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Web Standards: Web Accessibility
 

 



 

Background

What Are The Web Accessibility Principles?

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is responsible for implementing the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) commitment to making the Web accessible to all people. The WAI is a recognized authority for the development of Web accessibility guidelines. Each checkpoint has a priority level assigned based on the checkpoint's impact on accessibility.

Priority 1
A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents.

Priority 2
A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents.

Priority 3
A Web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.

[ From WCAG 1.0 ] (Opens a new browser window.)

Additional Resource: About Section 508 (Opens a new browser window.)

 

Why Web Accessibility?

Good Web design makes information accessible. By the same token, Web designers must be aware of accessibility issues in order to accommodate people with disabilities. People with disabilities can use a range of assistive technologies (specialized software and hardware) with their computers to help them access information. Obstacles that people with disabilities face when surfing the Internet include the following:
  • People with visual impairments and some types of learning disabilities often rely on text-to-speech screen readers that read aloud text appearing on the screen. Screen readers cannot read images (graphs, maps, etc.), so information provided in only these formats is not accessible to these individuals. Blinking and scrolling text can also cause problems for screen readers.
     
  • Flickering or flashing designs can cause seizures in people with certain neurological disorders.
     
  • Without captioning, people with hearing impairments cannot appreciate multimedia content such as on-line newscasts, movies, and lectures.
     
  • Without descriptive narration, individuals who are blind miss information portrayed visually.
     
  • For individuals with little or no hand control, using a mouse can be very difficult. Being required to "click" on a tiny area to access information can be an obstacle.
     
  • Inconsistent page layout and poor information design can be disorienting and confusing to any user.

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What Are the Benefits of Accessible Web Design?

Good design is good design. Just as sidewalk curb cuts--originally intended for people using wheelchairs--also benefit parents wheeling strollers and individuals on roller blades, accessible Web design benefits more than just people with disabilities.

Accessibility and usability are intertwined and are equally important. Not adhering to Web accessibility principles excludes segments of the population. Accessible Web design will provide equal access to the information and opportunities on the Internet. In addition to making information easier to access, benefits of accessible Web design include the following:
  • Improved usability for all visitors. Consistent navigation makes it easier to find desired content quickly.
     
  • Clear navigation and clear content supports people with low literacy levels.
     
  • Good color contrast aids people with color blindness, people using monochrome monitors, and those who prefer to read from printed pages.
     
  • Providing text equivalents (e.g., ALT attributes and captioning), table summaries, and metadata improves search engine listings.

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