Making your documents accessible is fairly easy to do, but it requires some planning and a few special skills.
When you are creating documents to post online, you have some special obligations to make sure that your documents are accessible to the widest audiences possible.
Seven Basic Principles to Document Accessibility
Essentially, there are 7 basic principles of making your documents accessible:
- Create documents which are well structured and include headings that are machine readable
- Provide text alternatives for all images, graphics, audio, and video.
- Ensure that all text has a strong contrast to the background color (test by printing out on a black & white printer).
- Avoid using colored text, and do not use colored text (alone) to indicate a category or type of information.
- Use headings for columns and rows in tables; use introductory paragraph to describe designs of complex table layouts.
- Provide unique hyperlink labels which are descriptive of the content which is linked. In other words, change "To view the latest accessibility policy, click here" to "View the accessibility policy." Screen readers will only be able to read what is in the link, so a page that lists "click here," "click here," "click here" is not helpful to the user.
- Convert documents to a universally accessible file format (recommendation is Adobe Acrobat Reader / PDF format).
Associated Laws and Policies
Unlike Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act which require a reasonable accommodation be made after a qualified individual with a disability makes a request, the laws relating to online document accessibility are in effect at all time for all users.
Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, institutions accepting Federal dollars must make their web and electronic documents accessible to screen readers and other assistive technologies.
In addition to the Federal law, agencies of the state of Minnesota are subject to state of Minnesota laws and accessibility guidelines (Nonvisual Technology Access 16C.145, Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minnesota Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Guidelines, the Minnesota Assistive Technology Act (STAR), and MnSCU Web Accessibility Guidelines
Review the guidelines and sites above for specific details of the laws and standards.