Quite often we see Councils posting images on the website that might be announcing an event or similar. Whilst these look great, very often they fall foul of Accessibility regulations. Let’s look at why that is and how we can easily remedy the problem.
Text readers can’t access the text on an image, Try to highlight THIS TEXT with your mouse. Easy right? Now try to highlight the text on the image below.
You can’t right? So, if you can’t highlight it with your mouse, then a text reader can’t see it either, that immediately makes your content non compliant with WCAG2.1aa. Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to remain compliant.
Whenever you’re adding content to your Council website, be it a news article, event, Council member and so on, you should already be using alt text. Alt text is an abbreviation of alternative text and it’s primary function is to alert non human technology, of what the image is about. Computers and even AI doesn’t have eyes, they can see that an image placeholder is on the page but they’ve no idea if it’s an image of your village hall or an elephant.
This is where alt text comes in. Search engine bots and screen readers will look for the alt text that belongs to the image in order to find out what the image depicts. The good news is, it takes just seconds to add the alt text.
You may have seen in our video tutorials that whenever we add an image, we always remind you to add alt text. When you’re adding an image or when you click edit on an existing image you’ll see the following:
You can see the field labelled ‘alternative text’. Simply add a short but meaningful description in there and then click on update and you’re compliant again.
Compliant or Caring?
Technically, you could in this instance just type ‘poster advertising village planting day’ and you’d be compliant with WCAG2.1aa. Put yourself for a moment however in the shoes of someone who relies on a screen reader. Their software will simply read out what you’ve added in your alt text box and nothing more, So what can be done to deliver a better experience to those with accessibility requirements?
Add a Transcript
A transcript simply means a written version of material originally published in a different format. So for instance subtitles on a video are essentially a transcript. Minutes of your Council meetings are essentially a transcript of the spoken word.
So let’s go back to our planting day example. What we’d suggest is to create a news post or a new event (again see our video tutorials to find out how), give it a meaningful title such as Village Planting day 20th August and use the image as your featured image. In the body of the post or event you can give all the details that appear in the non accessible JPG poster. This is truly embracing the values of providing an accessible website. As an example we’ve used this example to create an event on our demo website. Click the link to view the example event.
To read more about complying with accessibility, read our guide to Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018
The NetWise V2 theme is centred around accessibility allowing you to create a HTML version (nothing more than a transcript on the page like we’ve just illustrated) of your minutes, agendas etc instead of relying on the traditional and somewhat outdated method of creating PDFs. NetWise V2 allows you to upload a PDF still and create the same content on the webpage. You can click the link to see an example of HTML minutes with a PDF download on our demo website. The GDS now advise Councils to publish in HTML instead of PDF or alongside wherever possible.
Back in the 1990s it was quite usual to have to download content as a PDF. At the time is was a revelation, by todays standards it’s annoying. Who wants to have to download every bit of content? We realise that this is the way it’s always been done but we need to embrace the change. To quote Henry Ford “If I’d have asked people what the wanted they’d have said faster horses”.
We’ve seen Clerks creating Christmas events and adding the detail as a link to a Word Doc that simply lists the local events in December (in addition the text on the document was multi coloured with assorted Christmas icons that wouldn’t look out of place on a 1990s website). This is not at all compliant, it’s not at all user friendly and it doesn’t portray a good image of the local authority in general. In this instance, an event should have been added for every item on the doc via our events system. There is a tutorial for this.
We’ve also seen news stories that just contain a link to a doc. This is poor practice and is certainly non compliant. What’s more, it makes for a terrible user experience.
We realise that some Clerks have been doing their job for many years and that the changes in technology and regulations can be difficult to understand. We have short, easy to follow video tutorials and we’d suggest making a cuppa and settling down for half an hour to watch them. They’ll give you an understanding of how each feature works, adding documents, creating event’s etc. You’ll perhaps be surprised at some features that you didn’t even know about.
We’re also happy to do one on one Zoom training sessions. As a Clerk you have a responsibility to ensure that your website is compliant. We’re confident that it is compliant however only you has control over the compliance of content that you add. We’re committed to helping all our Councils to achieve this.
We hope that this has explained in simple terms how you can remain complaint and provide a better service to your community. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like more information about NetWise V2