Accessibility evaluation of the UMD Philosophy Department website

(by Michael Midgley-Biggs)

Guideline 1.1 Text Alternatives: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
Partial implementation. The site's main navigation panel, present on all pages, uses images of text without textual alternatives. There seems to be no name or label that describes its purpose, either visible or in the page source. There are images on some pages, but they are purely decorative, and include alt text describing their content.

Guideline 1.2 Time-based Media: Provide alternatives for time-based media.
Not applicable. There is no time-based media on the Philosophy Department website.

Guideline 1.3 Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
Complete. All information is presented in simple textual layouts. There is no particular order required for sensible content presentation, other than basic textual ordering. Linked PDF documents are all text-bearing, rather than bitmapped.

Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
Partial implementation. Most use of color is decorative. Link hover is indicated with an underline. Even the image-only navigation panel changes options' background color from red to white, which is distinguishable even if viewed in grayscale (tested using Mac OS X's universal access features). Without mouse-over, links are only distinguished from the surrounding text by color. On the site's glossary ("checklist") of philosophical terms, images of text are used to display the symbols of formal logic, but alt text is provided.

Guideline 2.1 Keyboard Accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
Partial implementation. While I can tab through and navigate links through my browser's keyboard access features, there does not appear to be any website infrastructure supporting keyboard access. The content is pretty much all text and links, though.

Guideline 2.2 Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use content.
Not applicable. There are no time-sensitive features.

Guideline 2.3 Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
Not applicable. There are no active flashing elements. The navigation panel's mouseover behavior (described above) could conceivably constitute a red flash (over a very small area), but the frequency is limited by the user's mouse behavior. It would be very difficult to exceed the flashing content guidelines with this feature, even if one were trying.

Guideline 2.4 Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
Partial implementation. Page tiles are present on every page, focus order preserves meaning and operability, and each page displays location information which identifies what section of the site a page is located in, including links for ascending the site's navigation tree.

Guideline 3.1 Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.
Partial implementation. The page source indicates that the language is English in a programmatically-readable way (in a DOCTYPE comment - not sure about portability), and there is a provided glossary ("checklist") of philosophical terms. However, no special effort is made to support low-level or nonfluent readers (there is no pronunciation guide, for example).

Guideline 3.2 Predictable: Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
Complete. Navigational components are repeated identically on all pages (except the website's "cover page"), and there are no automatic changes of context.

Guideline 3.3 Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
Not applicable. There are no forms or other mechanisms for users to input data.

Guideline 4.1 Compatible: Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.
Partially implemented. While the pages are coded in syntactically-compliant HTML 4.0, the image-only navigation panel is not suitable for use with anything other than a graphical browser with substantial screen resolution. This excludes both screen readers and mobile devices.