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Promoting accessibility in editorial businesses

Web Accessibility Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

By Christine Albert

As a student enrolled in an editing program, I’m often asked to reflect on issues that may arise when working with clients. The discussion and module notes invariably focus on respect, clear communications, and diplomacy—about how the language of our queries and comments can affect authors. Yet, accessibility is rarely discussed, and few resources from professional associations or courses exist on how to make editorial businesses inclusive and accessible.

This lack of information on accessibility creates a disadvantage for those potential clients who may be physically or cognitively unable to use the same editing services as their peers. An author with multiple learning disabilities once explained to me that she found it difficult working with other editors: they simply wrote long comments using Track Changes, which she had difficulty reading. As a result, she had to constantly ask her transcriber to read her the edits and comments. After discussing the author’s needs, she and I worked out an alternate method that involved verbally communicating comments and large changes, which would let her work through the draft independently—a tactic that surprisingly hadn’t been considered by the other editors.

Lack of accessibility not only affects the services side of our businesses but it also affects our marketing efforts. Google searches for accessible and inclusive editing services turned up no relevant results. While searching editor websites, I was surprised to find that many do not follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) nor incorporate basic accessibility features. For instance, a number of websites could not be zoomed in when viewed on a tablet, while others did not have enough contrast between the text and background. As someone with moderate vision issues, I struggled to read the content on these websites. Potential clients with visual or learning disabilities may be deterred by these difficulties and look elsewhere for an editor. If we are to operate our editorial businesses successfully, we need to go beyond our assumptions of what clients need and make our services accessible so we can provide them with what they actually require. (more…)

Web accessibility: An editor’s guide

By Ambrose Li

Web accessibility: An editor’s guide

Is web accessibility for people with disabilities the responsibility of just web designers, web developers, or accessibility consultants? Editors Toronto certainly disagrees, or it wouldn’t have organized a seminar on web accessibility standards last November. But what if you missed that seminar?

Web accessibility in a nutshell

Ontario’s web accessibility standard is based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. It consists of four principles divided into 12 guidelines that together form the basis of more than 60 success criteria and over 400 techniques; it deals with not only web pages but also other kinds of content posted online, including PDFs. Its official guide, at 262 letter-sized pages, is more than five times longer than the standard itself.

This sounds intimidating, but the four principles of accessibility (perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust) and 12 guidelines that underpin the WCAG standard are surprisingly simple. And, as an editor, only two of those guidelines should catch your attention: readable and navigable. Readability is clearly the job of all editors, and navigability—organizing the site so that readers can easily glean its structure and find their way around—is central to what substantive editors do. Even when acting within traditional editorial roles, we are already qualified to meaningfully contribute to a site’s accessibility. (more…)