An HTML H1 Tag against a purple background

TIP #1: Headings should not contain other headings.


<h1>Sample Heading Text<h1>Subtext</h1></h1>


Remove the nested headings, or replace them with SPAN elements.

<h1>Sample Heading Text<span>Subtext</span></h1>


TIP #2: Use HTML headings instead of applying CSS heading styles to non-headings.


<div style="font-size:1.5em; color:#cc0000;">Sample Heading Text</div>


Change the element to an appropriate heading element (H1, H2, H3, etc) and apply CSS styles if necessary.

<h1 style="color:#cc0000;">Sample Heading Text</h1>

To be accessible to screen readers, figures and images in PDF documents should not have blank ALT text, except for decorative images which should be marked as artifacts.

Each image should have an ALT attribute describing the picture, which screen readers can read aloud.


Still life with colorful tulips

ALT="Still life photo of colorful tulips in a glass vase"

ADDITIONAL NOTE: When an image contains words that are important to understanding the content, the text alternative should include those words. This will allow the alternative to accurately represent the image.

Read more about PDF Techniques for WCAG: Text Alternatives.

Blue html Code BackgroundFACT: Web pages that contain duplicate IDs can cause problems in screen readers.

If two or more elements on the same page share the same ID, this can cause problems in screen readers which use IDs for labeling controls and table headings.

It can also cause problems in JavaScript methods like getElementById and querySelector, which behave inconsistently when duplicate IDs are present.

Change the IDs so all are unique for each element.

Click Here Buttons. 4 icons shownWhen you use generic text like "Click Here" or "Read More" as instructions in link text, it is confusing because it says nothing about the content that will appear once the link is clicked. Remember: link targets are read out loud by screen readers.

Another thing to note: screen readers often tab from one link to the next.

Tabbing between links labeled "click here" sounds like "click here, tab, click here, tab, click here".

REMEDIATION: Change the link text so it is an explanation of the target content. This will make more sense when read by a screen reader.


Original Instruction Text: Click here
Revised Instruction Text: Click here to read the latest news

scary Jack-in-the-box toy isolated on a white backgroundDo you have a survey popup on your home page that automatically opens?

WCAG 2.0 bans all popup windows without explicit alert beforehand (WCAG 2.0 through Level AAA - 3.2.1 On Focus). New windows take the focus away from what the user is reading or doing. This is fine when the user has interacted with a piece of user interface and expects to get a new window, such as an options dialogue. The failure comes when pop-ups appear unexpectedly.

icon of Word documentMaking content accessible to people with disabilities online begins with making all types of files compliant from the start. Do you have links to Word documents on your website? If so, be sure your Word documents are compliant.

To get you started, here are seven items to test:

FAIL: Word document contains a graphic without ALT text.
PASS: Use the 'Format Picture' command in Word to add ALT text

FAIL: Document file name contains spaces.
PASS: Use dashes (-) to separate words in your Word file name. Keep the total number of characters in the file name between 20-30.

FAIL: Word file info is not complete.
PASS: Fill in the Document Properties for Title, Author, Subject (AKA Description), Keywords, Language, and Copyright Status.

FAIL: Document contains background images and watermarks.
PASS: Be sure the document is free of background images or watermarks.

FAIL: Color is used as a way to instruct. Colorblind visitors may not able to follow the instructions when reading your Word document.
PASS: Use an instruction description that does not depend on color.

FAIL: Table data created using manual tabs and/or spaces.
PASS: Use the Insert Table option to create tables.

FAIL: Track changes have not been accepted or rejected and turned off.
PASS: Turn track changes off before publishing your Word document to the Web.

Dyslexia a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence. It is the most common cause of reading, writing, and spelling difficulties.

Of people with reading difficulties, 70-80% are likely to have some form of dyslexia. It is estimated that between 5-10% of the population has dyslexia, but this number can also be as high as 17%.

Here are some CSS tips to consider when designing web content for dyslexics.

Beware Italics
Italicized characters can be difficult for dyslexics to read.

Column Widths
Use narrow column widths (60 to 80 characters). Tracking lines of unbroken text across a page can be difficult.

No Justification
Never use justified text. It causes "rivers" that make text difficult for dyslexics to read.

River Effect in Justified Text

Use Sans-serif Fonts
Serif fonts (like Times Roman) have "feet" at the end of the letter strokes. This can be a nightmare for dyslexics to read because the letters look like they are all connected. Use sans-serif fonts.

See the difference between Serif vs Sans-serif typefaces


Resource:  OpenDyslexic

OpenDyslexic is a new open source font created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic styles. It is being updated continually and improved based on input from dyslexic users. OpenDyslexic is free for Commercial and Personal use.


Read More Accessible Website Design Advice: Accessible Best Practice: Don’t Use Color As Part of Your Instructional Content


Website Accessibility Testing Service: Mary Gillen can test your website to determine if it meets accessibility standards:

WCAG 2.0: 110 checkpoints covering A, AA and AAA W3 accessibility guidelines
Section 508: 15 US federal guidelines covered by 47 accessibility checkpoints

You will receive a full report and checklists of items on your website that need to be fixed in order to be compliant.

Mary is also available to implement the changes on your website so your organization will be compliant.

Contact Mary today at 508-768-8418 or via email at to schedule your test.

closed-captionAdding captions to videos definitely adds a bit of time on to a project, and is so important for accessibility. But remember that captions can also help other folks who may not be deaf or hard of hearing.

According to Penn State University's Accessibility Website, non-deaf beneficiaries of captions include:

  • anyone with defective computer audio
  • students needing to learn new terminology or
  • those whose first language is not English
  • viewers in a noisy room or with a sleeping roommate

Free Video Captioning Tools

Here are some free tools that can help you get the video captioning job done:

Amara >> Free, open source, online captioning tool

YouTube Captioning

MovieCaptioner >> Free 14-day, fully-functional demo version available - closed captioning software for Mac and Windows (works offline)

Caption Format Converter Tool >> Free tool that converts SRT or SBV to various caption formats


Instructor-led, Online Course: How to Create Accessible Websites

This instructor-led, hands-on course covers essential design, coding, and testing procedures for Web designers and developers who want to be sure the sites they create are accessible to as many people as possible. Class participants will build an accessible web site based on the WCAG 2.0 Standards...Levels A, AA & AAA.

2 Days Online | 9 AM - 4 PM EDT
Instructor: Mary Gillen
Tuition: $950 per person

Find out more and register for How to Create Accessible Websites online course


It's common for web developers to use CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) functionality for anti-spam verification to make sure HTML form responses are being generated by humans and not computer "bots".

Example of a visual CAPTCHA

The most commonly used CAPTCHA presents a visual of distorted text for the website visitor to interpret. Another alternative is the audio CAPTCHA, offering human verification to the blind and other visually impaired people. Unfortunately, both types of CAPTCHAS offer accessibility issues:

  1. People with visual disabilities use screen readers that cannot read a CAPTCHA.
  2. You cannot add ALT text to a CAPTCHA image, because then a bot would be able to read it, defeating the purpose of using it.
  3. Audio CAPTCHAs present difficulties for people with hearing disabilities.

SOLUTION: Use Text-based Logic Questions or Math Equations CAPTCHAs

Use a question rather than an image or audio to create CAPTCHA functionality.

A sample CAPTCHA question might be "Which animal is larger—an ant or a elephant?"or "What state is Boston located in?"

Another way to challenge: use math questions (e.g. "What is one plus three?").

Example of a math question challenge question that can replace a CAPTCHA

PHP Script Solution: All CAPS vs lowercase

For those of you who use PHP, here's a simple coding trick that enables you to create an accessible CAPTCHA on an HTML form. I have used this for years on client websites, and it works great.

At the bottom of your form, create a text field named Validate. Above the field, add a validation text code of capital letters and numbers (in this case GHW53405) that the user will need to enter in order to submit the form. Also let the user know that the validation code is case-sensitive.


Once the user enters the validation text code and submits the form, add the following condition at the top of the PHP processing page:

if (strtolower($_POST['Validate']) != 'ghw53405') {
die(' forgot to enter the special code in the form...hit your back key and try again. Please note that the special code is case-sensitive');
} else {

rest of script


Note that in the PHP condition you need to change the values of the capital letters used in the validation text code to lowercase (see bold above). The PHP function strtolower converts all the text characters of the submitted Validate string to lowercase. If the validation text code has been entered correctly, the rest of the script will process with no problem. If the validation code has been entered incorrectly, the submission will fail and the user will be directed back to the form.

Check Out This Additional Resource: The TextCaptcha service provides access to textual CAPTCHA challenges via a simple JSON or XML API over HTTP.



By 2018, The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will roll out official compliance guidelines concerning online accessibility for the disabled as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

DOJ will soon be expecting all websites to accommodate people with disabilities.

Whether DOJ will implement web accessibility standards is not a matter of "if", but "when."

Mary can test your website to determine if it meets these accessibility standards:

WCAG 2.0: 110 checkpoints covering A, AA and AAA W3 accessibility guidelines
Section 508: 15 US federal guidelines covered by 47 accessibility checkpoints

You will receive a full report and checklists of items on your website that need to be fixed in order to be compliant.

As a web developer since 1995, Mary can also make the coding changes to your website so it is compliant.

Contact Mary at or 508-768-8418 to find out more.