Make content accessible

Our digital services must be accessible to every single resident. Simple, service-oriented language that speaks to the service is the most accessible for residents.

It saves time because people don’t have to try to figure out what the department-specific jargon means and how it affects them.

  • If your Austin neighbor has a visual disability and uses adaptive-screen reading technology to read websites, it’s easier for them to navigate through pages with simple content.

  • The language should be so simple that someone in middle school should be able to understand it. It’s important to write no higher than an 8th grade reading level. Regardless of a resident’s educational background, service-oriented language strives to make the content clear for everyone.

  • If someone is translating information for a friend or family member, using simple words will make it easier for the message to be delivered clearly in another language.

View the federal law on accessibility at Section 508.

Alternative text and Images

Accessibility ensures a website serves all users, including those with disabilities. Disabilities aren’t only visual; they can also be auditory, motor, cognitive etc.

Users with disabilities often use screen reading software, like JAWS and COBRA, to read the content aloud, which is why it important to follow the guidelines when we create content for the website.

What do you see in this image?

A photo of a blank, white square.

Your answer was probably “nothing.” This is a similar experience for someone using a screen reader if your image has no alternative text. Screen readers can’t read what an image is, making the image invisible and inaccessible to residents, or anyone trying to access that information.

  • Make alternative text descriptive. For example: “Children playing at Barton Springs Pool.”

  • Avoid images with text inside them. If there is text, you’ll need to include what the text says within your alternative text.


Foreground and background colors must maintain a minimum 4.5:1 contrast ratio for users with visual impairments. Web best practice is to have a consistent color palette across an entire site rather than allowing multiple, varying colors on different pages of a site.

If a user is colorblind, certain colors are not visible to them, making the site inaccessible. To maintain accessibility, a standard color palette has been set and adjustments to colors on the site are not permitted.

PDFs and Non-HTML Content

It is best to avoid adding non-html content, such as PDFs, PowerPoints, etc., to the site as they are not typically accessible. Ask yourself if this content can be added to the site as a page. If it is necessary to add non-html content, make sure to update the content so that is accessible, such as adding tags to a PDF.

While PDFs are convenient for uploading a lot of content to the website, it makes it inaccessible for a large part of our population.

Animated GIFs

GIFs are fun to send to friends, but not great for accessibility. They can be a distraction or disorient residents with certain types of cognitive disorders, according to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).


  • Don’t use “click here” when you hyperlink language.

  • Use keywords and language that describes what will be found when clicking the link.

    • For example: “Read more about diabetes” or “Find out more about diabetes.”


  • Provide transcripts or captioning for videos.

  • Avoid videos with strobing or flashing as this can induce seizures in some users.

See more on federal government usability standards, and explore the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.