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How to Be Accessible with Cascade Server

Web accessibility is the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities.  When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users can have equal access to information and functionality.

How can I help to improve accessibility to my information on a website?

Everyone at Tarleton State University assists people (students, faculty, staff, and visitors) with disabilities.  It is only natural (and the law) that we continue this process on all electronic materials such as the Tarleton website.  While this information may not be readily known, this page you are on will give you tips on how to assist users who want to access your information.

For the most part, when accessibility is mentioned, it is based on the issue of meeting the needs of disabled people or those with following types of impairments:

  • vision
  • hearing
  • motor skill
  • cognitive ability
  • speech

Along with those needs also comes the fact that with our technology progressing so quickly, desktop computers are no longer the only way to access information on the Internet.

Good News!

Tarleton State University's Web Services office has designed an accessible web page layout and the means to keep it accessible via the new Content Management System (CMS) called Cascade Server. Web Services also provides website maintainers with assistance and training to use the CMS in an accessible way. True, not everything specifically cries out "accessibility", but the team in Web Services will keep an eye on your website(s) and inform you when you need to fix an issue.  You can also ask if something is okay.

Generally speaking, there are a number of websites with resources on how to create an accessible yet still engaging website.  Many of these sites are located on the Tarleton State University Accessibility Policy page.

Resources of distinction:
  • TAMU Web Accessibility: Our System already has a great set of resources on accessibility.  If you have more questions about accessibility and what you should do, check out their Web Accessibility FAQ.
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): For those with technical prowess, this site is great for explaining how to meet the standards with your content in mind. Again, this current page you are on can still assist those with less technical abilities.

Accessibility Questions and Solutions

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Is it possible to increase the font size on a paragraph? What options are available?

Web Services has defined the default font sizes for text, however, there are better ways to catch a user's attention than making everything on a page big.  Styles will help.  Some are for whole paragraphs while others can be used in parts of a sentence.

Whole Paragraph Styles

For example: This is really important information that you need to take to heart.  In this case, you have a paragraph of information whose style is "warning." Note that you can still bold certain pieces of text or add other styles inside this paragraph. This example uses the style "required".

For example: This is information that you need to consider when taking an action.  In this case, you have a paragraph of information whose style is "caution." Note that you can still bold certain pieces of text or add other styles inside this paragraph. This example uses the styles "required" and "red".

For example: This is used to quote somebody - great for testimonials on your program, event, etc.  In this case, you have a paragraph of information whose style is "quote." Note that you can still bold certain pieces of text or add other styles inside this paragraph. This example uses the styles "alluppercase" and "red".

For example: This is used to inform you about important details.  In this case, you have a paragraph of information whose style is "instructions." Note that you can still bold certain pieces of text or add other styles inside this paragraph. This example uses the styles "alluppercase" and "red".

Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.3) (View WCAG Guideline 3.1)
  1. While many of us can see and read the text you have on a page, blind users are unable to tell how important any particular piece of text is by its font size or color.  Using bold or italics assists blind users in determining what you, the author of the content, deem to be important.  Their text readers will tell them the text has something like "emphasis".
  2. Making a line of text all caps (upper case) causes blind users annoyance when determining the content. If you type CONTENT in uppercase, they hear "C - O - N - T - E - N - T" instead on "content".  Use the style "alluppercase" to change the text: content. It doesn't look any different to a visual user, but it makes all the difference to a blind user.
Tips on Moderation
  1. Don't go bold happy.  If everything in your content is bold, the user doesn't know what is important and has a harder time comprehending the information.
  2. Don't go red happy.  Red is a very strong color.  If everything is red, it becomes hard to read.
  3. Don't go upper case sentence happy. While there is a style to safely allow blind users to read the content without it being spelled out, users who can see the content are now the ones having a difficult time reading the text because all of it has visual emphasis.
Is it possible to increase the font size on specific text? What options are there?

Web Services has defined the default font sizes for text, however, there are better ways to catch a user's attention than making everything on a page big.  Styles will help.  Some are for whole paragraphs while others can be used in parts of a sentence.

For example, "lower" is used for headings that are typically displayed uppercase.  Some departments or programs have upper and lower case names and may need to keep that format on their content:

e-Learning

In the example above, the "e" appears uppercase in the "Heading 3" format, but adding "lower" to the letter itself, we are able to keep the jargon clean.

As an extra bit, this "e" was also italicized.
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.3) (View WCAG Guideline 3.1)
  1. While many of us can see and read the text you have on a page, blind users are unable to tell how important any particular piece of text is by its font size or color.  Using bold or italics assists blind users in determining what you, the author of the content, deem to be important.  Their text readers will tell them the text has something like "emphasis".
  2. Making a line of text all caps (upper case) causes blind users annoyance when determining the content. If you type CONTENT in uppercase, they hear "C - O - N - T - E - N - T" instead on "content".  Use the style "alluppercase" to change the text: content. It doesn't look any different to a visual user, but it makes all the difference to a blind user.
Tips on Moderation
  1. Don't go bold happy.  If everything in your content is bold, the user doesn't know what is important and has a harder time comprehending the information.
  2. Don't go red happy.  Red is a very strong color.  If everything is red, it becomes hard to read.
  3. Don't go upper case sentence happy. While there is a style to safely allow blind users to read the content without it being spelled out, users who can see the content are now the ones having a difficult time reading the text because all of it has visual emphasis.
How do I properly handle text that I want in all capital letters?
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.3) (View WCAG Guideline 3.1)

Unless you are dealing with an acronym, you should not be typing in any content in all caps.

Screen readers look at text in all caps like this:

T. E. X. T. I. N. A. L. L. C. A. P. S.

This text is no longer readable and understandable.

  1. Type the content in upper- and lower- case letters.  If you are copying and pasting content that is actually in all uppercase letters, you can use this site to convert the case.
  2. Highlight only the text that you want to be uppercase.
  3. Change the style on this selected text to "alluppercase".
Can I put more than one style on my text?

Absolutely!  Web Services has created some styles, and should you have a suggestion for another, we'd be happy to hear it.

You can put multiple styles on a section that you select, but you need to consider the step-by-step process like the example below.

To create "instructions.":

  1. Type "instructions".
  2. Highlight from the quotes to the period, and style with "red": "instructions".
  3. Now, with the red on the text, the word itself needs to be highlighted and style changed to "alluppercase": "instructions".

We can go even further by bolding the text: "instructions".

We Bleed Purple! Why can't we have a purple text style?
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.4) (View WCAG Guideline 2.4) (View WCAG Guideline 3.1)

Much of our website is indeed based on our purple.  We Bleed Purple, however, we must use moderation even with our own color.  In our website, our links are currently visible as purple text.  If we use it elsewhere, it is possible for users with cognitive or intellectual disabilities to be confused when purple text is not a link. 

We all learn how to use the Internet, and many design elements have become standards because of common practice.  Consider text that is underlined. Typically, any user - disability or not - will think that the text is a link.  A website should not force users to learn a completely different way to surf the Internet. Note, however, books and other publications can be underlined as this is a standard writing style.

For example, if a website had a program that used the plus (+) sign and that program instead subtracted a number from another number, this would be considered inaccessible due to the change of a common usage, practice or standard.

Why can't my link just say "click here"? What should I be doing instead?
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 2.4)

Close your eyes and ask yourself what "click here" means.  Now think about a long list of "click here" on a page.  Do you know what each one means?  Blind users don't know either, but that is what they are given when they want to skip to the links on the page versus reading an entire page just to get to one link.

Give your link a purpose. 

If you want someone to "click here" for a form for "Photo Authorization", then go straight out and say it: "Photo Authorization Form".  No "click here" is necessary. 

The question you may be asking now is "How does a visual user know to click on the name of the form?"  This goes to Internet usage and standards.  A lot of times, text links are underlined.  This is obvious to the typical user because underlined links are all over the Internet.  Sometimes the text looks different in other ways such as color or boldness from the rest of the text in a paragraph.  Going through a particular website, this becomes the learned assessment of what is a link on this website.

Why is using "Heading 3" or any other Heading format wrong in tables? What should I be doing instead?
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.3) (View WCAG Guideline 2.4) (View WCAG Guideline 3.1)

Headings help divide up the content on a web page.  Think about a research paper.  Each heading organizes your information, so a reader skimming through your page can get to the information s/he is interested in reading.  Remember that blind users must listen to the entire page being read to them, so they can't exactly skip to the content they are interested in reading, right? Well, actually they can skip.  Screen readers allow users to just listen to the list of headings on a page, much like the option to list the links on a page.  Headings don't have a proper place inside tables, so jumping to that part of the page will not help the user find the information on the table.  Instead, table cells can be converted into "Header" cells, or table headers.  This is the proper and only way you should format your table.

Tips on Use in Cascade Server
  1. Right-click on the table cell that needs to be the heading for a row or column.
  2. Click on Cell, then Table cell properties.
  3. Click on the dropdown menu for Cell Type which currently says "Data", and select "Header".
  4. Click on the dropdown menu for Scope, and choose either "Row" or "Column".

You may feel that the current table header style is not what you need on your website.  If you have some ideas for a new style for table headers, please contact Web Services about your suggestions.  Web Services will determine the accessibility of your request and make changes/additions as needed.

What do you mean by "text equivalents"? Why must every image have a description and every video have either captions or a transcript?
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.1)

All users of electronic resources must have an equal opportunity, or alternative means, to enjoy that content. 

For example, blind users need to be able to sense whatever image you are promoting on a website.  You don't have to go into a 1,000 word essay on what a picture is saying.  If you are using a picture of a girl smiling with said product, then say just that. It gives the user the ability to sense the happiness displayed on this webpage.

Similarly, video and audio need textual descriptions or transcripts.  Okay, maybe you don't want to mention every cough that was recorded, but you should give the user access to the content of that audio file.  Video transcripts need some description of what is going on, such as a smirk or whistling while walking down a street.  Again, it doesn't have to be a novel, but it does need to be described.

Tips on alternative text or text equivalents
  • Stop the redundancy.  You don't need to say "Image of" or "Photo of" on your images.  Screen readers will tell users that they are looking at an image, so you don't need to say it twice.
  • Give a general idea.  Don't go into such detail that you should consider writing a novel or essay each time.  The basics will do: Who, What, When, and Where. Sometimes an image or video can't answer all those questions anyway, so pick the points that are important for your users to come away with from viewing your content.
I put my information in a table, but it's not considered accessible. Why and what do I need to do to fix it?
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.3) (View WCAG Guideline 2.4) (View WCAG Guideline 3.1)

Tables are not supposed to be used for layout purposes. They are only for tabular data. (View tabular data example)

What we are doing

Every web developer can admit to have used them for that purpose (including everyone currently working in Web Services), but we've learned that there are better ways to approach layout without using tables.  Most of this is through Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Web Services has implemented a CSS that you are currently using within Cascade Server.

However, like all best intentions, even accessible pages can quickly turn inaccessible due to misplaced tables.

Alternatives to Table Layouts / Solutions for Content
  • Look at your content and determine if the page template you are using quite fits the needs of the information you are trying to present.  If it doesn't fit those needs, you can change your page template using the Frequently Asked Questions: Editing Content... section.
  • Images should be right- or left-aligned around your text. If you placed your image in a table just to use a "heading" to make the text larger, you need to switch that text back to a paragraph in order for the text to wrap around the image properly. Do not use Heading formats for the sole of making text larger, or "easier to read".
I used Heading (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) for my content, so people with poor sight can read it, but this is not accessible? How?
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.3) (View WCAG Guideline 2.4) (View WCAG Guideline 3.1)

It's the difference between structure and aesthetics of content. (View W3C G140: Separating information and structure from presentation to enable different presentations) What looks readable for one type of device may be unreadable for another based on the format that content is in.  

For example, Headings are used to help blind users skip from important topic to important topic on a page. If everything is in a Heading format, that user can no longer navigate the page with ease.

Tips on Structuring Content
  • Use paragraphs for normal content. Styles can be used on portions of the paragraph to give more emphasis to the important "piece(s)" of that content. Use styles in moderation.
  • Use Headings to separate thoughts/concepts instead of bolding paragraphs.
  • Use tables and lists (bulleted and numbered) for information that is better suited in those structures.  They are also easier on the eyes and users are more likely to read them than paragraphs!


I have a really cool image / poster that I added, but I'm told this is inaccessible even though I included alternative text. How do I make it accessible?
Accessibility Reason (View WCAG Guideline 1.4) (View WCAG Guideline 3.1)

There are a few ways this can become quickly inaccessible:

  1. The image may contain alternative text, however, the text does not describe the content faithfully. That is, if there is textual information on that image that is not mentioned in the alternative text, this is not accessible to a blind or low vision user.
    • Example: You have a poster on Summer Vacations which includes multiple locations as well as dates and times and who to contact for more information, but your alternative text only says "Summer Vacations poster".
  2. In order to provide all the text faithfully, you may exceed the maximum length of alternate text mentioned in guidelines: for English, it is 100 characters.
  3. The image contains text that is hard to read on top of any images or low contrasting colors.
Tips on Structuring Content
  • Separate the logo from the textual content. There is nothing wrong with showing off a logo, but important information needs to be available in an easy to view manner.
  • You can leave the logo image above the text which can be in lists (bulleted and numbered) or paragraphs. If you have a lot going on, separate events with horizontal bars (that blue bar between the video icon and the table icon in the WYSIWYG).
Tips for Testing Readability on Images
  • For simple contrasts of two colors (foreground versus background), you can test your colors on sites like this:
  • To test colors on your page, try aiming your computer at an open window. What can you see when you have a glare on the monitor? Is it too hard to read?