objects are switched off or not supported. Otherwise provide equivalent information on an alternative page.
  • Multimedia:
    • Ensure that alternative formats accompany multimedia presentations (text transcriptions for audio and video clips, captions for video).
  • PDFs:
    • Documents that you just want a particular group of people to be able to print out, for example, minutes of University committee meetings, can be published in pdf format only, as long as you can provide an accessible version of the document to anyone who may request it (eg a Word version for use with screen reading software). Provide a link to the Adobe download page for the Acrobat Reader so that users can easily get the latest version if required.
    • If the pdf document contains information that you want to communicate to a much wider audience, you need to seriously consider providing them as HTML web pages, in addition to PDF for printing, since they can be made much more accessible than PDF files.
    • In recent years, the PDF format has become potentially more accessible, but taking advantage of this accessibility requires the use of the correct software. Acrobat Reader 5.0 has features that allow screen readers to improve their access to PDF documents. However, not all users have this version installed, and not all PDF documents are text−based (some are scanned in as graphics), which renders them useless to many assistive technologies. It is recommended that an accessible HTML version be made available as an alternative to PDF. Please contact the Web Team if you require advice on making PDF documents accessible.
  • Flash:
    • Do not rely on Flash and other plug-ins alone. Ensure content is accessible without the plug-ins.
    • Ensure that any Flash plug-ins used follow Macromedia accessibility guidelines.
  • Tables:
    • For data tables, identify row and column headers, and if they have two or more logical levels, use markup to associate data cells and header cells.
    • If you use tables for layout, ensure the table makes sense when linearised and avoid complex nested table layouts.
  • Cascading style sheets:
    • Use stylesheets as much as possible.
    • Ensure stylesheet elements validate to CSS 2.
    • Ensure your pages can still be read without stylesheets.
  • Valid code:
    • Create documents that validate to published formal grammars (see Valid XHTML and CSS).
  • Frames:
    • Avoid the use of frames – there is no provision for them in the University’s corporate template design.
  • Movement:
    • Avoid flickering and moving images or text and if used ensure appropriate refresh rates are used.
  • Links:
    • Use appropriate link text to ensure it makes sense when read out of context.
    • Use title attributes where appropriate to give further information about the target of a link, but use them carefully. Do not use them to repeat link text.
  • Provide a way to skip repetitive content:
    • We have included a ‘Skip to main content’ link at the start of all our standard pages to enable screenreader users and those tabbing through links to bypass the page banner and navigation links and go straight to the main content of each page. This link is designed to be invisible in graphic browsers most of the time, but if you tab through the page links, it will become visible once you focus on it. The link is also available to be read by screenreaders.
  • Divide large blocks of information into manageable chunks.
  • Provide clear and consistent navigation mechanisms– orientation information, navigation bars, a site map, etc. – to increase the likelihood that a person will find what they are looking for at a site.
    • Provide information about the general layout of a site (eg a site map or table of contents). On the corporate site, we provide an A-Z Site Index available from the top right-hand utilities menu on all top-level pages.
    • We also provide a breadcrumb trail feature above the main content of each page to show you the path from the home page to where you are in the site.