Having an accessible website benefits more than just users who may have difficulties accessing and understanding your content! It also benefits search ranking (as search bots can better crawl your site), and therefore benefits you as well- better ranking equals higher search visibility, website traffic and potentially better sales and increased brand recognition! All the more reason to make accessibility a priority for your website!
Nowadays, having an accessible website may even be a requirement by law, accessibility laws are becoming more and more. For example, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires a website to be compliant with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, or AAA, depending on what industry you're in and the size of your business.
Because of this, Sencia Canada Ltd. ensures our products, including SIMS content management system meets standard accessibility requirements. At it’s core, the majority of newly developed sites will meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA, otherwise can easily made to. Continuing to meet these guidelines after launch, however will require vigilant care from ALL website administrators, editors and anyone who has access to add and modify content. This section will help guide you through the process of maintaining an accessible website in SIMS and familiarize you with the tools you can use to make the process easy.
Although it may be a bit of a learning process, once you figure it out, maintaining your website's accessibility with SIMS is easy! SIMS was built to allow you full control of your content- including your content's accessibility!
Tools and Tips for Maintaining an Accessible Website with SIMS CMS:
This section was designed to help guide you in maintaining an accessible website on your own using tools available in SIMS Content Management System. If you are interested in getting an accessibility audit to ensure compliance with specific guidelines, please reach out to our support team. We can provide website accessibility audits and maintenance packages for all websites, regardless of whether they are not your website was built on the SIMS CMS platform.
Copying and Pasting Content into SIMS Editor - The Accessible Way!
You can normally enter your content directly into SIMS's Editor without any worries of it being inaccessible. However, if you are adding content to your website from external sources- for example, copying and pasting content from another website or from a word document, you might inadvertently be pasting blocks of code such as spans, classes, in-line code formatting or sometimes even externally sourced images, which can cause accessibility issues. You might not even notice, because by default you are using SIMS Visual Editor. However, if you would switch to view your content with the Advanced Source Editor, you might see where it's getting messy. Some of this code might not be harmful to the accessibly of your website's content, however some of it can be - so this is where you need to be careful.
To avoid any possible accessibility issues, we highly recommend you use the Paste as Text tool when you are bringing in any external content to your website. By doing this, though, you'll be stripping out any pre-existing formatting or links, so keep that in mind! You may need to use SIMS tools to correct your formatting- like styling headings, adding links, images, lists and adjusting your layout. However- it's well worth the effort to ensure you're meeting accessibility guidelines!
Use Proper HTML Headings
As mentioned above, you should avoid copying and pasting content from external sources, as they might cause issues like making the appearance of headings, when they in fact are just inline styles that make it appear they are headings. Content should always be broken up with the use of proper HTML headings in order to mark sections of content by level of importance. Each article on SIMS is designed to programatically include only one H1 as the main subject of the page- you should never have more than one H1 to a page. You can however include multiple H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6 headings. They work pretty similarly to headings in any word document, where H2 would be for any subheadings, H3 for sub-sub-headings and so on.
TIP; Although using "bold" text can make content stand out visually, it is NOT intended for use as headings and you should avoid using it as such as screen readers or search engines will not be able to understand this.
Avoid Overuse of Bold, Italics, Underline
Using text styles such as bold, italics or underline can be a great way to draw attention to important bits of content. However, it should also be used sparingly. You should avoid using it for large blocks of text like entire sentences or paragraphs. Instead, you can use custom styling or templates to draw attention visually. If you're looking for a creative solution, please feel free to consult with our support team.
Whenever possible, you should try to name your files descriptively. For example, it's difficult to understand by the file name alone that img_009.jpg is an image of a carrot - so naming it carrot.jpg might make more sense! This isn't always possible, though, and especially with larger websites where hundreds of files are already uploaded and being linked to in your content.
This is where the image alternative description is really important! The alternative (or alt) description is included within an embedded image's code to describe what the image is of. So basically, if the image is being described by a screen reading device, a search engine bot, or in the case of an image failing to load, the alt description lets the user know what is supposed to be displayed.
Avoiding visuals as the only way to display important information (ie, text as images) Posters, Infographics
Posters, videos or infographics are a great way to present important information visually, however it can also greatly limit the amount of people who can access this information. If you are using visuals to display important information or data, it should always be available in an alternative and accessible format. The easiest way to do this is to offer a written description or script along with your visuals.
Uploading Accessible .PDFs
It is recommended that all files you upload to SIMS are accessible. While we do not have a tool to do this using SIMS, you can learn more about making your .PDF files accessible here (External Link).
Linking to Files (ie, .PDF, .DOC) on your website
When linking to files (for example, a .pdf or .doc) using text or buttons, you should mention the file type in the link text or title text so that users understand that the link is directing to a file, rather than to a new page.
View Our Guide on Accessibility (.PDF)
Avoiding tables for use in layout
Tables are intended to be used as a way of displaying tabular data. While they can be incredibly useful for their intended purpose, you should avoid using it as a solution to creating visual layout for your website's content. Instead, make use of SIMS Templates! Our team can help develop custom, accessible-friendly layouts for you to use in structuring your content visually. If you need assistance creating layout templates for your website, please contact our support team and we'll be happy to discuss your options.