Keyboard only users can press Tab and Shift-Tab to move forward and backwards through links on the page. The first links jump straight to the main page content and menu, without having to move through all the standard page content first. The links are activated with the Enter key, as usual. Users who do not activate a skip link arrive at the site search box on their next tab key press.
The colours and shades used on the site have all been designed so that contrasts are compliant with the WCAG at level AAA to make the site maximally usable by people with visual impairments.
In addition, there is a small links menu beneath the logo which allows the site to be switched to black on white or white on black, for even higher contrast.
- The website has been designed so that all modern web browsers allow its text to be zoomed using keyboard shortcuts, and most also resize the images at the same time.
- Most browsers have settings for the default zoom and font.
- Most browsers allow styles (the CSS stylesheet) to be turned off to give a very plain, old fashioned appearance to the page which some users might prefer.
- Many browsers allow a user stylesheet to be provided to override that we use. This controls all aspects of the appearance of the page, including colour.
For more information on all the above, please refer to your browser's documentation or the Web Browser Advice page.
Our page content flows to fit the browser window. Along with browser text and image resizing support, this makes the best of the available area. This is useful for everybody, but is particularly welcomed by those with certain types of visual impairment.
When running on small devices, like mobile phones or some tablets, the website adjusts its entire layout. Content appears first and other items, such as menus and additional information afterwards. This makes the site easier to use and avoids the use of scroll bars.
All menus are HTML lists of links, making them highly accessible both to screen reader users and keyboard users. In addition, all website content providers are asked to provide plenty of meaningful headings for sections of text using proper tags so screen reader users can easily skip around the page to get an overview of what it is about. Please let us know if you think the content providers are not doing a good job of this and we will let them know your suggestions for improvements.
Screen Reader Support
All pages have been marked up with WAI-ARIA roles navigation landmarks, for those screen readers which are able to use them. For example, some screen readers are able to start reading the main content of a page immediately it is opened, rather than having to start at the top of the page.
The website has been tested with the following screen readers (all with Internet Explorer 8):
- System Access To Go (free online screen reader for web browsing, using many of the same keys as JAWS)
- JAWS 13
- Windows-Eyes 188.8.131.52
- SuperNova (formerly Hal). This worked best with View, Style, No Style selected in Internet Explorer
Alternative Text on Images
Our website content providers are asked to provide alternative text for images, for users of screen readers and those browsing with images switched off, according to the following guidelines.
- Alternative text must serve the same purpose and present the same information as the image; no additional information should be given.
- Images that convey no useful information, or serve no purpose, such as those used for decoration must have no alternative text.
- No information that is already in the page text should be given again.
- The alternative text must be as concise as possible and useful.
- The alternative text must not contain superflous text such as "this is", "image of", "picture of", "photo of", "in png format" etc.
Please let us know if you think content providers are writing in an unnecessarily long-winded or unclear way. Try to give alternatives where you can. They'll be grateful! No, really, they will.
HTML Access Keys
The site does not use HTML accesskeys attributes for the following reasons:
- They can interfere with screen readers and other assistive technologies.
- They can also clash with browser keys and even operating system keys.
- Their behavior is not consistent between browsers.
- Every site uses a different set so users rarely bother to learn them.
- They are not widely found so users are not often in the habit of using them.