Web Accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities by incorporating accessibility standards into website design and development. Many individuals with disabilities use screen readers and other assistive technology to access the Internet and may encounter barriers to access if a website is not designed and developed with appropriate structure and adequate navigation. Incorporating the use of web accessibility guidelines with the principles of universal design, and web usability best practices can maximize the user experience and ensure content is available to all users.
"Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web," (W3C, Introduction to Web Accessibility). Accessible websites improve the experience of all users.
(See also Universal Design, Assistive Technology, Section 508 Requirements)
Key groups have developed web accessibility guidelines and standards including the US Access Board, which developed the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines and Section 508 Standards, and the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, an international consortium which develops protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web.
W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0
1: Content must be perceivable.
2: Interface components in the content must be operable.
3: Content and controls must be understandable.
4: Content should be robust enough to work with current and future user agents (including assistive technologies)
Key Techniques for Web Content Accessibility
- Provide document structure by using appropriate headings (<H1>, <H2>, <H3>). Screen readers rely on document markup language for navigation.
- Use CSS Style sheets to apply styles to your document.
- Provide logical reading order.
- Add appropriate alt text to all meaningful images.
- Add appropriate alt text to charts and graphs.
- Consider adding long description alt text when a longer description is required.
- Add the functionality to skip to the main content.
- Add appropriate labels to forms.
- Provide sufficient color contrast between text and background colors.
- Do not use color as the sole means of communicating information such as required fields and error messages.
- Explain all acronyms.
- Use checklists for evaluation.
- Navigate your website without a mouse, using only the keyboard.
- Evaluate your website using a screen reader.
- Add an accessibility statement to your website.
- Provide users with the means to report inaccessible content.
Guidelines and Demos:
Recommendations and suggestions from the AccessIT Community