- Requirements for NERC-funded websites
Accessible web design is important to users of this site and we encourage people to let us know of any problems they have on the accessibility page. So why is it so important to make this website as accessible as possible?
It is a legal requirement. When this site was redesigned in summer 2006, compliance with the provisions of the Special Educational Needs & Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) and the 2005 extended scope of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was top of the requirements.
It benefits all site users, as the basic code must be as compliant as possible. As a result, the site is compliant to XHTML 1.0 strict and CSS 2, helping it work well with browsers that are also compliant.
It just makes the site better! Pages are structured better. Content is more concise. Images are carefully captioned. Code is efficient and avoids proprietary elements, so helps pages load faster.
Consideration of accessibility affects almost all aspects of web page writing, design and production. The other pages in these production notes include guidance that is best practice but also helps improve accessibility. The key points are repeated here.
The text needs to be written and organised so that it can be marked-up structurally - also known as "semantic HTML". It should have a logical sequence of headings, with list and table tags used for things that are lists or tables - not for presentation alone! Our production notes on structure cover some aspects of this.
Our general production notes on links explain why it is important to give meaning to link text. Never say "click here"! Always use a meaningful description as the link text, preferably the title of the page to which the link points.
The notes on writing style cover aspects such as spelling, punctuation, acronyms and abbreviations, and length of pages. A clear and consistently-applied style guide helps all site visitors, but can especially help people using assistive technology such as audible screen readers that might be using different ways of navigation and scanning through content.
For assistive software to work, it needs text that is well structured, has no spelling mistakes, is grammatically-correct and uses standard punctuation to assist with emphasis.
Using a custom style, non-standard punctuation or loose document structure might not appear important, but it may make a page less accessible than it could be. You wouldn't put a physical obstruction in the middle of a path for no reason, and so neither should web documents have avoidable accessibility problems.
There is some debate over how helpful Access Keys are, due to potential conflicts with other software keyboard shortcuts. We implemented a limited set of the standard access keys, to minimise the risk whilst providing a useful set of navigational shortcuts that is common with many other public-sector sites in the UK.
We take accessibility very seriously. This means that all new, externally-facing web content should be developed to comply with current accessibility legislation and guidelines (so from December 2008 this would mean WCAG 2.0). This should include any site with free, open access to the general public, and also any site to which the public can register for use.
If a website is wholly internal, that is for NERC staff only, it should still be the objective to make the site accessible (see the benefits of accessible websites listed above). Procurement of web-enabled applications should also consider accessibility as a priority.
If it is not possible to deliver the service in an accessible way, the system owner must provide the necessary points of contact and resources to provide services for anybody unable to use the site or service directly.