Digital Accessibility

person using a screen reader device to read a web page


In accordance with the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, The City and County of Denver will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in its services, programs, or activities. This requires us to ensure that persons with disabilities seeking information or services from us, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by persons who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on us.

The City and County of Denver will follow WCAG Level AA guidelines for digital content generally and web content specifically, using the most current published version. These principles include:

  • Perceivable: Information can be presented in different ways; for example, in braille, different text sizes, text-to-speech or symbols, etc.
  • Operable: Functionality can be used in different modalities; for example, keyboard, mouse, sip-and-puff, speech input, touch, etc.
  • Understandable: Information and functionality is understandable; for example, consistent navigation, simple language, etc.
  • Robust: Content can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of browsers, media players and assistive technologies.

Citywide Accessibility Statement

Standards and Policy Guidance

Platform standards

Web sites and digital platforms (SaaS or software-as-a-service) must meet global WCAG 2.1 AA standards.
Applications and software that are not web-based should apply the same accessibility principles in context of the user interface and content.

Content standards

We are required to provide accessible content in all digital communication channels, including (but not limited to) web sites, presentations, videos, emails and email newsletters, social media and documents.

We design content and information in ways that can be easily understood and that anticipate needs of people who may require an accommodation. Some examples:

  • Write in clear, plain language at an 8th-grade reading level
  • Use colors that are high contrast and legible to people with low vision
  • Ensure information is always accessible in multiple ways: if audio only, a transcript is available, if visual (non-text), a description or narrative (“alt text”) is available

Web content is assessed with author tools. Documents must pass accessibility checks using Acrobat (for PDF) or MS Office tools (for Word/Excel/Powerpoint).

Accommodations must be available for people unable to access complex content, or archive content that was created in another format and later digitized. 

Design Considerations

Content Design

For people with visual disabilities

  • May not be able to read on-screen text as presented
  • May have trouble distinguishing colors, especially red/green and blue/purple
  • May have difficulty reading colored or stylized text, especially on colored or photographic backgrounds
  • May have trouble identifying details in illustrations or images
  • May only hear the audio portion of multimedia or video content
  • May not be able to easily match audio with visuals in multimedia or video content
  • May not be able to see or engage with interactive content easily
  • May need to resize windows, enlarge content or both

For people with physical disabilities

  • May use non-mouse controls to navigate or click
  • May use non-keyboard controls to type
  • May not be able to select content/targets with precision
  • May not be able to respond within a time constraint
  • May be limited to a certain aspect when interacting with hardware (e.g., cannot turn a phone or tablet between portrait and landscape mode if it is mounted to another device)

For people with hearing disabilities

  • May have trouble processing audio at standard speed
  • May read transcripts at a different pace
  • May not be able to distinguish between multiple voices in a conversation
  • May not be able to hear or process words and background audio simultaneously
  • D/deaf people may prefer ASL interpretation to transcripts or written content
Captions v subtitles

True “closed” captions can be toggled on and off and are visible only when the user decides to view them using an option in the player. They are contained within a separate file associated with the video, which could be sent to an assistive technology program (such as one that runs translation, or that changes the size of type).

“Open captions” or subtitles are always visible and are not able to be turned on or off or separated from the video file. The text is part of the visual output and cannot be adjusted or read by other technologies such as translators.

For people with cognitive disabilities

  • May have difficulty processing primary content if there is too much supplemental content (e.g., sidebars, decorative images)
  • May have difficulty following complex processes without secondary structural cues such as headers, links, steps or “wizards”
  • May use assistive technology tools as focus aids even if they are physically able to hear/see/click

Responsive Design

Prioritize content that can be dynamically resized based on screen size or device type. This is broadly more accessible and user-friendly.
Some examples:

  • Native web content, rather than PDF documents
  • Text and small images, rather than large complete infographics
  • Interactive web tools such as WCAG-compliant mapping applications, rather than images

Accessible Document Best Practices

Use the Accessibility check tools built into MS Office applications (Word, Powerpoint, Excel) to check for alt text, reading order, formatting and other tags that will be converted to accessibility metadata. Find it under Review > Check Accessibility.

Content creation

  • Add alt text to images in your document as you go (or mark as decorative).
    • Alt text describes the image and only describes the image. The purpose is to ensure that a person who does not see an image in detail or at all has the same information as a person who does see an image. Alt text is not a caption or credit field.
    • If the image is complex, consider if a text transcript document is necessary.
    • If the image is not informational, such as a repeated branding element, it should be marked decorative.
  • Use heading and paragraph styles instead of only changing font/color/size of text so content is tagged in the correct order.
  • Build lists and tables with application tools so structural tags are included along with the visuals.
  • Place non-informational content (especially repeated content) in the background to be automatically marked as decorative.
  • Consider ways to share information in infographics, diagrams and SmartArt without relying on the visual elements.
  • Save as PDF (don't print or export) with accessibility metadata included. In MS Office, check the Save Options; for InDesign, export as PDF Interactive with tags.

For online content, consider digital alternatives to large reports or presentation PDFs. Native web content is always the most accessible and easiest to use option.

PDF Remediation

Accessibility remediation requires the full version of Adobe Acrobat, not Adobe Reader.

For simple documents prepared with accessibility metadata:

  • Run an accessibility check from the Accessibility menu.
  • Right-click to fix or recheck basic issues to add tags, title, language and alt text.

For documents with minimal accessible information:

  • Use Acrobat tools to add tags to the document automatically
  • Add or correct the document title to readable text, not filename or placeholder
  • Recognize text, if the PDF is scanned or image based (like an archival document)
  • Identify images and add alt text

Accessibility Training Resources

All city employees who create content for public-facing digital experiences (websites, web platforms, applications, e-newsletters), including web copy, documents, and images, are required to be trained on WCAG accessibility standards prior to providing content for digital experiences and subsequently each year thereafter. All vendors working with the city must be well informed on their requirements for creating accessible content and follow the WCAG guidelines for producing content. 

Tools and Testing

The City and County of Denver uses automated accessibility testing tools and manual accessibility tests to confirm and validate that digital experiences are compliant with all relevant guidelines, and identify issues for remediation. 

Web content

Browser based sites and extensions to help test existing pages for potential accessibility issues:

Documents and software

Training Guides

Common elements to address in accessibility for websites, applications and digital content.