Accessibility & Usability

ADA 501
The American with Disabilities Act 501 requires that institutions that receives federal funding build websites that are accessible to people with disabilities.  

UA Non-Discrimination Policy
It is the policy of the University of Arizona to ensure that University Web pages will be usable by people with disabilities.

ADA 501 and why Target got sued
Target does not receive federal funding but they were sued under ADA 501 in a class action lawsuit.  The reason for the lawsuit was that Target refused to, among other things, put alt text to make the site usable to visually impaired people.

homepage catalog special offers my account

Target's website navigation contained buttons like the ones above. A blind person can not read those buttons. Target did not provide an alternative by adding "ALT" tags to their images.  Without ALT tags, a blind person can not navigate their website. 

To make matters worse, Target offered 'special offer' sale prices that you could only get through their website. If you were blind, you were not able to get the 'special offer' and where therefore discriminated against.

Need help with Website Accessibility?
Dawn Hunziker from the Disability Resource Center can meet with UA Web Developers individually or as a group to discuss accessibility.  Dawn also has tools to help evaluate accessibility. 

Things to Look for:

  • Try navigating through your website using just a keyboard;
  • Try turning off CSS to see if your website is still functional;
  • Look for and remove any "Click Here" links.  The title of the link must be descriptive. 

Questions to determine if your site is accessible

  • Are all informative visual elements described with alternative text? (images, controls, CAPTCHA, etc.) Decorative images do not have to be described
  • Are all hyperlinks descriptive?  Example:  no "Click Here" hyperlinks.
  • Do all sounds have an equivalent transcription, caption or sign language interpretation?
  • Are all videos transcribed or provide audio description
  • If you turn off style sheets does the page still make sense?
  • Are labels attached to form fields programmatically and visually
  • Is the content understandable without any senses? (vision, hearing)
  • Is the content understandable without being able to distinguish colors? (viewing content on black and white)
  • Can you stop all automatically started or user requested audio, including background sounds at any time
  • Does the site provide a good contrast ratio?
  • Can you resize text with the browser?
  • Can you operate all functionalities by using the keyboard only?
  • Do all functional items receive focus?
  • Does change occur only at user request?
  • If there are any time limits, can you extend it for user request?
  • When sessions expire is previously entered data saved?
  • Are flashing and blinking elements flash less than three times a second?
  • Can users skip repetitive blocks throughout the site?
  • Can users find a particular place on the site in more than one way?
  • Are page titles and headings descriptive?
  • Are data table headers indicated?
  • Is the site coded using valid and error-free code?


Below are traditional accessibility issues, but anything that might keep a visitor from being able to access the information on a website. If no one can load your site, or the type is too small to read, all of the usability in the world won't matter.

Site Load-time Is Reasonable
Call me old-school, but I still like to see sites come in under 100KB (60KB is even better). If a site takes forever to load, most people will just leave. Yes, many of us have broadband now, but that makes our patience even thinner.

Font Size/Spacing Is Easy to Read
Opinions vary on the ideal size for text, but err on the side of slightly too big. Poor readability increases frustration, and frustration leads to site abandonment. Also, make sure your line spacing is adequate - white-space is a designer's best friend.

Flash & Add-ons Are Used Sparingly
No matter how great your site looks, people won't wait 5 minutes for a plug-in to load. Use new technology sparingly and only when it really enhances your goals. Sticking to standard HTML/CSS is also a plus for search engines.

Site Has Custom Not-found/404 Page
If a page on your site doesn't exist, a white page with "404 Not Found" is a good way to lose a customer. Create a custom 404 page, preferably one that guides your visitors to content.

Homepage Is Digestible In 5 Seconds
In usability, we often talk about the 5-second rule. There's some disagreement over just how many seconds you get, but website visitors are a fickle bunch, and they need to get the basic gist of your home-page in just a few moments.

Clear Path to Contact Information
Visitors want to know that they can get in touch with you if they need to. It's also hard to do business if no one can contact you. Preferably, list your contact information as text (not in an image) - it'll get picked up by search engines, including local searches.

Main Navigation Is Easily Identifiable
Almost every site on the web has had a main menu since the first browsers came on the market. Make your main navigation easy to find, read, and use. If you have two or more navigation areas, make it clear why they're different.

Navigation Labels Are Clear & Concise
Don't say "Communicate Online With Our Team" when "Contact Us" will do just fine. Your main navigation should be short, to the point, and easy for mere mortals to grasp.

Number of Buttons/Links Is Reasonable
Psychologists like to argue about how many pieces of information we can process, but if you start to get past 7-or-so menu items, think hard about whether you need them. If you've got 3 layers of flyaway Javascript menus, do yourself a favor and start over.

Company Logo Is Linked to Home-page
This may sound minor, but people expect logos to link to home-pages, and when they don't, confusion follows. I've seen video of users clicking on a logo over and over, with no idea what to do next.

Links Are Consistent & Easy to Identify
The underlined, blue link is a staple of the web. A little artistic license is ok, but consider at least making your links either blue or underlined. Links should stand out, and you should use them sparingly enough that they don't disrupt your content.

Site Search Is Easy to Access
If you have a site search, make sure it's prominent. Usability guidelines tend to prefer the upper-right corner of the page. Keep the button simple and clear - "Search" still works best for most sites.

Major Headings Are Clear & Descriptive
Most people don't read online, they skim. Use headings (major and minor) to set content apart and keep it organized. Headings should be clear, and for SEO benefit, using heading tags (<H1>, <H2>, etc.).

Critical Content Is Above The Fold
The "fold" is that imaginary line where the bottom of your screen cuts off a page. Content can fall below the fold, but anything critical to understanding who you are or what you do (especially on the home-page) should fit on that first screen. Average screen resolution these days is about 1024x768, depending on your audience.

Styles & Colors Are Consistent
Make sure people know they're still on your site by being consistent - confuse them and you'll lose them. Layout, headings, and styles should be consistent site-wide, and colors should usually have the same meaning. Don't use red headers on one page, red links on another, and red text somewhere else.

Emphasis (bold, etc.) Is Used Sparingly
It's a fact of human cognition: try to draw attention to everything and you'll effectively draw attention to nothing. We've all seen that site, the one with a red, blinking, underlined "NEW!" next to everything. 

Main Copy Is Concise & Explanatory
This isn't a lesson in copywriting, but look at your home-page - can you say the same thing in half as many words? Try to be concrete and descriptive and avoid jargon - nobody cares if you can "leverage your synergies".