When you are preparing your content for the web, you will also be working with documents, audio, and video. All of these forms of content need to be made as accessible as possible.
Word Processing Files
Word processing programs are designed to create professional documents. Many programs have built-in accessible formatting aids that are easy to use. However, some versions may not be fully compatible with another person’s equipment, which can limit the availability and accessibility of the document.
Portable Document Format (PDF) files are created using software such as Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. These files must be tagged for accessibility using the built-in tools of the software in order to ensure accessibility.
Tags for these types of documents include tagging headings, alt text on images, and other document properties. These tags convey the information to the screen reader software in order to make the document accessible.
Note: Scanned PDFs are NOT accessible – they are just a flat image, and therefore cannot be read by the screen readers.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) files are what is used to display web content. HTML has tags that allow content editors to define web content such as headings, paragraphs, lists, links, etc.
Of all the file types mentioned so far, this is the most accessible/mobile-friendly – assuming that it is been correctly formatted.
While it is the most accessible, the technical skills needed to correctly create and edit an HTML file for accessibility is greater than that for a word document or PDF.
Checking for Accessibility
Software products developed by companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, and Google often have accessibility features built-in. However, just running those built-in checks is not always enough. Be sure to do as much manual checking as possible to increase your level of compliance.
Things to Manually Check
- Verify that content is broken up with heading levels to create meaningful order.
- Limit the use of decorative fonts. Sans-serif is the best for online reading.
- Check all links to make sure they work. Use descriptive link text instead of the URL.
- Do Not use blank returns to add spacing between headings and paragraphs. Use the paragraph formatting to add spacing before and/or after page elements.
- Determine if decorative images contain “” or accurate descriptive language in the alt text. Verify that the image descriptions are accurate. In Microsoft Office, you should check the “decorative” checkbox and leave the alt text blank for decorative images.
- Check background and foreground colors for compliance. The size of text can make a difference in the required ratio.
- Make sure the table caption appears before the table. Mark the header row(s) as “repeat on each page.”
- Ensure the document title is not the same as the file name. Make sure that the page title and keywords will help with search engine results.
- Make sure all the content can be accessed using the tab and arrow keys. If items are missed, they will need to be anchored into the content.
Multimedia includes methods of content delivery such as podcasts, videos, and live-streaming events. All of these methods need to be accessible for all users. It is important that you provide transcripts, captions, and audio descriptions of what is occurring on the screen.
Transcripts are a good first step in making multimedia accessible. A transcript is a text version of the media content. Transcripts can be used to make audio content accessible to users who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Transcripts can also be used for creating captions for videos.
Who benefits from transcripts?
- Users with auditory processing disorders
- Users with cognitive disabilities that cause them to process information differently
- Users who speak a different language than what is presented on screen
- Users who learn better by reading
- Users who have limited mobile data or low connection speeds
- Users who cannot play audio due to their environment
Captions are text versions of the audio content, synchronized with the video. The two types of captions are open and closed. Open captions are always on, but closed captions are optional, which allows users to turn them on or off.
Who benefits from captions?
- You – If properly done, they can be indexed by search engines and may contribute to the improvement of your content’s search engine optimization.
- A great option for users in a noisy environment or need to watch videos on mute.
- It helps users who have a hard time understanding a speaker with an accent.
- Great for users who prefer to read along as they listen.
- Helpful for those who speak a different language.
- Important to those who have limited or no hearing.
Audio descriptions are different than captions. It is a separate narrative audio track designed to describe important visual content so that people who are unable to see the video can know what is occurring on screen.
There is frequently more occurring on-screen than what would appear in a transcript. For example, a video without audio, demonstrating how to complete a task such as a tutorial on how to use software or build a piece of furniture, or an actor’s movements and/or facial expressions that lend significant meaning to a scene.
Who benefits from audio descriptions?
- Users with visual impairments
- Users who are auditory learners
- Users who are actively engaged in video viewing and pay better attention with the narration
- Users who lack proficiency in the language.
- Users who struggle with visual processing issues
- Users who are autistic and need more information about emotions and social cues.
The last thing we want our web sites to do is to create medical emergencies, unfortunately, the wrong type of content can trigger seizures and migraines for some people. Therefore, make sure your pages do not contain anything that flashes for more than three times per second.
Keep your eye out for scrolling or blinking text or page elements, as well as videos or GIFs that contain flickering or flashing. If you find them, find a way to eliminate them from the site. If you cannot remove them, contact someone in your company who can.
If needed, you can use a Photo-sensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (PEAT) to determine the flashing frequency of an item.
Live events create new issues in order to make sure all audience members are included. You will need to ensure that you have captions that can identify speakers, document any significant background sounds, as well as include the spoken dialogue.
Live events are becoming quite popular, and COVID-19 has increased their usage. Unfortunately, automated captioning is often no provided. If you can afford it, you should research companies that offer live-captioning services, especially if your event is open to the public.
Recorded videos, no matter if they are hosted internally or externally, will need to be accessible. This is not limited to just the controls of the media player, captioning must also be provided.
Fortunately, hosting services such as YouTube and Vimeo, allow you to store and deliver audio and video files to users and include auto-captioning services.
BEWARE! Just because a service offers auto-captioning does not let you off the hook. You need to review the captions that the system creates and verify that they are correct … or you could be in for a big embarrassment down the line.
You’ve made it to the end of another one of my posts! Yeah! I’ll be honest, working with multimedia is not my favorite task. Never the less, it is extremely important that you make your multimedia as accessible as possible. There are a lot of tools and techniques out there, so don’t be afraid to research and test them out.
Until next time! Live long life learner!
Content partially curated from SiteImprove’s Course: Accessibility for Content Contributors (Premium) and is not available for sale.