Matthew Putland is a Digital Accessibility Analyst for Media Access Australia, based in Perth but working on projects all over the country. A lot of his work revolves around conducting accessibility audits on websites and digital media and he shares the five most common issues that he comes across in his web auditing.
“I see a lot of different accessibility issues,” says Putland. “The most common problems are not providing an alternative for non-text content, having a lack of captions and audio descriptions for multimedia, not providing enough colour contrast with foreground and background colours, having the link text on a page that isn’t very descriptive and also having a lack of instructions on labels and forms.”
The failure to provide alternative text on images, and also where text has been embedded into an image, is a reoccurring problem he comes across often.
“Screen readers can read text on a webpage or text that has been coded into the web page but they cannot read the content of an image,” observes Putland. “So without alternate text, people with blindness cannot receive any information from the image, which may include infographics or graphs.”
While the quality and use of captioning is improving, a big issue that he finds with web and digital material is the widespread lack of Audio Description (AD).
“Audio description is an area that hasn’t really taken off much at all from what I’ve seen from the audits” says Putland. “Very very rarely do I actually find AD on videos that need it and what I mean by that is, videos that have a lot of visual content without narration.”
In terms of colour contrast, the most common colour contrast fail that he sees is light grey on white, but of course, there are other issues too.
“One thing that catches a lot of people by surprise is that light blue and orange also have a lot of colour contrast problems when they’re used on white,” says Putland. “So just avoid the use of grey, light blue and orange text on a white background.”
Rounding out Matt’s top five issues from his web auditing is a lack of meaningful link descriptions and instructions and labels for forms.
“A lot of forms I see don’t provide enough instructions at the start of the form,” says Putland. “Usually, at the start of the form, you can say that, you know, all of the form fields are required or you could say that all of the form fields that have an asterisk on the label are required and that would help people to actually complete the form. And also instructions for how to apply which date format and phone format to use in an input field.”
“For link descriptors, you’ve also got to make sure that, if you have a link on the page, the link itself actually describes where the link will take you. So instead of saying, ‘Click here for more information about Media Access Australia’, instead you would have the link be, ‘Learn more about Media Access Australia’ or something like that.”
Matt Putland believes that web professionals working on an organisation’s web and digital communications should make accessibility a serious consideration right from the start.
“In the design phase, ensure that accessibility is considered and that will help you to improve accessibility later on down the track. Because if you design it well, then chances are it will be much more accessible once you actually complete the project.”
You can contact the Digital Accessibility Services team at Media Access Australia to arrange a web audit.