A Universe for Everyone

The Space Telescope Science Institute is committed to making the world’s astronomical information accessible to all. 

We approach this goal in many ways across our websites, sharing the latest scientific discoveries, mission updates, and plans for the future with the public and astronomy community through articles, images, videos, interactives, and other resources.

Recognizing that our audience members come with different skills, interests, and background knowledge, we produce a variety of resources to meet people where they are. We recognize that these resources are only as good as an individual's ability to find and use them, so we place particular emphasis on website accessibility. 

Building Multiple Paths

Many traditional web design techniques do not take into account the needs of all people. This is particularly true with respect to those with physical, sensory, neurological, and other types of disabilities. As such, we are continuously improving the design of this website so that content can be accessed easily in different ways.

Using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 Level A and AA as a baseline, we strive to go beyond our legal and contractual requirements of web accessibility to effectively engage and inform an increasingly diverse audience. 

We use a variety of methods to identify issues, prioritize improvements, and build a toolbox of knowledge and strategies that can support this initiative as our sites grow and evolve over time. These include:

  • Manual evaluation of the website by both internal staff and external accessibility experts
  • Regular testing of the website using automated tools
  • Analysis of user feedback
  • Working with outside expertise, including accessible website designers and individuals with a variety of lived experiences with disabilities
  • Development of internal expertise through trainings and research into new methods and better practices

We continually improve the accessibility of the website through implementation of standard practices and the development of new features. A few of our efforts include:

  • Structuring web pages so that they are easy to navigate visually and with a screen reader
  • Ensuring adequate color contrast in text, graphics, and other design elements
  • Using responsive design so that users can access content easily on any device (desktop, tablet, or mobile) and thus from a variety of physical settings and situations
  • Revising our alternative text (alt text) style to describe the wonders of the universe in depth
  • Creating detailed extended descriptions of images and explanatory graphics that add text structure and allow for more thorough exploration of image details
  • Using design principles that engage visitors by creating an enjoyable experience that makes it easy to access the content they want
  • Providing consistency in how features operate across the website, and finding ways for visitors to make their own choices

Follow Our Progress 

Developing and maintaining a website that provides all users, regardless of physical ability, with equivalent high-quality experiences and access to the same content is an ambitious goal that will continue to require attention as long as there is a website.

The standards and tools used to access the web change regularly, while our understanding and approaches to accessibility evolve. There are numerous combinations of browsers, operating systems, and tools that we must test regularly to ensure accessibility. In addition, although all new content—new images, videos, infographics, news releases, interactives—is created with accessibility in mind, we have legacy content that is not fully accessible yet.

To increase transparency and share our progress, we will publish an annual Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) on this page. This report will show the degree to which various elements of this website (e.g., images, videos, page structure) meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.