The University of Pennsylvania has an accessibility statement you must understand and do your best to follow: 

Web accessibility is a shared, continuous responsibility for members of the Penn community involved in the development, creation, publishing, or sharing of digital resources. 

Penn websites and content are accessed and used by diverse people within the U.S. and around the world. Some users have visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments that create challenges in accessing website content, and require the use of assistive technologies, such as screen readers and text-only browsers. Other users of Penn websites may be using outmoded technology, or have very slow connection speeds. As such, it is imperative that Penn ensures its online presence and content remain accessible to the widest array of users.” 

Source: Penn’s Accessibility Statement

What are the Seven Core Skills of Accessibility?

Accessibility is a very broad concept that includes a huge array of considerations, but essentially you are hoping to design your digital materials so that people can interact with your site in a variety of ways. Your goal is to make sure that people with disabilities can access your content equally, but these considerations also help a variety of users in many ways.

Information adapted from the University of Minnesota.

Below, this concept is broken into seven basic principles to help you implement simple design elements to make your site accessible to the most people. You can watch this video or read the tabs below (hint: multiple modes makes the content more accessible!).

Alternative text, or “alt text” describes the content of images, graphs and charts. It should be added to every image that conveys meaning. If you don’t include alternative text with an image, a visually impaired person or user who disables image loading or encounters a broken image won’t know what the image is meant to convey.

Ensure a strong color contrast between foreground and background on every document, slide, and web page. Always use color plus another visual indicator (for example, color plus boldface type or color plus size) to communicate important information. Screen readers don’t offer a way to search by color, and people in or with a wide variety of conditions and in certain environments won’t be able to see the difference either.

Structure your document using paragraph styles (for documents) or heading tags (for web pages). Headings make the structure of your documents accessible to screen readers while improving both scannability and maintainability. Structure is critical for adaptive technology users, who rely on properly formatted headings to understand and navigate documents and web pages. Without this structure, there is no easy way to navigate a document because the document is read as a single long section.

You can improve both the usability and accessibility of links by making them concise, descriptive, and meaningful out of context. Well-written and well-placed links help both sighted people and those who use screen readers or other adaptive technology to consume content. Research has shown that sighted users typically scan pages for links to help them find what they’re looking for. People using screen readers can do something similar by touching a button and hearing a list of all the links on a page. Well-placed links provide enough context to help all users make an informed decision about which links they want to follow.

Presenting a “wall of text” in a document or website can discourage reading. Instead, present key concepts as lists where possible. Lists help users comprehend text more quickly. Writers can use them to reduce reader fatigue resulting from trying to comprehend dense or complex paragraphs. Lists can provide a break in the document flow and encourage users to stick with the content.

Accessible tables are simple, rather than complex, have an identified header row, and include a table summary, either as a caption or as alt text. These techniques help screen reader users read the information contained in the table. When sighted users focus on a table cell, they are able to visually determine which row and column the cell is in by scanning up and down or left and right. This adds context to what the value in a particular cell means. On the other hand, a screen reader can only read aloud each cell one by one from left to right and top to bottom. If the table is not formatted correctly, there is no easy way to determine what label a particular value in a cell might have.

Video and audio content, such as podcasts, videos, and narrated slideshows, are increasingly being used to enrich and deliver online experiences. Videos should include accurate captions and audio descriptions. Audio-only content should include an accurate transcript. When sharing audio and video recordings, don’t use auto-play. 

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