Creating Accessible Content

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility simply means that your website — and everything on it — can be used by anyone regardless of how they access the internet. Some people may use a screen reader. Others may need transcripts to consume audio content. Yet others may not be able to use a mouse. When your website is accessible, everyone will be able to access and use your website in a meaningful way.

Am I required by law to make my website content accessible?

Yes. Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, all federally funded agencies must make their electronic documents and information accessible.

How do I make my content accessible?

Web accessibility is actually very simple. Here are some of the main rules for you to follow when creating or editing web pages to ensure your content is accessible to everyone:

  • Write a unique page title.
    The page title is what people using screen readers will read first on the page. This page title should accurately and concisely describe what the page is about.
  • Write descriptive link text.
    All links should make sense out of context and indicate where the link will take the user. A link entitled "click here" or "read more" is not helpful.
  • Write in plain language.
    Text should be easily readable and understandable to the broadest audience possible. Write at a 6th to 8th grade level of reading comprehension. Use tools like the free Hemingway App to analyze and simplify text.
  • Avoid large blocks of content.
    Chunking up content into easily consumed sections increases readability for everyone. Separate and group content by using headings followed by short paragraphs with short lines of text. An ideal line length is between 50-75 characters. Bulleted or numbered lists can also be used.
  • Use headers properly.
    Heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) should be used in a logical, descending order to help all visitors understand how information on the page is related. Screen readers, in particular, use headings to navigate page content. They should never be used decoratively.
  • Provide useful alt text for images.
    For users who cannot view images, alt text should be added to provide the same information to users as the actual image does. Be specific but keep the alt text fewer than 125 characters.
  • Avoid animated content.
    Content that is animated or flashes at certain rates can be harmful to those with photosensitive disorders.
  • Caption videos.
    Time-synced captioning ensures that visitors with audio and cognitive disabilities can enjoy your content. Captioned videos are also helpful to anyone who may be unable to play sound or in an area with background noise.
  • Provide text for audio content.
    Audio content should have a suitable alternative for hearing-impaired users such as transcripts or pre-recorded sign language translations.
  • Make all uploaded documents including PDFs accessible.
    PDFs and other documents, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, must be properly structured and tagged prior to upload. There are accessibility tools built into these programs to guide you.
  • Pay attention to color contrast on landing pages.
    If you create bands in landing pages that have background images, ensure the background is not busy behind the text. Ensure there is a lot of contrast for easy readability. 

Print out the New Content Checklist (PDF) to help you keep accessibility and all best practices in mind when creating web content. 

Misconceptions about web accessibility

  • People with disabilities aren’t using my website.
    Approximately 20% of online users have some sort of disability and rely on the internet much more than the general population.
  • Accessibility is expensive and difficult.
    Getting started with accessibility may seem like a big task, but it is not difficult. The majority of the work is educating yourself about accessibility and taking the time to implement best practices.
  • Accessibility is the responsibility of the web developers.
    While many accessibility features have been included on our platform, there is a lot more to accessibility than just code. Content editors play a large role in making sure that what is added to the website keeps the website accessible.
  • Web accessibility is just for people with sight impairments.
    Yes, this is a major focus of web accessibility. However, sight impairments are only one part of accessibility. Disabilities which need to be addressed in web accessibility can be divided into 5 major groups: hearing, sight, neurological, cognitive, and physical.

Learn more

This video can give you a better understanding of the barriers that websites can pose to people with disabilities.