Web Accessibility 101 for Content Managers: WCAG 2.1
Web accessibility is growing more and more important for all businesses across the web. Users want websites that are easier to navigate and understand, and business owners want to be inclusive and want a site that can attract and be used by all visitors. We have seen this first hand at Internetrix with our WCAG team growing in numbers and skillsets. Unfortunately, something we have also noticed is that many organisations who undertake a WCAG 2.1. Audit or accessible platform development project completely forget about web accessibility once the project is complete.
What many people don't know is that web accessibility is an ongoing process and this is primarily due to content changes across a platform. Content is a huge contributor to whether a platform is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable or Robust (the 4 foundations of the WCAG 2.1. guidelines) and this is why accessible content management is so important to keep a platform as accessible as possible. To help all of you content managers out there, we have put together the top accessibility items that you should be considering when updating content.
1. Meaningful Images Have Alternate Text
In all CMS's, when placing an image on any page or within content pieces, there will be a box where alternate text can be added. Alternate text gives you an opportunity to convey the meaning or message of an image to the user via text instead of a visual and will also be presented in place of the image if it fails to load. Screen reading technology will read alternate text in place of any images in the content so it is very important that the message is correct. Alternate text is also a nice little way to contribute positively to your SEO, just include your keywords where you can. Below is an example of an alternate text box as seen in the SilverStripe CMS. There's a little bit of alternate text inception going on there isn't there!?
2. Headings Are Correctly Structured
Even if you are not a viewer that requires heavily accessible website content, headings makes every users life easier. But in terms of accessibility, headings helps your content flow correctly and is super important for how screen readers interpret and navigate through your content. It is important that you only use 1x H1 heading for the primary title of the page, with correctly ordered heading levels below this (e.g. H2 under H1, H3 under H2 etc). If you are using a CMS like SilverStripe you should be able to easily select these formatting options in the content section.
3. Links Have Accurate and Unique Descriptions
It is very important that all links that are inserted into your content are given accurate descriptions. Similar to Image Alternate Text, Link Descriptions are very important for users utilising screen-reading technology. Screen readers do not align links with their context within the page so descriptions allow for a better understanding of the links to the user. You can see an example of link descriptions in this link to another of our accessibility blogs!
4. Content Added in Colour is Appropriately Contrasted
Colour contrast is all about ensuring that all content you added is easily visible. We all have different perceptions of colour so to make sure content is accessible to everyone, the WCAG 2.1 AA standard defines a necessary 4.5:1 ratio of colour contrast between foreground and background. To quickly check whether the colours you are using are accessible you can use the Contrast Checker tool which we think is pretty damn cool (and helpful of course!).
5. Embedded Videos are not set to Auto-Play and have captions
Auto-playing videos can be extremely disruptive to users that have sensitive hearing or are using screen-readers to navigate while listening. To be accessible it is best to turn auto-play functionality off. Similarly, captions are crucial for making videos accessible on the internet. Users with hearing difficulties are reliant on clear text captions that are synchronised correctly with a video for correct contextual understanding.
But wait... There's always more that you can do!
We have touched on a few of the easiest things content managers can be doing to improve the accessibility of their content but there is always more that you can be doing to play your part in keeping the web accessible to all. If you would like to talk more about web accessibility and the WCAG guidelines, Internetrix have a team of WCAG 2.1 experts. At Internetrix, we offer full website accessibility audits and reports, certifications, workshops and training, and accessible website design & development. Get in touch to learn more about our WCAG services.