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Writing Accessibility Descriptions
Writing Accessibility Descriptions

Learn how to write accessibility descriptions for a mySidewalk report or dashboard.

Jennifer Funk avatar
Written by Jennifer Funk
Updated over a week ago

After you’ve put a dashboard or report together and feel good about the visualization you’ve prepared, it’s time to include accessibility descriptions. If you’ve heard anything about web accessibility, you’ve probably heard of screen readers—devices that allow blind or vision-disabled people to access websites by listening to a speech synthesizer or, in some cases, via a braille display. The mySidewalk Platform has a WCAG version 2.0 Level AA certification and is ADA compliant, meaning we give you the tools and base for creating a dashboard that is accessible to all. Data for the people.

You can find the accessibility description option for charts in the edit panel under the style tab and then by scrolling down to the bottom. For maps you can find accessibility descriptions in the map settings layer. 

To write a good accessibility description, write what you see:

In your accessibility description, the best practice is to write out the relationships you see in the chart or map. If you’re comparing home values for an area, your description might read, Place X has the highest income for X City, the lowest incomes can be found at X, Y, and Z.

It is important to note that screen readers will read the rest of the text on screen, so if you already have a title and subtitle for your map you will not need to reiterate these. 

Accessible Information

Another important note is that accessibility is meant to give equal access, meaning you may have the urge to add even more information to the description. If this information is not made available to a reader without the accessibility description, then it can be left out. Information should be added if it is vital to conveying the same understanding and insights as someone could infer from observing and exploring the chart or map.

Accessible Language

Keep in mind that these tools are often used by those who are visually impaired, some who have even been impaired their entire lifetimes. This is why describing observations and relationships is vital. Using visually encoded language such as describing the colors or using directional language may not benefit the user. Remember, colors and other visual cues are just encoding for relationships and language and should be translated as such in your descriptions.

For example:

  • Unhelpful: There is a higher concentration of orange to red west of the city. 

  • Helpful: Lower incomes are concentrated on the west side of the city near XX.

  • Unhelpful: The highest point on the timeline is at 2006.

  • Helpful: Home values reached their highest value in 2006 at $X.

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