This page is part of a resource suite that describes the social, technical, financial, and legal and policy factors relevant to developing a customized business case for Web accessibility for a specific organization.
Implementing Web accessibility solutions often results in improved technical performance. The relative importance of various technical benefits of Web accessibility is different for specific organizations and situations. For example, reducing server load might be most important to an organization with a large, mission-critical, high-traffic site; whereas another organization that focuses on cutting-edge technology might be more interested in interoperability and being prepared for advanced web technologies. However, these same technical benefits might not be very important for organizations with small, simple sites; they might be more interested in simplifying site maintenance.
This page provides guidance on addressing technical factors in a business case for Web accessibility.
The following questionshelp identify how the technical aspects of Web accessibility apply to the organization:
- Is the organization starting a new web
development or redesign effort?
If so, the business case can emphasize the technical benefits of incorporating accessibility early in the project. See Reduce Site Development and Maintenance Time.
- Does the organization change site content
or design frequently?
If so, the business case can emphasize that Web accessibility can reduce maintenance time. See Reduce Site Development and Maintenance Time.
- How important is it to the organization to
reduce bandwidth use or server load?
For example, if it is important for the organization to reduce the need for additional servers or increase the download speed, the business case can emphasize these factors. See Reduce Bandwidth Use and Server Load.
- Does the organization want its website to
work in different configurations?
For example, if the organization wants its website to work on multiple operating systems, web browsers, and devices, the business case can show how Web accessibility contributes to interoperability and device-independence. See Enable Content on Different Configurations.
- How important is it to the organization to be prepared for
advanced web technologies?
For example, if the organization is interested in taking advantage of advanced web technologies, this factor can be included in the business case. See Be Prepared for Advanced Web Technologies.
- Does the organization want to have
high-quality websites that meet standards?
If so, the business case can point out the overlap between Web accessibility standards and other standards. See Have High Quality Websites.
See Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview for more information about the WCAG references below.
Incorporating accessibility usually increases site development time initially, as discussed in Financial Factors. However, in the long term Web accessibility can reduce the time an organization spends on site development and maintenance, as follows:
- Reduce time and effort needed to change
presentation across a site by defining presentation through a
style sheet and using proper markup (for example, in XHTML) for
Presentation includes design and style such as font size, font face, and background color. If the presentation is defined in an external style sheet, it can be changed throughout the site by making the change to that one style sheet. However, if the presentation was improperly defined throughout the HTML, the presentation markup would have to be changed in every instance on every web page.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 1.4.5, 1.4.9, 2.4.10; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 3.1, 3.3, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 5.4)
- Facilitate efficient debugging with
automated validation tools by conforming to standards and identifying a
DOCTYPE. Facilitate efficient human debugging by simplifying markup and
using style sheets to define presentation.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 4.1.1, 4.1.2; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 3.2, 3.3, 11.1, 11.2)
- Reduce redesign and translation time and
skills needed by using standard markup and style sheets to style
and format text, instead of using bitmap images of text or math.
Site designers often use bitmap images for stylized text. In such cases, to change or translate text content or style, each image has to be manipulated. If instead the text was not in an image and the style was provided in a style sheet, then the text can be easily changed or translated. To change the design is a simple style sheet change instead of restyling images of text.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.5, 1.4.9; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 3.1)
- Reduce development and maintenance by having one accessible version of a site, rather than multiple versions, as described in "Enable Content on Different Configurations" section below.
Web accessibility techniques can reduce the server load, which increases the download speed and can reduce the need for additional bandwidth or servers, as follows:
- Reduce the size of each page served by defining presentation in style sheets (which are only requested once
per session) rather than the markup of each page, and by using text
rather than bitmap images of text.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 1.4.5, 1.4.9; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 3.3, 3.1)
- Reduce downloading of large image and
multimedia files by including alternative text for images and
transcripts for multimedia files. For example, this lets users with low
bandwidth connections browse with images off, and lets users preview the information and decide whether or not to download it.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.1.1, 1.2.8; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 1.1)
- Reduce unwanted page downloading, and thus
server requests, by providing clear and consistent design,
navigation, and links.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.4.4, 2.4.9, 2.4.5, 3.2.3, 3.2.4, 2.4.1, 2.4.6, 3.2.3, 3.2.4; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 13.1, 13.3, 13.4, 13.5, 13.6, 13.7, 13.8, 14.3)
Many organizations are increasingly interested in web interoperability and device-independence, such as making their websites work well on mobile devices. Web accessibility can enable web content to be rendered and interacted with on different configurations, including different devices, operating systems, and web browsers, as follows:
- Allow users and user agents to access
content for different configurations, and servers to provide content for
different configurations by using current versions of technologies with built-in accessibility support such as XHTML, XML, RDF, SMIL, CSS, XSL, XSLT,
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 4.1.1, 4.1.2 and conformance requirements 1, 4; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 11.1, 3.2)
- Render styled text across a wide
range of configurations by providing information as text and
using style sheets to define presentation, rather than using bitmap
images of text.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 1.4.1, 1.4.3, 1.4.4, 1.4.5, 1.4.6; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 3.1, 3.3)
- Facilitate interaction with different input
devices by designing for device independence.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, 2.4.3, 2.4.7; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 6.4, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4, 9.5)
- Allow users and user agents to request
content in a way that suits their capabilities by using markup
for structure and style sheets for presentation.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 2.4.10; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 3.3)
For a detailed list of how accessibility overlaps mobile design/development, along with links to WCAG success criteria, see Shared Web Experiences.
Web accessibility can help organizations take advantage of advanced web technologies and be prepared for future web technologies, for example:
- Allow content re-use by enabling tools to extract and present information to users in different modalities.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 1.4.3, 1.4.4, 1.4.6, 4.1.2)
- Simplify forward migration and
backwards-compatibility by defining presentation in a style
sheet, using proper markup structure, and using the latest standards.
(WCAG 2.0 success criteria 4.1.1, 1.3.1, 1.4.8, 1.4.4, 1.3.1, 2.4.10; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 11.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 5.4)
Some developers and organizations pride themselves on producing high quality websites that meet technical standards.Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and other accessibility specifications from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) are widely-recognized international standards. Additional resources addressing the business case for web standards in general are available on the Web.