Editors Draft: $Date: 2009/08/28 17:02:03 $
This document is an unapproved in-progress draft and should not be referenced or quoted under any circumstances.
Please send comments to wai-eo-editors@w3.org (a publicly archived list).


[Draft $Date: 2009/08/28 17:02:03 $ latest version. analysis & changelog]


The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

The web is fundamentally designed to be available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability. When the web meets its full potential, it is accessible to everyone, including people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.

The web is a flexible medium that enables most people with impairments to use the web just as well as anyone. Thus, there is inherently no such thing as a disability using the web; the web removes barriers to communication and interaction for most people. However, badly written websites and web tools that are not accessible create barriers that exclude people.
[or, Except that badly written websites and web tools create barriers that exclude people.]

An accessible web enables everyone, regardless of disabilities, to [explore, participate, and contribute].
[This is the mission of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).]

See below for

Why: The Case for Web Accessibility

It is essential that the web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities. Indeed, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes web accessibility as a basic human right.

[[munge "developing countries"?] Accessibility also benefits other users, including older people, people with low literacy and people not fluent in the language, people with low bandwidth connections to the Internet, and people using older technologies.]

There is a strong business case for accessibility. Accessibility overlaps with other best practices such as mobile web design, device independence, multi-modal interaction, usability, design for older users, and search engine optimization (SEO). Case studies show that accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach, among other benefits. Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization details the social, technical, financial, and legal benefits of web accessibility.

[Barriers are often introduced unintentionally - we provide extensive support to help managers, developers and site owners ensure their sites are accessible to all.
Sometimes, however, barriers are intentionally allowed to occur, where a site's disabled audience is believed to be low or non-existent - we provide data and case studies for those who are making these decisions.]

What: Examples of Web Accessibility

Properly designed websites and web tools can be used by people with disabilities. However, currently many sites and tools are developed with accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for some people to use them. Below are just a few examples.
[is this unnecessarily redundant with intro and should be deleted? or, an important point that we should repeat to help it sink in?]

Alternative Text for Images

image of logo; HTML markup img alt='Web Accessibility Initiative logo'

Alt text is the classic example. Images should include equivalent alternative text in the markup/code.

If alt text isn't provided for images, the image information is inaccessible, for example, to people who cannot see and use a screen reader that reads aloud the information on a page, including the alt text for the visual image.

When equivalent alt text is provided, the information is available to everyone, including people who have turned off images on their mobile phone to lower bandwidth charges, people in rural areas with low bandwidth who turned off images to speed download, and people who are blind. It's also available to technologies that cannot see the image, such as search engines.

Keyboard Input

[ image of a
mouse Xed out

and maybe
a keyboard ]

Some people cannot use a mouse, including many older users with limited fine motor control. An accessible website does not rely on the mouse; it provides all functionality via a keyboard. Then people with disabilities can use assistive technologies that mimic the keyboard, such as speech input.

Transcripts for Podcasts

[ image of a

Just as images aren't available to people who can't see, audio files aren't available to people who can't hear. Providing a text transcript makes the audio information accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as to search engines and other technologies that can't hear.

Providing transcripts for podcasts and audio files is easy and relatively inexpensive. There are services that provide[offer/create/produce/make] text transcripts in HTML format.

How: Make Your Website Accessible

Most of the basics of accessibility are even easier and less expensive than providing transcripts. However, the techniques required are poorly integrated into some web tools, education, and development processes. If you are new to accessibility, it takes some time and effort to learn the common issues and solutions. A starting place is the Introduction to Web Accessibility.

Some accessibility barriers more complicated to avoid and the solutions take more development time and effort. W3C provides extensive resources to help, such as Understanding WCAG 2.0: A guide to understanding and implementing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

Using authoring tools that support accessibility makes it easier for website developers. Browsers also play a role in accessibility. Essential Components of Web Accessibility explains the relationships between the different components of web development and interaction.

Accessibility is a must for developers and organizations that want to create high quality websites and web tools, and not exclude people from using their products.

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at W3C

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) brings together people from industry, disability organizations, government, and research labs from around the world to develop guidelines and resources to help make the web accessible to people with disabilities, including auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual disabilities.

WAI's coverage of web accessibility includes 'web content' (websites and web applications), authoring tools (such as content management systems (CMS) and blog software), browsers and other 'user agents', and W3C technical specifications, including WAI-ARIA.

Individuals and organizations can participate in WAI by volunteering to implement, promote, and review guidelines; by contributing to the WAI Interest Group; or by dedicated participation in a Working Group.

Learn More

WAI provides a wide range of resources on different aspects web accessibility standards, education, implementation, and policy, including:

Current Status of Specifications

Learn more about the current status of specifications related to:

These W3C Groups are working on the related specifications: