Designing the Web for All of Society

Shawn Lawton Henry <>
Shadi Abou-Zahra <>

Man in black on bicyle with mobile phone by Karl Dubost

Speakers Comments

[[ Refers to information about web use and users in China that was provided in previous presentations in this session, in the W3C Track, and throughout the conference. ]]

Designing the Web for All of Society

Essential for equal opportunity.


Use of the Web is spreading rapidly into most areas of society and daily life. In many countries the Web is increasingly used for government information and services, education and training, commerce, news, workplace interaction, civic participation, health care, recreation, entertainment, and more. In some cases, the Web is replacing traditional resources.

The Web is an important medium for receiving information as well as providing information and interacting with society. Therefore it is essential that the Web be accessible to everyone. in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to all people throughout society. The Web can also help people who otherwise have difficulty interacting in society to more actively participate in society.

Opportunity for unprecedented participation


Let's focus for a bit on people with disabilities, including people with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.

The Web is an opportunity for unprecedented access to information for people with disabilities. That is, the accessibility barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through Web technologies. For example, when the primary way to get certain information was go to a library and read it on paper, there were significant barriers for many people with disabilities, including getting to the library, physically getting the resource, and reading the resource. Even when all these elements are accessible, it is difficult for some people to get resources from a library.

When that same information is also available on the Web in an accessible format, it is significantly easier for many people to get. Therefore, people with disabilities can have more effective and efficient access to information through accessible Web sites — in some cases, where there was essentially no access to them before.

The Web is an opportunity for unprecedented interaction for people with disabilities. For example, some disabilities limit the type of work a person can do. An accessible Web expands opportunities for communication, interaction, and employment for people with disabilities.

Improving accessibility also benefits:


While the main focus of Web accessibility is people with disabilities, accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. People with temporary disabilities — for example, from an accident or illness — also benefit from Web accessibility.

How accessibility specifically helps the people listed above is described in the "Web Accessibility Benefits People With and Without Disabilities" section of Social Factors in Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization.




Currently there are significant barriers on the Web for many people listed previously and people with disabilities. Because most Web developers do not make their Web software and Web pages accessible, many people with disabilities have unnecessary difficulties using the Web, and in some cases, cannot effectively use the Web at all. For example, when developers require mouse interaction to use a Web site, people who cannot use a mouse can have great difficulty; and when developers do not include alternative text for important images, people who are blind cannot get the information from images.

Accessible Web sites enable people with disabilities to use the Web effectively. The document How People with Disabilities Use the Web includes scenarios that illustrate people with different kinds of disabilities successfully using accessible Web sites.

How to make the Web accessible

What are the first steps?

  1. Understanding the basics
  2. Web accessibility guidelines
  3. User-centered design, including people with disabilities


Let's look at each of these next.

1. Understanding the Basics

2. Web Accessibility Guidelines


3. User-Centered Design (UCD)
(also "Human-Centred Design")

Notes on User Centered Design Process (UCD)


"User-Centered Design (UCD) is a user interface design process that focuses on usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks, and workflow in the design of an interface. UCD follows a series of well-defined methods and techniques for analysis, design, and evaluation of mainstream hardware, software, and web interfaces. The UCD process is an iterative process, where design and evaluation steps are built in from the first stage of projects, through implementation." — Shawn Lawton Henry and Mary Martinson, Accessibility in User-Centered Design)

User-centered design process (UCD) is also called human-centred design. Human centred design processes for interactive systems, ISO 13407 (1999), states: "Human-centred design is an approach to interactive system development that focuses specifically on making systems usable. It is a multi-disciplinary activity."

ISO 9241-11 (1998) defines usability as the "extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use." Accessibility focuses on including people with disabilities as the "specified users" and a wide range of situations, including assistive technologies, as the "specified context of use".
Put more simply, usability means designing a user interface that is effective, efficient, and satisfying. Accessibility makes sure the user interface is designed to be effective, efficient, and satisfying for more people—especially people with disabilities, in more situations—including with assistive technologies. (from Accessibility in User-Centered Design: Background)

Notes on User Centered Design Process (UCD) provides a summary of user-centered design (also called "human-centred design"), UCD Principles, and UCD process steps.

Benefits Us All (Business Case)

Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization

Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web:
Making a Web Site Accessible Both for People with Disabilities and for Mobile Devices


Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization presents benefits and costs of Web accessibility and includes guidance on incorporating these aspects into a specific organization's business case. It covers:

Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web introduces how to make a Web site accessible both for people with disabilities and for mobile devices.

Web Accessibility is an Aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility

Web accessibility provides improved access, and thus can increase social inclusion, for people with disabilities and others listed previously.

When an organization's Web site is not accessible, it further excludes people with disabilities from society. When an organization's Web site is accessible, it empowers people with disabilities to participate in society. Providing an accessible Web site is one way an organization can demonstrate that it strives to meet the access needs of a diverse society.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR), also called corporate citizenship, generally means conducting business ethically and operating an organization in such a way that treats internal and external stakeholders ethically, increases human development, and is good for society and the environment. Web accessibility can impact an organization's employees, stockholders and board members, suppliers and vendors, partners and collaborators, customers, and others. Thus Web accessibility is an integral part of CSR in demonstrating an organization's commitment to providing equal opportunities.

Just as an accessible Web site can demonstrate CSR, an inaccessible Web site can undermine an organization's other CSR efforts.

The term "digital divide" is often used to refer to economic and social barriers to computer use for computer users without disabilities. Many people with disabilities are affected by the same economic and social factors, including very low rates of employment and consequently low income. Together with barriers in the physical environment and in computer technologies, these factors can result in:

An organization that is committed to reducing the digital divide can include in its business case a description of how Web accessibility can reduce the impact of the digital divide for people with disabilities.

W3C Resources

Thank you