Essential Components of Web Accessibility


It is essential that several different components of web development and interaction work together in order for the web to be accessible to people with disabilities. These components include:

How the Components Relate

Web developers usually use authoring tools and evaluation tools to create web content.

People (“users”) use web browsers, media players, assistive technologies, or other “user agents” to get and interact with the content.

Interdependencies Between Components

There are significant interdependencies between the components; that is, the components must work together in order for the web to be accessible. For example, for alternative text on images:

The Implementation Cycle

When accessibility features are effectively implemented in one component, the other components are more likely to implement them.

When One Component is Weak

If an accessibility feature is not implemented in one component, there is little motivation for the other components to implement it when it does not result in an accessible user experience. For example, developers are unlikely to implement an accessibility feature that authoring tools do not support and that most browsers or assistive technologies do not implement consistently.

If one component has poor accessibility support, sometimes other components can compensate through “work-arounds” that require much more effort and are not good for accessibility overall. For example,

However, in most cases the works-arounds are not implemented and the result is still poor accessibility. Additionally, sometimes poor accessibility support in one component cannot be reasonably overcome by other components and the result is inaccessibility, making it impossible for some people with disabilities to use a particular website, page, or feature.

Guidelines and Other Standards

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops web accessibility standards for the different components:

These accessibility guidelines are based on the fundamental technical specifications of the web, and are developed in coordination with all W3C technical specifications (HTML, CSS, SVG, SMIL, etc.). W3C also develops technical specifications that directly address accessibility, including:

For more information, see W3C Accessibility Standards Overview.

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