University of Michigan

Accessibility Testing Newsletter > 10.12.2012

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The Accessibility Testing Newsletter is a twice-monthly publication (second and fourth Fridays) intended to supplement training provided through the Accessible Apps project. It will contain information of use to both programmers and non-programmers. The Newsletter is sent automatically to AIS staff, and to other U-M personnel by request. Please send comments or questions to Jane Vincent, Assistive Technology Lead,

Refresher: The FOUR Principles of Web Accessibility

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WCAG] are widely used to implement accessibility. The following explanation is taken from the Introduction to Understanding WCAG 2.0 and annotated with examples by the Accessible Apps team.

The guidelines and Success Criteria are organized around the following four principles, which lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use Web content. Anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:

If any of these are not true, users with disabilities will not be able to use the Web.

Problem of the Week

"I'm testing a site that has a line of five photos across the top. These photos are strictly illustrative; it's perfectly possible to understand the site without knowing their content. The photos currently have no alternative text. Should I recommend adding descriptions of the photos or just a blank alternative?"

Answer: A 2009 survey of screen reader users found that over half of respondents wanted a brief, objective description of photo contents, e.g. 'Photo of smiling woman.' However, keep in mind that much of accessibility is tied to efficiency. Even users who might want to hear a description of one photo would likely find it cumbersome to listen to five descriptions. Therefore, we would recommend that all five photos have blank descriptions (coded as ALT='' within an IMG tag). However, if one or more of the photos were germane to understanding the site, or were used as a link, those photos would need to have an appropriate description.

Quiz Question

"Skip-nav" links are used to allow non-mouse users to bypass long lists of static links (e.g., navigation links on the left hand side of the page, or pulldown menus) and go right to the page's main content. "Long" is often defined as a total of 4 or more links in one or more groups that precede the main content.

Michigan Online Giving Page with two groups of three links each

While you're testing the following page, you notice that it doesn't have a skip-nav link. Does it need one? (Answer next issue.)

Evaluation Tool Tip: NVDA

NVDA is a free screen reader that can be downloaded to your Windows computer and used to test how accessible your site might be to blind people. The URL is

If you would like to see a text version of what NVDA is saying, you can turn on the Speech Viewer, as follows:

Note that information may appear on this window before NVDA speaks it.

For the Accessible Apps team:
Pam Fons, Scott Williams, Jane Vincent