What is digital accessibility?
Digital accessibility reflects that technology has been designed in a way so that it can be accessed by all users. This includes electronic documents, websites, software, hardware, video, audio, and other digital assets. People who interact with technology are extremely diverse. They have a wide variety of characteristics, and we cannot assume that they all use a traditional monitor for output, keyboard for typing or even a mouse. Consider these possible users:
- Most individuals who are blind use either audible output (products called screen readers that read web content using synthesized speech) or tactile output (such as a refreshable Braille device).
- Individuals with learning disabilities such as dyslexia may also use audible output. These programs are often referred to as Text-to-Speech or TTS.
- Individuals with low vision may use screen magnification software that allows them to zoom into a portion of the visual screen, as well as Text-to-Speech programs.
- Many others with less-than-perfect vision may enlarge the font on websites using standard browser functions, such as Ctrl + in Windows or Command + in Mac OS X.
- Individuals with fine motor conditions may be unable to use a mouse, and instead rely exclusively on keyboard commands, or use assistive technologies such as speech recognition, head pointers, mouth sticks or eye-gaze tracking systems.
- Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are unable to access audio content and instead utilize video captions and transcripts of audio.
- Individuals may use mobile devices including phones, tablets, or other devices, which optimize with various screen sizes, use of gestures and other interfaces for content.
When technology is designed for accessibility, it works for the broadest group of users possible as reflected in the above list, as well as others not specified.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) summarizes current web accessibility standards in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG 2.0 is organized into the following four key Accessibility Principles:
- Perceivable- Information and user interface components are presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- How to address: Content is presented in a variety of ways to make it perceivable for users with different modalities (e.g. visible content has a text alternative).
- Operable- User interface components and navigation are operable.
- How to address: The interface does not require an interaction that a user may not be able to perform (e.g. non-operable content could require using only a mouse or interactions that are too fast for slower input methods).
- Understandable- Information and the operation of the interface are understandable.
- How to address: The content is set to be understandable to users including those with screen readers (e.g. setting the appropriate language for the screen reader).
- Robust- Content is robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of users, including those with assistive technologies.
- How to address: Content is properly labeled and nested, works in multiple browsers and remains accessible as technologies evolve.
Additional references for this content:
UH System universities each have an Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator (EIRAC) who supports their respective campus to meet accessibility requirements and continually improve user experience.
UH System also has a System EIRAC who supports the universities' EIRACs and monitors accessibility compliance across the UH System.
If you have questions related to creating accessible digital content, or if you encounter a barrier to digital content in your classes or on UH System web pages, contact your UH System campus-designated EIRAC for support and resources. Current campus EIRAC contact information is located on the Contact Us page, which also includes information about how to submit an anonymous report.