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Web Accessibility Guidelines

The following guidelines have been developed to assist university personnel in developing Web documents that comply with the minimally accepted standards that Texas State University Web documents must meet.  By using the following guidelines in the design and programming of Web documents, you ensure that all Internet users can use your Web site, regardless of their disability or the limitations of their equipment or software.  While these guidelines present the minimally acceptable standards of accessibility, Web page developers are strongly encouraged to maximize the accessibility of their pages for universal access by referring to the complete text at the Web locations specified at the end of these guidelines.


Guideline 1: Provide an alternative tag or text for every graphic or multimedia element. Although some people cannot use images, movies, sounds, applets, etc., directly, they may still use pages that include equivalent information to the visual or auditory content.

Justification: If the person viewing the page is using text-to-speech software, a non-graphic browser such as Lynx, or has the graphics turned off in their browser, graphic links will be inaccessible.

Solution: Provide "ALT" tags for image reference anchors and include descriptive text within the anchor.  For video or audio links, provide a text description of the links on your page.

Guideline 2: Provide descriptive text links but not overly wordy.

Justification: Text descriptors need to convey information about the nature of the link.  Links need to be understood when read out of context.  Conversely, too much text makes the page inefficient, and some browsers have difficulty reading longer attributes.

Solution: Provide a brief and complete text descriptor that describes the nature of the link.  For example, never use "click here" as a link, or next to a graphic used as a link. Instead, use "click here for" and provide a description about where the link leads.

Guideline 3: Ensure that information is not conveyed through color alone. Provide simple backgrounds with enough contrast between colors. For example, when asking for input from users, avoid using "Please select an item from those listed in green."

Justification: People with low vision or colorblindness, or those using black and white monitors, can have difficulty reading information at sites with busy backgrounds and dark colors.  Many background images and colors obscure text making reading difficult.

Solution: Recommend testing document without color being viewed, examine it with a monochrome monitor or with browser colors turned off.  To test whether the color contrast is sufficient to be read by people with color deficiencies or by those with low-resolution monitors, print pages on a black and white printer (with backgrounds and colors appearing in grayscale).

Guideline 4: When using Image Maps, use client-side image maps and provide an alternative method of selecting the imbedded links.

Justification: If the person viewing the page is using text-to-speech software, a non-graphic browser such as Lynx, or has the graphics turned off in their browser, image map links will be inaccessible with no way of selecting the imbedded links.

Solution: Provide a text-only link before or after the image map or list the imbedded links elsewhere on the page, and provide "ALT" attributes within the image map.

Guideline 5: Provide alternatives to the use of non-standard text formatting and layout.

Justification: Tables with tabular or columnar information, indentations, or changing font size and presentation are very difficult for those using a non-graphic browser to navigate.  Screen readers process text from left to right across the screen, and cannot effectively present tabular or columnar text.

Solution: Provide a text-only version of the page and/or information contained in tables.  For text version, use proportional font markups (H1, H2, etc.) for text size changes.

Guideline 6: Avoid using frames to layout a website.

Justification: Assistive browsers have trouble with frames.  Home Page Reader does not read a page that uses frames.  For other uses, frames can pose problems with regard to bookmarking, printing and navigating.

Solution: Use tables to layout your website.

Guideline 7: Provide alternative text-only pages when using moving or changing text (marquees and blink tags) or any Java or Active X markup.

Justification: Screen readers cannot process moving or changing text.  Marquees are often read one letter at a time, making comprehension of the material very difficult.  Moving or changing text often causes the screen reader software to lock up the computer.

Java and its derivatives and Active X components present unique access problems for individuals with disabilities.  Typically, when encountered by a screen reader, the computer locks up, or the voice output ceases to function.

Solution: It is recommended not to use these features on main page.  Provide links to an alternative text-only page and a graphics intensive page, so users can choose.  Providing a text-only link on the main page that uses these features will not work; the computer may lock up before the user has a chance to choose the text-only option.

Guideline 8: Only use non-HTML formats (e.g., PDF files) as alternatives or enhancements to HTML files, not as replacements.

Justification: A wide variety of alternative formats are strictly graphic in nature, and therefore completely inaccessible to users in text mode or who do not have the proprietary software needed to view the files.

Solution: Provide a text file equivalent for the specialized format file either in an HTML or text format.

Guideline 9: Provide an alternative to online forms.

Justification: Forms are not supported by all browsers, and can be very difficult to navigate.

Solution: Provide the user with the ability to access alternative methods of performing the same tasks, such as a printable form or a text version of the form.  If you decide to use a form, ensure that it can be navigated using the TAB key.

Guideline 10: Avoid the use of proprietary HTML markup language.

Justification: A wide variety of browser-specific HTML tags are available.  All of these present unique problems when designing fully accessible web pages.  Many of these tags cannot be read by accessibility software.

Solution: It is recommended not to use proprietary tags.  Provide the user with an alternative presentation of the Web document, such as a text only link.

Guideline 11: Test your pages in a variety of browsers, and on different operating systems.

Justification: Each type of browser handles HTML in different ways.  To ensure that your pages are fully accessible across browsers and across platforms, they need to be tested for functionality.

Solution: The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) has developed a Web page accessibility tester called "Bobby."  This site will allow you to test your pages in a variety of browsers and on a variety of platforms. CAUTION: If you are using frames on your page, Bobby will only evaluate the first frame.

For more information on accessible web page design, refer to the links below:

Key Concepts for Faculty & Staff PDF

World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The HTML Writers Guild, Inc. AWARE (Accessible Web Authoring Resources and Education) Center's Best Web Accessibility Sites, including Universities and Research Centers

University Assistance

If you have questions or need assistance with bringing a web site into compliance, please contact ITAC at 512.245.4822.