All publicly funded institutions in the United States need to conform to accessibility standards for individuals with disability (ADA and Section 508 compliance) so it’s important that content on your website be easily translated for screen reader software. Users of screen reader software maintain some amazing skills that the rest of us don’t have, and probably don’t think about:
- Some users can process content that is read at up to 300 words per minute. Most of us would be hard put to comprehend audio at 180 words per minute
- All users tend to skim headlines, screen reader users more than most – and they aren’t as likely to be influenced by visual elements like white space in your layout or intriguing images that call attention to key elements either
- Screen readers have kept the keyboard skills that most of us lost when we got our first mouse, and they are likely to tab through content searching for active elements on the page, such as links. And if those links say “click here” they have zero context for what that link does, which makes it useless to them
The Wrong Way to Write Links for Accessibility
Sometimes when writing web content that answers a common question we can get into the habit of directly telling people what to do, like this:
“It is important that you complete your FAFSA application to be eligible for many forms of financial aid available at My University. The FAFSA can be completed electronically or via downloadable pdf* at the Federal Student Aid website. To get started on your FAFSA application, click here.”
Based on screen reader skillsets, using “click here” is frustrating for the user at best, and useless in answering their question at worst, if you want to impart key information to users with vision disabilities. This is an issue that’s easy to fix – it just requires a quick change to your perspective and sentence structure as you write your content.
A Better Way to Write Links for Accessibility
“It is important that you complete your FAFSA application to be eligible for many forms of financial aid available at My University. Get a head start on the process and start your FAFSA now. Download the printable pdf FAFSA or complete your FAFSA online at the federal Student Aid website.”
Keeping best practices for users with disabilities in mind as you write your website content will improve overall usability (UX) for all users, you can learn more about how it works at the following sites.
Web Accessibility Resource Links
- WebAim.org articles
- Section 508 Accessibility Checklist – WebAIM
- Check your site with the WAVE Accessibility Evaluation – WebAIM
- Creating an ADA-compliant Website – TechRepublic
*PDFs offer another challenge for ADA Compliance – did you know that any time you post a PDF you should also make the same information available either in HTML or rich text format (.rtf) so that it’s accessible to all users without requirement of a proprietary plugin?