Accessibility guidelines for De Montfort University websites, digital products and services

Purpose

These guidelines exist to provide a reference for De Montfort University (DMU) colleagues – and third parties – tasked with creating content for a website, digital product or service on behalf of DMU.  They serve as a set of principles, and are not a replacement for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines will be updated regularly, as WCAG and best practice develop.

WCAG are a series of guidelines for improving web accessibility. They are produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Although WCAG is not a wholly comprehensive list of issues encountered by website, digital product or service users with disabilities, they are internationally recognised and adopted standards. The guidelines explain how to resolve many of the problems users with disabilities encounter.

WCAG 2.1 AA is the DMU benchmark standard for all content, and MUST be followed in all instances.

Principles

The WCAG 2.1 guidelines are based on four design principles – commonly known as POUR:

By designing content with the POUR principles in mind, requirements of all users are catered for, including their individual, personal, and bespoke needs.

For example, DMU website, digital product or service users may:

  • Use a keyboard rather than a mouse/pen;
  • Alter their chosen browser settings to make content easier to read;
  • Change the way content is presented – including colours, text size, text-only and formatting options;
  • Use screen reader software or tools to ‘read’ (speak) content out loud;
  • Use a browser-based or bespoke screen magnifier tool to enlarge part or all of a screen;
  • Use voice commands to navigate.

These principles apply to all aspects of the website, digital product or service – including its code, its content (including pre-recorded audio or video and downloadable documents) and its interactions.  This means all commissioners, project managers, content creators and code developers need to understand, consider, and implement them when delivering their respective aspects.

Legislation introduced in September 2018 makes this overt, and DMU MUST comply with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

Perceivable

The principle of a website, digital product or service being perceivable centres on the senses users use. Some users may have difficulties with one or more senses, making them reliant on assistive technology to use the website, digital product or service. The three main senses WCAG the guidelines can help with are sight, sound and touch.

Operable

The principle of a website, digital product or service being operable centres on the actions users take. This covers the individual ways users browse. Some may have motor difficulties – meaning they use a keyboard to navigate – and some who have sight impairments often prefer to use a keyboard rather than a mouse.

Understandable

The process of making a website, digital product or service understandable is a fundamentally different task to the first two principles. A perceivable and operable website, digital product or service is not meeting users’ needs if they cannot understand it and consume its content.

All content MUST use clear terms, have simple instructions and explain complex issues. The website, digital product or service SHOULD function in a way that users understand, and avoid unusual, unexpected or inconsistent functions.

It is accepted that a website, digital product or service may have multiple audiences, each with their own requirements, expectations and understanding of the subject matter. To cater for this, DMU adopts a Flesch–Kincaid readability scaling approach to three distinct areas of content, and their target audiences:

Content aimed at all users MUST have a Flesch–Kincaid readability score of 70 of above.

Content aimed at applicants SHOULD have a Flesch–Kincaid readability score of 50 of above.

Content aimed at the research community SHOULD have a Flesch–Kincaid readability score of 30 of above.

Assessment of whether a certain piece of content meets its respective Flesch–Kincaid readability score SHOULD be completed using an automated tool. This is to ensure there are benchmarks and a clear process to both assess content, and maintain consistency from one website, digital product or service to another.

Robust

A robust website, digital product or service is one which third party technology (such as web browsers and screen readers) can access consistently. DMU websites, digital products or services MUST meet recognised standards, such as using ‘clean’ HTML and CSS.  Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a variety of browsers and applications, including assistive technologies.

Additional information and resources

World Wide Web Consortium (w3.org)
WCAG 2.1 guidelines (w3.org)
Understanding WCAG 2.1 (gov.uk)
What is WCAG 2.1? (gov.uk)
All WCAG 2.1 A and AA Success Criteria (gov.uk)
Web accessibility (wikipedia.org)

 
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