Category: Accessibility

Accessibility Resources from AccessU Conference

The Texas A&M IT accessibility services team attended the John Slatin AccessU conference hosted by Knowbility in Austin, Texas on May 17-18, 2017. From the various sessions, the team learned about new accessibility resources you can incorporate into your design, development and work processes.

If you have experience with any of these, please write a comment below. We would love to hear if these are beneficial.

Addressing the struggles of making sites accessible and usable

Accessibility and Usability Vin Diagram

Credit: Unknown


A question was asked at an Accessibility Special Interest Group meeting along the lines of, “Do we have access to a report that shows all the accessibility issues for our sites?” A comment was then made, “I just don’t know where to start.” I immediately reflected back to when Erick Beck and I gave a presentation along with representatives from SiteImprove of the various components of the SiteImprove suite. The same type of question was asked during the Q&A section. I felt it was time to write an article to share with the entire web community on campus my thoughts on bringing every site into compliance making our sites usable.

Triage known issues

The first step I recommend is triaging known issues on all your sites collectively and establishing a plan. Start by looking at reports, whether in SiteImprove or another reporting tool, and find similarities or patterns. For example, if you notice a contrast ratio issue on all your reports and the same theme is used on each site, then a simple CSS fix to the theme and your theme’s source files will resolve the issue.

Identify teaching opportunities

If you see a lot of issues on alternative text, such as filenames used as alternative text, use it as a teaching moment. Send a polite email to your content contributors stating that you have noticed a lot of images added with the filename used as the alternative text. Provide simple steps to correct the issue and avoid mentioning the rules or policies associated with it. Please do not misunderstand me and think that I do not believe the accessibility rules and policies are not important. The rules and policies are important but, the idea here is to gingerly tell those who contribute content to the site to be mindful of certain things. We don’t want to beat them into the ground with the rule book.

Make the content usable

Instead of embedding an image containing paragraphs of text, tables and supporting images, make the image accessible by making it usable. We all agree that we want Google, Bing and any other search engine to index our site. Why should we then mask our content within an image? We want visitors to be able to find something on a page. Why should we put all our text in an object that can’t be searched? We want those looking at our site with a mobile device to read what we have to say without pinching to zoom in and out. Why include it in an image that scales automatically making the text difficult to see? Extract the content from the image and place it on the page so that everyone can read it making is usable and accessible.

Remember, the end goal is to have our sites accessible by making them usable. Try your best not to feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

  • Start by triaging the reported issues and establish a plan.
  • Identify the issues that pertain to a theme or template where one fix resolves the issue in several places.
  • Use your analytics to identify your top 25 or 50 most visited pages and resolve all the issues on those pages.
  • Work your way down to the fourth, fifth and sixth level pages eliminating the issues reported by your scanning tool.
  • Finally, you can review your site to check the tabbing order or if the appropriate landmarks are being used as both of these items need human interaction to verify they are within the guidelines.

Help is on the way!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The odds are high that someone has been in the same circumstance and can help you along the way. Join the accessibility sprint on July 14th where the goal is to bring people and technology together to improve the usability of our sites. This is a great opportunity to interact with others across campus who are also making updates that impact accessibility!

Web Technologies & Development at 2017 Tech Summit

2017 Texas A&M University System Technology Summit
Moody Gardens Convention Center, Galveston, TX
February 20-22

The Texas A&M University System Technology Summit is the place technology experts come to learn from the best, exchange ideas on common challenges and spend time together. Professionals have the rare chance to blend technical learning across a wide range of subjects. Tech Summit offers sessions to help you master your daily work, while enjoying a taste of island time. This year’s web track is full of valuable sessions:

Pre-conference workshops specific to web development are:

GoWeb After Dark

Equidox by Onix treats you to hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary first drink. Join the Texas A&M GoWeb group and end your day in a casual setting. Network with web professionals and discuss everything web, from the latest trends on analytics, accessibility and branding to recent successes and challenges.

Please check out the complete schedule and we hope to see you in Galveston!

Donald St. Martin
Track Chair, Web Technologies & Development

What the Heck is Wuhcag?

WCAG 2.0 (pronounced wuh-CAG 2.0) is a set of web content accessibility guidelines that helps make websites work for people of all abilities. It’s the yardstick by which most institutions of higher education measure the accessibility of their sites, and Texas A&M University is no exception.

The reasoning behind the standards

Designing and developing sites with WCAG 2.0 in mind allows us to broaden our reach by making sure our content can be enjoyed by everyone, including individuals with cognitive, motor, vison or auditory challenges. It also takes into account unique user preferences, such as how we choose to view color, if we want to enlarge text, or even if we want to use only a keyboard to access online information.

WCAG 2.0, in a nutshell, allows us to make our websites perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Each of the criteria point directly to one of these four concepts. See web accessibility standards.

Types of evaluations

Using automated evaluation tools can provide a quick initial assessment and give you a good idea of the accessibility of the site on a large scale. Some automated evaluation tools are:

  • Enterprise tools such as Siteimprove and WorldSpace Comply offered through IT Accessibility Services
  • Online tools such as Wave and aChecker
  • Browser extensions such as Html_Codesniffer and WebAIM’s Wave
  • Desktop applications such as aViewer and Color Contrast Analyzer

Although these tools are very helpful in evaluating websites, they may only find 25 to 35% of accessibility issues. This is a start, but when it comes to getting our institution’s information out to the widest possible audience, this just won’t cut it.

A thorough testing program includes manual testing, as it examines accessibility issues at a more granular level and helps to verify the results of automated testing. As a best practice, manual testing should be performed in multiple browsers including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Safari. The accuracy of results depends solely upon the knowledge and skill of the tester, so there’s no better way than to just dive right in and start testing.

Going a step further, usability testing helps organizations understand user needs, identify potential issues, and generate ideas for improvement. While usability testing is often used to evaluate a website’s user interface (UI), this method is also invaluable for discovering the best way to present information on your website. By paying attention to how people read, interpret, and access content, you gain a greater understanding of how to communicate, structure, and format information.

Where can you begin?

If you haven’t already, start with some training. IT Accessibility Services offers various training sessions including:

  • Web Accessibility Essentials and Advanced, both offered through Employee and Organizational Development (EOD)
  • Document Creation including Microsoft Word and PowerPoint as well as Adobe InDesign and PDF Accessibility
  • Procurement Training, which takes you step-by-step through the purchase of Electronic and Information Resources (EIR)

Custom sessions for your workgroup are also available, and IT Accessibility Services staff can provide consulting or even help you come up with a workable testing protocol. For more information, contact

The Invisibility Factor

This past week marked the 25th ?birthday? of the World Wide Web. While recently reading about ?what?s next? for the internet, I came across an article from Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL, which I found quite interesting. It talked about the ?waves? the internet has gone through as a whole and what is next for everyone who uses the internet. There was a quote that really stuck out that I wanted to share, because I thought it had a great deal to do with how responsive websites are being used today and how they will be used in the future.

The Internet will shift from being the main event to being increasingly invisible, as it becomes more integrated into our devices in subtle, but powerful ways.

I thought this point was incredibly interesting; that the internet is slowly shifting from something we think about and interact with all the time to something that is just? there.

This is where I began thinking about responsive websites and how we are creating products that, on devices, are not necessarily the shiny and sparkly products people use to want, but are the products people now need. We are giving our websites the ?invisibility? factor, so that all visitors don?t even think about zooming in and out or missing important information because the site is not compatible with their smartphones or tablets. The information they want and need at that moment is just there for them.


For anyone interested in reading the article, it can be found here:?


Content-first thinking

One of the basic arguments when discussing mobile-first design is that content is more important than design. Design has been the primary focus of web design for so long, however, that convincing your stakeholders otherwise may be quite difficult.

This article by?Rian van der Merwe explains ways with which to convince stakeholders that they need to think about content before they think about design. As he puts it, to think about the contents of a package before building the package that will hold it.