Web Accessibility

Web Accessibility is not a trend. It is a must-have feature of all successful interactive platforms. Web accessibility focuses on making technology equally accessible for people, both with, and without disabilities, aiming to remove barriers to accessing the web. UVA School of Medicine is committed to nurturing inclusion for all web users.

Introduction to Web Accessibility and W3C Standards

Web Accessibility is important for people

  • 56.7 Million Americans have a disability. That is 18.7% of the population.
  • 8.1 million have a vision impairment. Relying on screen magnifiers or a screen reader, or might have a form of color blindness. That is 3.3% of the population.
  • 7.6 million have a hearing impairment. Relying on on transcripts and / or captions for audio and video media. That is 3.1% of the population.
  • 19.9 million have difficulty lifting or grasping. That is 8.2% of the population.
  • 15.2 million have a cognitive, mental, or emotional impairment. That is 6.3% of the population.

Some of the challenges people face

Audio/Visual Disabilities

  • Deafness
  • Hard of hearing
  • Vision impaired
  • Blindness
  • Color blindness

Cognitive/Neurological Disabilities

  • Learning disabilities
  • Memory impairments
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders
  • Seizure disorders
Physical/Motor Disabilities

  • Arthritis
  • Repetitive stress injury
  • Amputation
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Reduced dexterity

Additional Factors

  • Brightness and contrast factors (mobile screens/sunlight)
  • Slow internet connections
  • Loud/busy environments

Problems need solutions

Currently, many sites have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or even impossible for some people to use them. Website accessibility means that the platform is designed and developed in a way that lets people with disabilities use it.

For existing websites, applications and systems, meeting accessibility standards requires work. Pages need to be retrofitted with ‘alt’ text and, and dedication to accessibility best practices as new content and features are developed.

Accessibility focuses on how disabled people access and benefits from a website, system or application. Accessibility is an important part of designing website content, and should be considered throughout the development process.

In the following sections, practical steps are outlined that will make your web pages more web accessible, improve SEO, and make a better user experience for everyone.

Step 1: ‘ALT text’ and what this means to you

As part of a University wide initiative, the School of Medicine is taking active steps to enhance web accessibility for everyone. We are committed to meeting ADA AA standards and need all web editors to help with this!


ALL School of Medicine websites must have ‘Alt’ text applied to ALL images.

  • The image ‘Alt’ attribute is used within html to specify alternative description of an image; used by audio screen readers, for visually impaired users, so they can determine what content is on a web page.
  • ‘Alt text’ is also referenced by search engines, so can help, or hinder search rankings, depending on the quality of the alt text.
  • ‘Alt text’ is a requirement for all images on SOM websites.
  • This is important to meet user needs and legal requirements.

Example of Alt text within code:
<img src=”../image.jpg” alt=”This is a description of what the image contains”>

Here are examples of BAD, GOOD and BEST Alt text

  1. BAD: alt=”image_123″
    • No indication of what the image shows.
    • No indication of the relevance to page content.
    • This does not serve the user or enhance S.E.O.
  2. GOOD: alt=”Doctor talking to patient”
    • Indication of what the image shows.
    • General relevance to page content.
    • Will be listed in general keyword search results.
  3. BEST: alt=”Doctor talking to patient in UVA hospital Radiology department”
    • Explicit indication of what the image shows.
    • Relevance to specific page content.
    • Will be listed in keyword search results for UVA, and Radiology.

Search Engine Optimization aka S.E.O.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.

In layman’s terms, an SEO score communicates your website’s relevance to a keyword search. Having a high SEO score is important, because having a high SEO score will boost the website’s ranking and visibility within search results.

Step 2: Video Transcripts

From now on ALL School of Medicine websites must have ‘video transcripts’ linked to ALL videos.

Video transcripts ensure that all video content embedded in SOM web pages can be read aloud by accessibility aids, like audio screen readers, for visually impaired users, and can be read visually by audio impaired users.

Please notify with any questions you have about video accessibility standards, guidance on how to implement video transcripts, or if you find video content that does not have closed captioning or a transcript.

News steps: Interactive PDF forms

Specific reasons why interactive PDF forms can be problematic for web accessibility:

  • Screen readers can not access the forms via a link.
  • Often, input fields can’t be tabbed through via the keyboard.
  • Often, input fields cannot be verbally described by screen readers.

Reasons that content within PDF forms should actually be content that lives within web pages:

  • PDFs are not responsive, so are not optimized for the mobile web.
  • PDF forms cannot submit themselves, which means the file has to be saved, then emailed, rather than directly submitting information like an online form can.

Please notify us with any questions you have about PDF accessibility, guidance on best practices, and to discuss alternate options for online interactive forms.