Accessibility for Your Course Catalog and Student Handbook

April 2, 2020

Accessibility is one of Clean Catalog's priorities — one of the major reasons that colleges and universities adopt course catalog software is to ensure that their catalog and student handbook meet accessibility requirements. In working with a diverse spectrum of colleges and universities, we've learned to look at accessibility three ways: meeting official accessibility standards, enabling access for everyone on every device, and making content easy to find and simple to read.

Meeting Official Accessibility Standards

It's likely that for accreditation or legal reasons your institution is required to meet official accessibility standards on all publications, usually Revised 508 Standards or WCAG 2.0 level AA. WCAG is more common, and is what we test our sites against. But if you have other accessibility requirements you need to meet, we'll gladly work with you to ensure that your catalog or student handbook addresses them.

On occasion, colleges and universities choose to make exceptions for accessibility, usually when it comes to contrast on brand colors. We defer to our clients on these — they know their requirements best, so if they want we can implement a design that doesn't quite meet strict color contrast accessibility standards.

Enabling Access for Everyone on Every Device

All of our sites are built to work on any device — and to load quickly on poor connections. It's common for catalogs to get close to 50% mobile traffic, so we ensure that all pages load quickly and look great on mobile devices. We also make sure that all our sites work on older versions of browsers, mainly Internet Explorer 11.

Along with that, we provide PDF versions of every page — and the whole catalog — for people who prefer a print version. While the digital version is usually considered the primary product, we ensure that content can easily be printed as well.

Making Content Easy to Find and Simple to Read

In the spirit of accessibility, we want to make sure that users can easily find what they're looking for, and skim/read the content easily. Our catalogs typically have a site-wide search, customized faceted search for degrees and courses, and a number of different options for laying out your pages in tables of contents.

When building catalogs, we tend toward breaking things into smaller pages — it makes it easier to find content on the site, and easier to read once you're there. We also break sections up with the appropriate heading elements, which makes it easier for users (and screen readers) to skip to exactly the section they're looking for

Additionally, our sites have great SEO, and pages show up on search engines. If you Google "Villanova University Smoking Policy", that entry in their Clean Catalog student handbook is the first thing to show up.

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