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Making the University website accessible

New regulations which affect the University of St Andrews came into force on the 23 September 2018. These regulations state that a public sector body website must meet certain accessibility standards and publish an accessibility statement before the 23 September 2020.

This post introduces the accessibility standards that need to be met, provides some basic principles to adhere to and highlights what the University’s plan is going forward to ensure the website meets these standards.


Web accessibility standards

“Accessibility means more than putting things online. It means making your content and design clear and simple enough so that most people can use it without needing to adapt it, while supporting those who do.” (GOV.UK)

Making a website or mobile app accessible means making sure it can be used by as many people as possible. This includes those with:

  • impaired vision
  • motor difficulties
  • cognitive impairments or learning disabilities
  • deafness or impaired hearing.

The regulations state that a website or mobile app must more accessible by making it:

  • perceivable
  • operable
  • understandable
  • robust.

But how is this achieved?

When something is to be accessible, in this context this means it must comply with the international WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standard.

A checklist of features which ensure content is accessible can be found on the WUHCAG website.


Making the website accessible

If you are a member of staff at the University of St Andrews who is responsible for a webpage you can start ensuring content is accessible from this point onwards.

  • Ensure you always provide alternative text when uploading non-text content, such as an image, to a webpage.
  • Ensure any links within text have descriptive anchor text. You should never write “click here”, but instead indicate what the link refers to. For example: “Find out more about next week’s conference.”
  • Ensure your content is written in plain english and is easy to read. Break up long chunks of text with headings and bullet lists if appropriate. If you are ever in doubt, the digital communications team are happy to check it over before publishing.
  • Ensure all webpages have an appropriate structure through the use of headings and lists. For example, never use bold styling or larger font sizes to give the visual appearance of headings, use H1 to H6 tags. This is necessary for people who rely on a screen reader.

These are just some of the steps you can take to ensure content is accessible. A more in-depth introduction to some basic accessibility principles can be found on WebAIM’s website.


Accessibility at St Andrews

We want the website be inclusive. Over the next few months we will develop a plan to improve the content and design of all pages so they can meet the WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standard. Many of our pages do currently meet this standard, but we want consistency across the board.

This will include creating a specialised training programme to engage with University staff on these topics, and developing an accessibility webpage which includes our accessibility statement.

The team will also be meeting with staff in Disability Services for more information about the technology and the services the University currently provides.

The digital communications blog will be used to document the changes we make and provide more thorough explanations of how certain design principles affect those with accessible needs.


Accessibility resources

Below are some resources we found interesting and useful when thinking about web accessibility at St Andrews.

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