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in this issue...
IT Revamps Divisional Web Site

Making the Web Accessible to All

"Distributed Learning": LEADing the Campus into the Future

LEAD Faculty Survey Results

Campus Wrapping Up Y2K Preparedness

Tiger Team Wants You!

Preparing for Y2K at Home

Degree Navigator: Registrar and IT Create Powerful New Tool for Students

Measuring the Effectiveness of IT's Communications

Windows 2000: A Review

Evaluating the Deployment of New Technology

Tapping Internet 2's Potential

Main Computer Networks Accessible to UC Davis Users

Bits and Bytes: Short News Items

Modem Pool Users Getting Busy Signals

Volume 7, Number 6
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Making the Web Accessible to All

 
Bobby logoPutting the user first was the foremost goal of Information Technology's initiative to revamp its Web sites to provide better service to all users, including those with cognitive or physical disabilities. In fact, Federal law requires that all government-funded Web sites (this applies to UC Davis) meet Web accessibility guidelines set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in May 1999 (see http://www.w3.org/WAI/).

For instance, the absence of textual equivalents for non-textual information (images, video clips, sounds) present a major barrier for the blind, who often rely upon software that can convert text into sound. Similarly, for some people with cognitive and learning disabilities (including those with dyslexia and other reading difficulties), organizing pages consistently and providing clear navigation mechanisms can be very helpful. As a result, many decisions about navigation, content, design, and the use of the latest technologies on IT's new site were based on W3C guidelines.

When applied consistently, the following guidelines can help any Web developer set the stage for a successful site. (This list represents a summary of the 19 guidelines created by W3C.)

  • Use text whenever possible. For instance, use captions with sound files and provide text descriptions of video files.
  • Create text that can be understood out of context (i.e., avoid "click here").
  • Always use "alt" tags to provide a description of a visual.
  • Keep page layout and design simple and consistent on every page.
  • Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for the site’s content.
  • If the site must require plug-ins (such as Flash and Real Audio), provide the same information in a text-only format to accommodate special software or outdated browsers.
  • Don't rely on color alone; some users cannot access information in color.
  • If the site is based on frames, use meaningful titles and provide an alternative NO-FRAMES code.
  • Divide large blocks of text into small, manageable units for easier scanning, in general, and to facilitate communication with disabled users, specifically.
  • Avoid using animated text, redirects or strobe effects; these can sometimes cause serious health problems for people with cognitive disabilities, such as epilepsy.
  • Don't make access to content dependent on the use of a particular device, such as a mouse or keyboard.
  • Provide clear navigation mechanisms: identify the target of every link (i.e., mouse-overs); provide information about the general layout of the site; and describe accessibility features.
  • Clean up spelling and grammar. Some special screen reader software cannot decipher misspelled words and incomprehensible sentences.
  • Provide a text-only version of the site. If you are interested in testing the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance of your favorite Web site, check out the utility available at http://www.cast.org/bobby/.