The website accessibility project

Morgan Strong's blog | Created 10 years ago

The Western Australian Museum is committed to providing the highest standards in accessible website development and delivering the outcomes suggested in the WCAG v2.0 AA guidelines. We are also committed to deliver as many accessible outcomes as possible by 31 December 2013.

The Western Australian Museum has a very large website with close to 500,000 webpages, several thousand PDF documents (including scanned documents dating back to 1910), over 150 videos, and over a dozen substantial subsites. Inherit to this amount of content, there are issues with providing text alternatives, as well as delivering a clear information architecture with so many webpages spanning many diverse topics.

The main objectives of WCAG v2.0 AA could summarised as follows:

  1. Provide text-alternatives for non-text elements (PDFs, Docs, Video, Podcasts, images etc).
  2. Provide alternatives to time-based media.
  3. Content still understandable when simplified layouts are presented.
  4. Ensure the content can be heard and seen correctly for all cognitive and disability levels.
  5. Ensure all website functionality can be operated via a keyboard.
  6. Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  7. Ensure all content does not induce seizures.
  8. Provide mechanisms to help users find their place within a site.
  9. Ensure all text content is readable and understandable.
  10. Ensure web pages operate in predictable ways.
  11. Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  12. Maximise compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technology.

A preliminary audit performed in mid-2012 revealed that we passed many of the criteria, and but there were several areas were we had problems – mostly as a result of legacy publishing practices, but also because some content and design features had not been delivered in this best possible way.

This audit also revealed one area where we were particularly weak: text alternatives for non-text elements, such as our PDFs, podcasts, video and images. This is a problem common to many large websites.

To ensure the site continues to improve its accessibility, the following practices have been actively pursued by the Western Australian Museum:

  • No new videos are accepted for publishing unless they are captioned;
  • Full text / online versions of documents are provided when new documents are published on the site (Note, in certain areas PDFs are still being published, but they have new accessibility considerations applied, as will be discussed in the next section).
  • Legacy subsites are being actively migrated back into the main website, where global accessibility improvements can be applied;
  • Where possible, automatic migration scripts are deployed to improve alternative image text when bulk images import processes are performed;
  • All new projects are performed mindful of accessibility standards;
  • Educating web publishers in what is required to make a more accessible web page;
  • Deploying a responsive site to deliver content to our increasingly mobile audience.

Additional to our improved standards on newly published materials we have introduced some new processes to help make our older content more accessible, and help our site reach WCAG v2.0 AA compliance. These measures include:

  • In the Records of the Western Australian Museum, metadata has been extracted from the documents, and a full text version of the abstract has been provided. As of 30 April 2013, we had extracted abstracts for all records back to 1985, with a view to complete all records by July 2013. Some shorter publications are also available as full text online. If a full text version is needed by one of our visitors, we have provided an email link for people to request more accessible versions.
  • We will shortly launch a similar service for the 300 Maritime Archaeology Reports.
  • For education program documents a PDF is provided, and in many cases a full text online version is also provided. When a full text version is not available, we produce alternative versions on request, and then the full text version is published online.
  • Most short videos have now been transcribed and captioned. For most videos there is the ability to turn on closed captioning, and a full transcription is available underneath each video. When a caption is not yet produced, an email address is provided for visitors to request a transcription or captioning.
  • We have produced some views in Drupal that will allow us to view all images in context so we can provide alternative text for images. There are many thousands of images, so this is quite a lengthy process.

On top of these measures, which relate to full-text alternatives, we have also a range of processes in place to help improve the accessibility of the site (such as auditing link names, improving navigational context, ensuring correct colour contrast levels etc).

The Western Australian Museum takes accessibility seriously. Although our large site and historic backlog means we are unlikely to reach full WCAG v2.0 AA compliance (especially before 31 December 2013), we have put in place several measures to make the site more accessible and inclusive to all our visitors. By providing as much accessible content as possible; spending a section of every working day improving our accessibility; and providing methods to help people request accessible content where it is not yet available, every day our site becomes just that bit more accessible.