6 tips for accessible government websites

Published on 05 March 2019

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Accessibility can be a daunting word for some, but all it really means is making the web a place where everyone can be comfortable, regardless of physical or mental ability. When it comes to local government, this is crucial.

At OpenCities, we know that nothing is more important to you than helping your community access the services they need. We have published DIY tips for accessibility from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, but with the updates to WCAG 2.1 getting accessibility right is as relevant as ever.

If you’re a local government content writer who’s not sure where to start with accessibility, here’s a handy list of tips.

 

1. Use meaningful page titles

WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.2

All your page titles should describe what the page is about so that all users can quickly see whether the page is relevant to them. Each title should be accurate, concise, and unique.

Examples

You’re creating a page for your website about waste collection information.

Some examples of meaningful titles could include “Waste services” or “Rubbish and recycling”.

Here are some titles that aren’t meaningful:

City of Point Russell

  • This title isn’t accurate or unique

If every page on your website has the name of your council as the title, e.g. ‘City of Point Russell’, your visitors can’t easily tell the difference between pages.

Click here for info about rubbish, recycling, hard waste, and green waste

  • This title isn’t concise

The title is technically accurate, but there’s too much information. You also shouldn’t include ‘click here for info about…’ in page titles.

 

2. Use meaningful link text

WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.4

Wherever possible, make sure your link text identifies the topic or purpose of the linked content. This lets users know exactly what they can expect if they click the link, and can also help improve your site's SEO. The best link text matches the title of the target page, but any meaningful text is great.

Top tip: Avoid link text that says ‘click here’.

Examples

Check out our latest blog post: Engage your community with images.

Curious? Find out how mobile friendly websites put government in the public’s pocket.

 

3. Add alt text to images

WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.1.1

Whenever you have an image on your page, you should write a text version of the information the image provides. This is called ‘alternative text’ or just ‘alt text’. The alt text should work as a replacement for the image, so someone can still understand the content if they can’t see the image.

Sometimes the platform you’re working with (e.g. OpenCities) will have a setting for you to add alt text to an image. Otherwise, you usually add it in the [alt] attribute of the image’s HTML.

Example

This photo is included on a page about the local library, after a paragraph that says “Children are welcome in the library.”

A-child-reading-in-the-Kids-Zone-at-the-library.jpg

A child reading in the Kids Zone at the library.

The alt text for the image is: “A child reading in the Kids Zone at the library.”

Visit W3C to learn more about writing alt text, or use their handy decision tree to work out what to write.

 

 4. Add media transcripts and captions

WCAG 2.1 success criteria 1.2.11.2.2 and 1.2.3

If you’re adding audio or video to a page, add transcripts and captions so people with different seeing and hearing abilities can all access the content. Here’s what you should add:

Audio

  • A transcript

Video

  • A transcript
  • Captions for dialogue and important sounds
  • An audio-described version, unless it’s a talking head video, then just a transcript is fine

You don’t need to do this if the media is an alternative to the main content of the page, and it’s labelled as such.

 

 5. Avoid images of text

WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.5

If you can, don’t use images of text. This helps people using assistive technologies, as they can adjust regular text to make it easier to read.

It’s okay to use images of text:

  • When you can’t avoid it — e.g. In a logo, screenshot, graph, diagram, or map
  • If the text is decorative and not intended for reading

 

6. Avoid jargon

WCAG 2.1 success criterion 3.1.3

Make your content easy for everyone to understand by avoiding jargon, i.e. nonliteral or specialized language. If you can’t avoid it, include a glossary somewhere on the page.

With these simple steps, you’ll be on your way to making the content on your website accessible in no time. We’ve still only scratched the surface of all the guidelines in WCAG 2.1, but you can explore more for yourself here: WCAG 2.1

 

At OpenCities, web accessibility is in our DNA. It touches everything that we do.

 

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