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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, and resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

This is an outdated draft and should not be referenced or quoted.
The latest version is at: www.w3.org/WAI/intro/usable

[Early Rough Concept Draft]
Accessibility in an Inclusive Web

See also: Accessibility - W3C

Page Contents

Editor note: Examples of alternative titles include:


The Web has become an increasingly fundamental part of many peoples daily lives, including work, education, communication, research, entertainment, and much more. It is imparative that the Web is inclusive to all people regardless of the devices and tools they use, of languages, skills, and expectations they have, or of their age, location, and abilities. Accessibility for people with disabilities is an essential part of an inclusive Web. In fact, web accessibility has many benefits and improves usability for everyone.

This resource highlights how web accessiblity helps to achieve a global and inclusive Web for all.

Understanding Accessibility

Accessibility is about ensuring an equivalent user experience for people with disabilities. For the web, it means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with websites and tools, and that they can contribute equally without barriers. Accessibility is not an option, it is a human right, as recognized in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Some accessibility requirements are specific to people with disabilities. For example, they ensure that websites work well with assistive technologies such as screen readers that read aloud web pages, screen magnifiers that enlarge web pages, and voice recognition software that is used to input text.

Most accessibility requirements benefit people with and without disabilities. While they are general usability principles, they are included in accessibility standards/guidelines because they can be significant barriers to people with disabilities. For example, being able to use a website without a mouse is good usability, and it an accessibility requirement because people with some physical and visual disabilities cannot use a mouse at all. Thus products designed to meet accessibility requirements are more usable for everyone.

Usable Web Accessibility

Usable web accessibility combines usability and accessibility to ensure that websites and web tools are usable by people with disabilities. [[user experience]]

Real People

Usable web accessibility means meeting the needs of real people using the Web. An effective way to meet the needs of real people is to involve users early and throughout the design process. This helps developers understand essential basics of how people with disabilities use the Web. For example, observing people with disabilities complete complex tasks on an accessible website and then struggle with the same tasks on an inaccessible website helps developers better understand accessibility barriers and solutions.

UCD methods and techniques can be used to involve users with disabilities in design projects.

While including users with disabilities is key to making your accessibility efforts more effective and more efficient, that alone cannot address all issues. Even large projects cannot cover the diversity of disabilities, adaptive strategies, and assistive technologies. That is the role of accessibility standards.

Technical Standards

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops a set of guidelines that are internationally recognized as the standard for web accessibility.

The WAI guidelines address the broad needs of people with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual disabilities, including people with age-related impairments. They also include considerations for different types of websites, browsers, and other web technologies and tools. The WAI guidelines combine these considerations in unified requirements that address different people and situations

Benfits of Accessibility for Inclusion

[@@@ accessibility is key to full inclusion, but it is only part of it.]

How Accessibility Benefits General Usability

People with disabilities are often more sensitive to usability problems. For example, a large number of links poorly organized on a web page will be more of a problem for people with some types of cognitive, physical, or visual disabilities. Usability testing with participants with disabilities is therefore particularly beneficial because it helps identify issues more easily.

How Accessibility Benefits Older People

[@@@ many common accessibility barriers; accessibility also helps people with less computer experience; point to Web Accessibility and Older People.]

How Accessibility Benefits People Using Different Devices

[@@@ accessible websites and tools work better on mobile devices, TV, and other devices; point to Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web.]

How Accessibility Benefits People with Less Computer Skills

[@@@ accessible websites and tools that are easier to understand and use; point to business case.]

How Accessibility Benefits Non-Native Speakers

[@@@ alternatives such as transcripts and captions, and techniques such as text-to-speech, voice browsing, and gesture interaction (such as touch-screens) help people who are non-native speakers; point to business case.]

How Accessibility Benefits People in Less Developed Regions

[@@@ accessible websites work better on low-bandwidth and on older hardware/sofwtare; point to business case.]

How Accessibility Benefits Website Operators and Businesses

[@@@ accessible websites improve usability, SEO, and customer satisfaction, and are more cost-effective on the long-run; point to business case.]

From Accessibility to Inclusion

[@@@ accessibility is a minimum; it improves usability for all; it highlights potential issues for people with or without disabilities.]