Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web:
Making a Website Accessible Both for People with Disabilities and for Mobile Devices
This page introduces how:
- The user experience of people with disabilities using "traditional" computers is related to the user experience of all mobile users (particularly those without disabilities)
- Accessibility guidelines and mobile best practices overlap.
This page was developed in 2008, and most of it is still relevant.
For more recent information on mobile accessibility — that is, people with disabilities using content on mobile devices, see www.w3.org/WAI/mobile/
With global mobile phone use at an all time high, there has been a surge of interest in developing websites that are accessible from a mobile device. Similarly, making websites accessible for people with disabilities is an integral part of high quality websites, and in some cases a legal requirement.
Most Mobile Web specialists don't know about design issues for people with disabilities. Likewise, most web accessibility specialists don't know Mobile Web design best practices.
Websites (including applications) can more efficiently meet both goals when designers and developers understand the significant overlap between making a website accessible for a mobile device and for people with disabilities. The similarities are introduced below along with benefits of addressing both and resources with technical details of the overlap.
Users of mobile devices and people with disabilities experience similar barriers when interacting with web content. For example, mobile phone users will have a hard time if a website's navigation requires the use of a mouse because they typically only have an alphanumeric keypad. Similarly, desktop computer users with a motor disability will have a hard time using a website if they can't use a mouse. Additionally, people with disabilities sometimes use mobile devices to access websites.
The W3C provides guidelines/standards on making accessible content and best practices for making mobile-friendly content.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a guide for making websites accessible to people with disabilities.
- Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) is a guide for making websites usable from a mobile device.
- Mobile Web Application Best Practices (MWABP) is a guide for developing and delivering web applications on mobile devices.
There is an overlap between MWBP, MWABP and WCAG. For example, the MWBP best practice on tab order ("Create a logical order through links, form controls and objects") corresponds with the WCAG 2.0 success criteria on focus order ("...focusable components receive focus in an order that preserves meaning and operability").
Following these two guidelines makes your web content more accessible to everyone regardless of situation, environment, or device. Designing to the guidelines together, instead of separately, can make the process more efficient — especially when considered early in the project.
Websites that already meet WCAG or MWBP are already well on the way to meeting the other.
Understanding the overlap also strengthens the business case for adopting WCAG or MWBP in a website that already complies with one, or for adopting both together. See also Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization.
The following resources provide a detailed mapping of the overlap between the barriers and solutions for making websites accessible to people with disabilities and usable on mobile devices.
- Shared Web Experiences: Barriers Common to Mobile Device Users and People with Disabilities lists web interaction that is similar by a user with a disability and by a user with a mobile device. It links to recommendations for designing web content without these barriers from WCAG, MWBP, and MWABP.
- Relationship between Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) includes the following pages:
- From MWBP to WCAG 2.0 and From MWBP to WCAG 1.0 are designed for those who already know MWBP and want to learn how they relate to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
- From WCAG 2.0 to MWBP and From WCAG 1.0 to MWBP are designed for those who already know WCAG and want to learn how it relates to the Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP).