PMACS Web Team

Accessibility Best Practices


What is Web Accessibility?

People all over the world use the web to find, utilize and share information. Web accessibility assures that the information and tools available on the web are accessible to and usable by everyone. When we make our websites accessible we ensure our content can be viewed by as wide an audience as possible. 

This audience is a diverse group with a vast range of skills, abilities, and technical equipment. Our website visitors use a variety of browsers, computers and devices, operating systems, and assistive devices. They come from a wide range of locations, educational backgrounds, web experiences, abilities, and skill levels.

According to the 2010 US Census1, 19% of the population has some type of disability. About 8.1 million people had difficulty seeing, and about 15.5 million adult had difficulties with one or more instrumental activities of daily living, including using a phone1.  Our users have the following characteristics:

  • Unable to see, have low vision, or are color blind. Users who are blind may depend on a keyboard to navigate a website, or may use a screen reader to convert text into speech. Users with low vision may not be able to see content that is small or has insufficient contrast. Colorblind users cannot perceive the difference between certain color combinations.
  • Unable to hear. Video and multimedia content is becoming more prevalent on the web. Those who cannot hear are at a disadvantage when captions and video transcripts are not provided. 
  • Have a motor or physical disability. Users with motor or physical disabilities often rely upon assistive technologies and devices to utilize computers and navigate the web. An accessible website works alongside technologies such screen readers, voice recognition software, and non-traditional mice to help users harness a computer’s functionality.
  • Have a cognitive impairment. Users with cognitive impairment may be challenged by visual and reading comprehension. By relying on predictable navigation patterns, uncomplicated layouts, and avoiding distracting design elements, we can help these users access our content with ease. 

By making our websites compliant we are providing equal access to information to all users, regardless of ability.

The University of Pennsylvania is committed to providing equal access to information, programs, and activities by making our web pages accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities2. We use the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, and the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) to determine compliance.


Web Accessibility Compliance

  • Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act states that "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance"3. This includes colleges and universities.
  • In 1998, Congress amended Section 508 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act to "require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities"4. While these standards apply to the federal government, they are the baseline to which many institutions comply.
  • Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers privately-funded schools. All public or private schools that receive federal funding are required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to make their programs accessible to students with disabilities5.  
    • The Department of Justice is considering revising the regulations implementing Title III in order to establish requirements for making the goods, services, facilities, privileges, accommodations, or advantages offered by public accommodations via the internet accessible to individuals with disabilities. Link to Article >
  • In December 2008, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which are "the basis of most web accessibility law in the world"6


PMACS Web Design Team Responsibilities

The PMACS Web Design Team is committed to making accessible websites. We strive to achieve compliance with W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 2.0 standards. 

Our best practices include: 

  • Designing predictable, user-friendly navigation patterns 
  • Designing websites that operate and appear in predictable ways
  • Designing clear, structured website layouts with text styles that are readable and legible
  • Testing for colorblindness and sufficient contrast
  • Testing against W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 
  • Implementing functionality for adding meaningful image text and captions
  • Proper implementation of code standards and usage 
  • Ensuring video players have volume controls


Recommendations for MODX Publishers

In order to maintain an accessible website, we recommend the following practices as you maintain your site:

  • Add meaningful descriptions and alt-text to your photos.
  • Ensure videos you add (such as YouTube) include volume controls.
  • If available, include transcripts for all videos. 
  • Follow our Best Practices for Website Content Providers, SEO Guidelines, and Typography Tips.
  • Use tables only for tabular data.
  • Create file and page names that clearly reflect the content of the document or page.
  • Consider utilizing the tools listed in the next section.


Recommended Tools

Many tools exist to help make your site accessible:


Web Accessibility Resources & Further Reading

ADA, Section 508 and related government programs: 

W3C and WCAG:


1 Bernstein, Robert. "Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports - Miscellaneous - Newsroom - U.S. Census Bureau." US Census Bureau Public Information Office. United States Census Bureau, 25 July 2012. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
"Best Practices & Accessibility." University of Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
3 "Protecting Students With Disabilities." US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. US Department of Education, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
"Section 508 Laws." GSA Government-Wide Section 508 Accessibility Program., n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
"What Are a Public or Private College-university's Responsibilities to Students with Disabilities?" ADA National Network. ADA National Network, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
6  "Introduction to Web Accessibility." WebAIM: Introduction to Web Accessibility. Center for Persons with Disabilities | Utah State University, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.