Wikis and Online Collaborative Writing

Wikis, Google docs and other online collaborative writing tools can be used for writing papers, assignments and data collection that can be revised at any time. Groups of individuals can change what appears on the page, although there may be a requirement to register and this may involve the reading of a Captcha – image with a series of muddled letters or numbers. ReCaptcha’s are meant to be more accessible but are still hard to use.

These online tools use text editors, which are generally similar to word processors, and allow the user to make or edit a web page without having any knowledge of how to develop web content.


  • The choice of collaborative service is important. The rich text editor used to add content to make the web pages may not be accessible. This means that not all the menu items can be reached using a keyboard or screen reader. To ensure that this is not a problem, use the Tab key to navigate through the menus.  Geoff Day at Imperial College London (2018) discusses some differences between Microsoft 365 Word online and Google Docs
  • Be careful with the layout of your online document. Each section should be structured and headed correctly, that is headers should be in a consistent order, and images should be placed inside the containing section. Furthermore, investigate the positioning of section edit links. These are links that users select to begin editing the page, and for screen reader users the best position is immediately to the right of the section heading, otherwise they may have difficulties accessing or editing the page.
  • Describe links so that they can still be understood out of context. A big feature in wikis is linking to other wiki pages on a similar or related topic. When writing a link, avoid phrases such as “click here”, as this provides no description as to where the link is going. Try to describe the target of the link as the link itself e.g. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 contains links to definitions of terms used in guidelines and Success Criteria.
  • Restrict the use of colour. Not all users will see colour in the same way. For this reason, never use colour by itself to convey information. Select combinations of colour for text and background so that the text is easy and comfortable to read for all users with good contrast levels.
  • Ensure that it is possible to add alternative text to graphics when they are added to a page. If the graphics have words embedded in the picture, explain these in the content as it is unlikely that you will be able to add a long description elsewhere when using a rich text editor.
  • Multimedia elements will require alternative formats. For example: audio presentations, text descriptions for graphical representations, captions for video and flash animations etc. As with alternative text for graphics, these may have to be part of the wiki content.

Additional Resources