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The Importance of Web-Accessible Documents, Pages and Sites

by Don Busche

The growing importance of the World Wide Web (web) for communication and data access has heightened the need for website accessibility. Santiago Canyon College, like so many of the California Community Colleges, is rapidly expanding its instructional programs and support services through web-based technology. The extent to which SCC webpages are accessible to individuals with disabilities has recently been questioned.  

Web Accessibility 

Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web.  Web accessibility includes all disabilities that affect access to the web, such as: visual, auditory, physical, speech, cogitative, and neurological disabilities.  While accessible design is commonly considered in the context of individuals with disabilities, it offers benefits and improves the user experience for everyone.  Most recently, web accessibility improvements help users of smart phones and other electronic devices with small viewing screens. 

The SCC website is an important and, in some cases, a mandatory resource for current and potential students, faculty, and staff.  Therefore, it is essential that the website be accessible to provide equal access and opportunity to all who use or visit the SCC website.  Another important consideration for SCC is that web accessibility is required by federal and state laws—and it is the right thing to do. 

Accessibility Guidelines

While there are no official web-specific ADA standards, the United States Department of Justice has strongly encouraged website accessibility through enforcement of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The standard to which most sites are expected to meet is the WCAG 2.0 AA level, which includes: 

  • Providing text alternatives for any non-text content
  • Providing alternatives for time-based media (video, film, slide, or audio)
  • Creating content that can be presented in different ways without losing information or structure
  • Making it easier for users to see and hear content
  • Making all functionality available from a keyboard
  • Providing users enough time to read and use content
  • Not designing content in a way that is known to cause seizures
  • Providing ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are on your site
  • Making text content readable and understandable
  • Making web pages appear and operate in predictable ways
  • Helping users avoid and correct mistakes
  • Maximizing compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies


Making Your Webpages Accessible 

As web authors, SCC faculty and staff play a key role in ensuring the accessibility of the college's webpages.  When creating, updating, or redesigning a web document, page, or site, checking accessibility can identify problems early when they are easily addressed.  To this end, District IT recently launched a new tool for SCC web authors called Siteimprove.  Siteimprove automatically runs a scan of the SCC website content every five days and produces a report for each web author specific to his or her web pages.  The report is emailed directly to each web author pinpointing exactly where and what issues exist, so they are easily identified and fixed. Written instructions from experts give an explanation of each issue so that you can enhance your web development skill and sharpen your website at the same time. 

 All SCC web authors were sent an e-mail invitation to attend one of several sessions where several of the Web Committee members discuss and show what Siteimprove can do to help identify and correct any webpage accessible issues. If you've never heard of Siteimprove or haven't attended one of the presentations, there is still opportunity to do so.  Sessions have been planned for November 14, from 3:00 to 4:30 and November 30 from 1:30 to 3:00.  Both sessions will be held in room B-208.   A request has also been made to include a session during the professional development week prior to the start of the spring semester.   

Example of an Accessible Web Document 

If you're wondering what a web-accessible document looks like, you should review the document illustrated below.  Annotations have been added to clarify what makes it a web-accessible document. The annotations also indicate what the web author did to make the syllabus a web-accessible document. 

Annotated page of sample  document 

 annotated second page of document