Accessibility tips | University of Oxford

Accessibility tips

This guidance has been written for editors (and moderators) of to enable them to maintain the AA accessibility rating of the site.

Work with the CMS

A large number of accessible features are built into the CMS and how it puts together the pages. By trying to do things differently, as well as detracting from the overall look and feel of the site, you run the risk creating less accessible content. Particular areas to pay attention to are:

Don’t copy and paste from Word

By copying and pasting text directly from Word (or many other editing packages) you bring across hidden code that describes the look of the text, such as the font size, the paragraph spacing, bold or underlined text, etc. This makes it harder for screen readers to separate the text from the presentation.

If you are copying from Word (Word does help correct spelling and grammar) first paste into a text editor that removes formatting, such as Notepad or TextEdit, before copying that text and pasting it into your webpage. (There is a “Paste from Word” button in the WYSIWYG editor, but that is not as thorough as a plain editor). Then, add your markup – bold, italics, bullet points, headings, links, etc, with the WYSIWYG editor.


The WYSIWYG editor has the function to mark text up as headings from 2-6. The page title will be in the style heading 1 and there should only be one heading 1. You can have as many heading 2, heading 3, heading 4, etc as appropriate for your content.

Don’t skip headings numbers, i.e. the second level of headings on a page should be marked as heading 2, not heading 3 (or 4, 5 or 6).

A heading should not be empty (if you feel a blank line is needed, use an empty paragraph), nor just include an image (again, that should be within the paragraph format).

Alt text

When uploading an image, it is mandatory to add “Alt Text”. Such text should be a meaningful description of the image, rather than filler text or the filename.


Links need regular checking to ensure they don’t become broken. If linking within the site, use of the ”Linkit” tool to create the link will help.

The text of the link should provide meaningful information about the destination, e.g. “Biomedical admissions test”, rather than “read more” or “click here”.

All links on a particular page should be unique, i.e. if there is already an “About us” link in the header, don’t create a duplicate on the page and definitely not a same named “About us” link pointing to a different destination.

Use text instead of images

Try to avoid using images to display text. Other styles are available, such as combining “Did you know” with “Large emphasis” to produce a visual effect while remaining accessible.

Markup tables appropriately

Tables should only be used for tabular data, not for layout. A description of the table should be included either as a "caption" (displayed above the table) or a "summary" (not displayed). Tables should include markup that clearly shows the relationship between table headers and the cells within their scope. This can be done in the WYSIWYG editor using the “table cell properties” button and selecting the appropriate “cell type” and “scope”.


It is tempting to add PDFs to a page as it can be quickly done, but such content is generally less accessible than a web (HTML) page.

When to use PDFs

PDF is great for documents where:

  • Appearance is critical – the document must look the same across operating systems, devices and browsers;
  • Security is critical – the document requires encryption, digital signatures, watermarks, etc.

In all other occasions, use HTML.

Make accessible PDFs

At the least, tag content in PDFs and ensure that the content is read in the right order. Further considerations are outlined in the Government Service Design Manual on Creating accessible PDFs.


Videos are a great way to add engaging content to your page, but consider how the information can be made available to all visitors. For AA compliance, no further work is required on videos. However, should you wish to make them even more accessible, here are some suggestions:


For those with hearing difficulties, YouTube videos have captions automatically added though speech recognition. To improve these, see the YouTube instructions.


For people unable to see video, create a script that includes brief descriptions of important visual content, then provide that as a separate description track, either as timed text or recorded narration.


Write a transcript for video (and audio) so individuals who are deaf-blind, and those with slow connections, can access the content. Transcripts benefit all users by allowing them to access the content quickly. As with captions, YouTube will automatically add a transcript which can be seen on the YouTube site, after selecting your video, under the "... More" options.