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ADA Accessibility Cheat Sheet

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) governs the regulations for businesses and State and local governments, technical assistance materials, ADA standards for Accessible Design, links to Federal agencies with ADA responsibilities and information and updates on new ADA requirements.  How does this apply to us?  Here are some of the guidelines we need to be sure and follow at the college/university level.

Never include on any type of sensitive data on a form which can be sent electronically.  Sensitive data includes:

  • Personal information
  • Health information
  • Education records
  • Cardholder data
  • Racial or ethnic origin
  • Political opinions
  • Religious beliefs
  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s License
  • Bank information
  • Student ID#
  • Digital Signature
  • Passwords
  • Parents legal surname prior to marriage
  • Pin number
  • Or a combination of any of these items which would lead to discovery of the student’s personal data.
  • And the list goes…Due to privacy issues, do not EVER include documents that allow the option to complete and electronically send anything which can be identified as sensitive data for either you or the person completing the form.

Writing Tips

  • Write in plain English using simple sentence structures and bulleted lists
  • Avoid jargon
  • Avoid acronyms when possible and always define on first use
  • Use headings to separate blocks of text and use bold to emphasize words and phrases
  • Use heading formats.  Do not use all CAPS
  • Do not use underline.
  • Use quotationmarks for quotes and titles that aren’t italicized
  • Use one space after a period.
  • Choose action-oriented words.

Hyperlink Tips

  • Provide descriptive links and clear calls to action
  • Do not use phrases like “click here” or “learn more.”
  • Hyperlink words instead of the URL or a small footprint like a single letter, single words or a small graphic
  • Create large clickable links and buttons for actions you want visitors to complete
  • Ensure that links are clear and large enough to be accessed by fingers

Design Tips

  • Use bold to convey emphasis
  • Use highlight boxes for emphasis
  • Add descriptive “Alt Text” to all images unless they are purely decorative
  • Do not use graphics to convey textual information
  • Always include captions or provide a transcript for all video content.  Do not rely on auto-generated captions!
  • Ensure that text-to-background contrast ratio is 4.5:1 for standard paragraph text and 3:1 for large (header) text.
  • Do not use orange text on a white background or any color text on an orange background.
  • Do not solely rely on colors to convey information.
  • Consider context and environmental factors when planning images
  • Use a logical top-down layout to organize information on the screen or page
  • Left-align text.  Center rarely and avoid using justified text
  • Avoid using emojis and icons within paragraph text
  • Design with mobile in mind.  Think about how content will look and flow on smaller devices
  • Design documents for digital use
  • Take the time to learn to create accessible pdf’s.
  • If you choose to include a document as a Word document, set the accessibility as a “READ ONLY” format.  This is a great option, particularly if the document is something that will need to be printed and completed due to sensitive data or required signatures.
  • When using Microsoft Word, you are able to export your document and add accessibility.
  • If you choose to use Issu for booklets, magazines, etc. you can do this but ONLY if there is an alternate for those who are unable to access the document using this format.  If using Issu, or any other form of electronic publishing, you MUST offer an unformatted, plain text version to give those using accessibility readers accessibility.
  • Do not include text within a graphic. For example:

ada accessibility image 1An accessibility reader will only see this as an image and will not identify what is written on the graphic.  This alternate shown below gives the reader the capability to read the text separately from the image.  In other words, give the graphic a caption that the screen reader can separate from the image so that it can be read.  Always include descriptive  “alt text” for your graphics.

  • ada accessibility image 2Do not use the image as a “call to action.” A call to action is a button or link that drives or takes the person to the next step which requires them to perform an action.  For example, in the trio of images above, Submitting a Proposal, Preparing a Budget & Questions, the images themselves do link to the same thing as the buttons but are not the only way to get to the action.  Ideally, the buttons would be what would prompt the person to move to the next step.  For best practice, always put the image above the “call to action.” If the image is what you are to click to reach the next step on your website, you are using it as a “call to action” and is not ADA accessible.  There should also be text below the image which IS the “call to action.”
  • Remember to use appropriate color combinations when using graphics, text, etc. on your website. You must use the appropriate color combination to allow for maximum level of contrast. A list of what is considered appropriate can be found here.
  • If using video on your website, make sure to enable the “closed captioning” ability for your video. If you video is on You Tube, you can add it.  If it is a personally developed video, you will need to type out a transcript of the video for accessibility readers to access.
  • As a general rule, avoid charts. Charts are inaccessible by any reader as they become images within a document.
  • Info graphics are great uses of images to relay your message but are not ADA accessible.  You can use them if you feel it is necessary but you must include a transcript of the details included in the info graphic which is ADA accessible.
  • Documents that are scanned are typically saved as an image only and are not ADA accessible.  Best practice is to type out the information from the document directly into a web page.
  • Test everything!

To determine if your PDF is accessible, do a quick test to see if the lines of text are able to be “selected” line by line. If so, it is most likely accessible.  If you attempt to select a line of text and it selects all the text/document, then it is saved as an image and the reader will be unable to read the contents.  There are a couple of options; a)if you feel it needs to stay a PDF, you can also include a transcript of what is on the PDF as an alternate for the reader.  Or b) you can include the information on a web page, typed out and not in a document of any type.

Accessible PDF Tutorial Sites



Brand Resources

Check out the Department of Communications and Marketing’s Brand Page for more detailed UTK branding info including web accessibility  and color combinations.

UT Accessibility Resources

General UT Information on Accessibility

Accessibility of Learning Materials From OIT

Universal Design for  Learning From OIT

UT Workshops on Accessibility

Design Resources

Inclusive Design Principles

Accessibility Blog

Color Contrast Checkers

Contrast Checker